Reinventing Leona—A Review

Well, Reinventing Leona, a first novel by Lynne Gentry and published by Tyndale House, certainly has tension—from the first pages right until the end.

The story centers around Leona Harper, a pastor's wife who becomes his widow in the first few pages of the book when her husband suffers a heart attack in the pulpit. Gentry, a pastor's wife herself, knows the behind-the-scenes realities of life in the manse.

But in that reality lies a barb that pierces the storyline. Reinventing Leona has a cynical tone to it that grates sometimes more than just a little. With a very few notable exceptions, the congregation of Mt. Hope Community Church is not made up of too many nice people. That not-niceness seems to prevail over the occasional splashes of Christianity. For the most part the characters are well-developed. I can "see" these people. But what bothers me is the cynicism about them. I understand that Christians aren't perfect—after spending as many years in ministry as I have I KNOW that some of them aren't. But I think that there isn't quite enough balance between the good and the evil portrayed in this particular congregation. 

Leona has issues quite apart from the loss of her husband, J.D. She has mother trouble and children trouble. She suffers long-term fishbowl-itis often symptomatic of the resident of a manse trying to live up to everyone's expectations except God's. These troubles keep the reader waiting for the next crisis and that's what a good novel is all about.

J.D.'s death brings the family together for more than just a funeral. Stripped of the protective cover of her husband, Leona has to face the world in a way she never did before. She has to revive a career for which she prepared, but never needed to get off the ground once she married. The reader can feel the struggles, the doubts, the levels of grief, the anxiety.

There are hilarious moments. There are tender moments. There are redeeming moments. There are multi-leveled stories going on as we follow daughter Maddie and son David through their respective journeys.Their "redemption" is anticipated throughout though to my mind, David's sudden "calling" is not plausible. Gentry would have been better served to cut out the epilogue to the book. Leona's revelation in the last chapter would have been a more fitting climax.

It can't be denied that Gentry is an accomplished storyteller. Reinventing Leona is a good read and the reader can be assured that the next book will be even better.

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and review Reinventing Leona. Your thorough consideration is much appreciate. Blessings.

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