Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Recent Read

Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer

Why this one:  A friend on GoodReads reviewed it just recently and it called to me

Setting: Georgia just before WWII

Steam Level: Beautifully perfectly perfect warm

My Thoughts:  There are classics in literature, Moby Dick, War and Peace, Oliver Twist and many, many more.  I think the romances of yesteryear have their classics too, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and more. Modern day romance – not so sure if they have what would be considered classics yet or not, it may be too soon, but if they did, I’m sure they would have a book or two by Georgette Heyer, Kathleen Woodiwiss.  And then we come to another author who has written some of what I consider modern day romance classics and that’s LaVryle Spencer.  I’ve read most of her books except for perhaps her last couple before she retired and of all that I’ve read, I truly believe Morning Glory needs to be added to the classics of romance.  I first read this book more years ago than I can remember and I’ve reread it every year or two since then.  I can’t quite remember the last time but I have it on my Ipad and I know I’ve read it since I bought it but when I saw a friend recently post a review on GoodReads, it got the need to reread it again stirring.  And heaven knows when a book starts calling, there is no relief until you answer it.

 This is a beautiful moving story of two very sad and lonely people, how they come together in an enduring gentle love and heal each other with that love.  Will Parker and Elly Dinsmore are characters that have stayed with me since the first time I read this book probably more than 20 years ago.  It’s almost like I’ve absorbed them.

The book opens with Will Parker working at a lumber mill.  He’s only been there 3 days and he’s literally starving.  The book opens just before the second World War and Will has just been released from prison for murdering a prostitute.  We find out details later in the story.  His bully boss finds out this info and dismisses Will on the spot.  Will has just been wandering around the countryside trying to find work and now he’s out of yet another job.  The men laughingly tell him that maybe crazy Elly Dunsmore will take him in.  She has an add up advertising for a husband to help work her farm.  She is known as the local crazy widow woman and her story is just as sad as Will’s.  She was the bastard granddaughter of the town’s religious zealots and was practically locked into the family home with the blinds drawn.  Only after the truant officer found out about her was she allowed out but only to go to school, then back to her prison.  She somehow managed to escape long enough to meet and marry.  But her husband was died in an accident and she has two young boys and is pregnant with her third child and is in desperate circumstances.  Her only option was to look for a husband.  After some thought and due to his own desperate circumstances, Will does go see Elly to check things out.  It’s an awkward meeting, neither one of them real comfortable in dealing with others, Elly because of the isolated way she was raised and Will because of his prison record.  But they manage to come to an agreement and thus starts the most poignant, tender, beautiful, tear inducing books I’ve ever read.  Seriously, I mean it.  If I only had one word – the story is beautiful.

Will has never known love and he sees all he’s ever wanted in the mother that Ellie is.  He falls in love with her partly because of that.  He was an orphan who never knew parents, doesn’t even know his own birthday.  His only friend betrayed him, resulting in his prison sentence.  I think he’s the loneliest, saddest hero I’ve read at the beginning of the book.

Elly is also sad and lonely but not so much.  She has her children and she had a good husband.  Despite or maybe because of her lonely upbringing, Elly has quite a streak of whimsy to her.  She’s actually rather upbeat all things considered and this is just what someone in such a dark place as Will is needs.

Throughout the story, they heal each other.  While she had loved her husband, Will is different.  He’s young, and strong and determined and handsome and he has beautiful eyes.  He loves her two sons and is a wonderful father figure to them. He is loving and very appreciative of everything Elly does both for him and her children.  He never takes anything for granted.  Who wouldn’t fall in love with someone like Will?

And for Will, Elly is everything he couldn’t even have imagined he wanted and needed.  She meets the mothering role he has longed for all his life.  There is a scene where she cuts his hair and one is almost in tears reading just that scene alone.

Slowly, Will gains a sense of pride.  When he first comes to Elly, he’s a broken man.  But with Elly’s help along with Ms. Beasley gets self-respect.  Ms Beasley is the local librarian who helps him when he wants to learn more on different things he fixes around the farm, plumbing, bees, a number of different things.  Ms Beasley is another wonderful character.  She’s starchy and she’s tough and she’s opinionated and she has such a soft heart for Will.  He’s like the son she’s never had and she is a lion in defense of him and when she offers him a job as library custodian, he gains a pride he’s never had before.

And of course there is conflict that comes along in this book.  It takes place in 1941 and the threat of war hangs in the air.  Will knows he is a prime candidate to be called up and wants it to be on his terms.  But Elly is terrified and would rather keep her head in the sand.  Finally the inevitable happens and Will must leave and he joins the Marines.  It turns out that he completely becomes the person he was meant to be.

This part of the book, told through letters, is as wonderful and poignant as the rest of the book and it marks a turning point.  Will comes back but not quite the same person he left.  But now there is another block.  He is being stalked by a woman who refuses to accept the fact he’s not interested.

I really don’t have the words or confidence to completely explain how truly wonderful this book is and how I think it needs to be read at least once by every reader who loves this genre.  Ms. Spencer makes us feel every emotion that Elly and Will in particular experience.  We feel the betrayal that Will feels when his best friend testifies against him during the trial that sends him to jail.  We feel his despair and shame when he brings up the green apples he ate because that was the only thing he could find.  We feel his wonderment over his growing relationship with Ellie’s two boys.  We feel his panic when Ellie insists he be the one to help her give birth and we feel his pride when Ellie gives her new-born daughter his last name.

This is a book that shows, not tells the story and because of that she makes us feel like we are right there with them during their journey to healing and love.  If you check reviews for this book on GoodReads and or Amazon, many reviewers give this higher than 5 stars even though that’s the highest grade allowed.

I might have done a review on Morning Glory before - I can't remember but having just recently read this book again, it’s timeless, it’s a classic and it only gets better with each reading.
Grade: 5+++ out of 5


azteclady said...

Oh, Morning Glory!

This is such a wonderful book, isn't it? I honestly don't remember when I read it for the first time, though it must have been sometime in the late 90s, shortly after I moved to the US.

I recommend it to everyone who'll listen, and I'm always so happy that people like it. I gave it to my sister a couple of years ago, and she has read it so many times since then--she tells me that it's the book she gravitates to whenever she needs a mood pick up. I agree.

Kristie (J) said...

AL, oh it is, it is. A number of years ago I lent it to my sister and she read it in the bathtub. And of course she dropped it. I made her buy me a new copy. If it had been another book I might have let it go, but Morning Glory is a book you read over and over and over. It's just that good.