Friday, June 25, 2010

Coming of Age

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

Chasing Lilacs
By Carla Stewart

I wrote the following review following my usual pattern. I like to tell you my strong impressions of a book along with what I thought were its strengths and weaknesses. But what I really wanted to do with Chasing Lilacs is rave about how much I loved it and just urge you all to read it too.

Chasing Lilacs is promoted as a coming of age novel, but it is so much more than that. Sammie Tucker faces the typical problems of a twelve year old girl, brought on by the onset of adolescence. She’s entering junior high, her body is changing, her best friend is changing, and a boy is interested in her. But her real problems supersede these issues. When her mother commits suicide, an aunt she doesn’t know or like comes to live with her and her father.

Everyone says Aunt Vadine is out to marry Sammie’s father and become her new mother. Sammie wonders if her mother loved her, but she does know she doesn’t want her aunt around. While she grieves, Aunt Vadine strips away each piece of her mother Sammie has left.

Sammie tells her story in a first person narrative that draws her readers into her life. As I read Sammie’s story, I remembered my adolescence and responded as if I were her best friend. I felt her pain and confusion; I became angry at the injustice she faced and I urged her to take control and do something about it.

Although the book is about a young teen, it’s not adolescent lit. And although it reveals her inner life, there is enough happening in her small town to keep the story moving. One of the things I loved about the book is the setting. Sammie says that Graham Camp isn’t even a dot on the map. But it’s a microcosm of America in the 1950s, where people go to church, gossip about their neighbors, enjoy community picnics, and support each other when they have problems. They also have some outdated attitudes and hide some unpleasant secrets.

The beauty of Chasing Lilacs is that the story had to happen when it did. But one thing it reveals is that people in the ‘50s weren’t so different from people today. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Chasing Lilacs
FaithWords (June 17, 2010)

Carla Stewart


Carla Stewart’s writing reflects her passion for times gone by. She believed in Jesus, the power of the written word, and a good cup of coffee. She's a country girl living now in a mid-sized city with her engineering husband who just happens to be her best friend and biggest fan.She and her husband have four adult sons and delight in the adventures of their six grandchildren.


I grew up in the Texas Panhandle with two younger sisters and loving parents. Small town school. Great neighbors. Today, those small-town, fundamental things resonate within me -- the twang in people's voices, the art of being neighborly and just being a decent human being.

Growing up, I preferred the company of books over TV and playing outdoors. I imagined myself in many different careers, but given my down-to-earth raising, I settled on nursing. I didn't faint at the sight of blood and did well in science, so it seemed a natural choice.

I worked as a registered nurse off and on through the years, but primarily I stayed home with my four rambunctious boys and dreamed of the day when I could write the novels I loved to read. When our youngest son was in high school, I quit my job as a nursing instructor and settled in to pen my first novel. It's been quite a journey. One I wouldn't trade for anything.

I'm committed to writing the stories of my heart and am truly thankful to Jesus, my Savior, for allowing me this freedom. May all the glory be His.

Chasing Lilacs is her first book!


It is the summer of 1958, and life in the small Texas community of Graham Camp should be simple and carefree. But not for twelve-year-old Sammie Tucker. Sammie has plenty of questions about her mother's "nerve" problems. About shock treatments. About whether her mother loves her.

When her mother commits suicide and a not-so-favorite aunt arrives, Sammie has to choose who to trust with her deepest fears: Her best friend who has an opinion about everything, the mysterious kid from California whose own troubles plague him, or her round-faced neighbor with gentle advice and strong shoulders to cry on. Then there's the elderly widower who seems nice but has his own dark past.

Trusting is one thing, but accepting the truth may be the hardest thing Sammie has ever done.

To read the first chapter of Chasing Lilacs, click HERE.

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1 comment:

carla stewart said...

Phee, what a heartwarming review! I'm overwhelmed with glee that you "got it" and have shared your thoughts with your readers. Thank you for having me hear today. Many blessings to you and yours.