In "Time and Again," the first book of a trilogy (Unclaimed Legacy (Time and Again), Every Hill and Mountain (Time and Again)), author Deborah Heal explores the concept of God as a Divine and Benevolent Overseer in human events for a preteen/ YA audience. She features an unhappy eleven-year-old named Merrideth who accepts on face value the fact that her parents have divorced and that their split has necessitated a separation from her beloved father and precipitated a move to a strange and seemingly boring semi-rural environment. Merrideth's reaction is to rebel, turning within herself, neglecting her physical presence, her social life and her grades. Sullenness, apathy and annoyance hallmark her behavior when dealing with her mother who is struggling to recharge her career and get her broken life back on track. Even after Abby, a grounded college student with a solid ethical base, becomes Merrideth's tutor and companion for the summer and fails in her initial attempts to engage her charge in believing in herself as someone of substance, does the Divine intervene. Not in an obtrusive obvious way, as in the archangel Gabriel blowing his trumpet or Uriel wrestling with Jacob--this celestial message is delivered successfully and rather subtly through Heal via the media of a computer gaming program.
"Beautiful Houses" appears mysteriously on Merrideth's expensive computer at all hours of the night. The cavalcade of attractive homes from all parts of the world parade in a streaming slideshow. When Merrideth "clicks" on the image of the dwelling in which she now resides and adjusts the parameters to capture a particular past time period, the program miraculously tells the story of one Charlotte Miles who lived in pre-Civil War time. Abby is not only able to finally forge the beginnings of a bond with Merrideth as they share the experience of this remarkable phenomenon, she convinces Merrideth to explore the present small town of Miles Station to better understand the mindset of Charlotte from the town of the past.
And so the healing begins.
Great premise! However things get a little sticky as the game plays on and watching the everyday events of Charlotte's days includes peeking in on her work on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. In what this reviewer believes is Heal's attempt to keep her first offering down to little more than 200 pages, the anecdotes revealed during this bit of voyeurism seem rushed--the slave stories depict the typical brutality and the outcome a little too Deus ex Machina even for a novel with a theme praising the power and wisdom of God. Heal would have served her young readers better by expanding this portion of the book so that her audience becomes so engrossed in Charlotte's mindset and her emotional well-being that they do not mind the interjection of the lesson regarding the horrors of slavery or the coincidental explanation offered at the Charlotte story's climax. The introduction of a particular dastardly character would work better chronologically even though the demonstration of the gaming software's flexibility is both fun and will appeal to preteen audiences.
Likewise for the stirrings of romance between her two older characters. More dialogue, more "what is the character thinking" paragraphs would more fully grab the reader and hold them in place as followers of this trilogy will want to feel the romance grow as it comes together gradually in the next two offerings in the trilogy.
Despite these issues, Heal's message is clear and sincerely felt. Life in Miles Station serves as a microcosm--a depot of discovery that allows all of her characters to stand in awe before the God who created them and revel in the profundity of His universe. As they attempt to move past obstacles that are sometimes self-imposed and limit their mental and spiritual mobility, somehow the Divine will illuminate the way--even with megapixels--to keep their courage steadfast.
Bottom line? Author Deborah Heal has written an engaging first of three stories entitled "Time and Again." The novel weaves religious faith with practicality in a modern story that includes technology that preteens and young adults will enjoy. Merrideth is a character to which this age group can relate while Abby radiates a balanced goodness to which all can aspire. Parents need not be concerned of the book's content with regard to sexuality; Heal keeps her romance gentle. Her details regarding the horrors of slavery, however, are not as benign and may require pre-reading by responsible adults. Recommended. Diana Faillace Von Behren "reneofc"
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Diana Faillace Von Behren (reneofc)
I like just about anything. My curiosity tends to be insatiable--I love the "finding out" and the "ah-ha" moments. Usually I review a book or film with the … more
. . . an easy flowing book where the characters and town came to life.. . one of those books for me that was hard to put down, "just one more page" type books. It is so special to watch Merredith as she comes out of her shell and the friendship they give to Michael. The history they learn as they go back in time was put in such a way that I found myself sitting there `watching' the Douglas/Lincoln debate, seeing the difference in the candidates clothing and speeches from the author's description. . . I'm looking forward to the next book, Unclaimed Legacy.
M. Myhren-Bennett "Blooming with Books" (REAL NAME)
Charlotte's life is an intriguing lesson in American history at a volatile period in our history. You too should take this journey to Miles Station and be prepared to develop a new passion for history along the way.
Time and Again: Charlotte of Miles Station is a charming and delightful book and I hope to be able to take another journey into the past with Abby and Merrideth in the not too distant future.
C. Estrella (USA) -
There were a lot of subtleties and depth in this story that I really credit to the author's story-telling and lesson teaching abilities. We are shown the joys and struggles with being a mentor, the dangers of trying to bribe and appease children, what it truly means to be a neighbor, the importance of learning from the past, and trusting in ...