Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Review: Did I Expect Angels?

Summary: Jennifer Huffaker knows that grief is normal, but she thought she'd get over it -- that's what people do. But it's been eighteen months since her husband Jack died, and she still can't focus on her young daughter Kaitlin, can't accept support from her family, and can't allow herself to live without the love of her life. Jennifer is angry at everything and everyone -- including herself for being so unprepared. But what did she expect? Angels?

On the day after Christmas her anguish finally becomes too much, and Jennifer's pain culminates in a shattering decision. But this is also the night she runs into Henry, an elderly friend from Costa Rica who has seen more of life's trials than anyone could know. Henry realizes the devastating depths to which Jennifer has sunk, and he decides that tonight is the night to tell her his story.

Touching and incisive, poignant, and sometimes bitingly funny, both Jennifer's and Henry's stories intermingle into a tale of love, despair, faith and, ultimately hope, as Jennifer realizes she has been blessed with the most unexpected angel of all. -- book jacket

I remember a few months ago, when I signed up to win a copy of DID I EXPECT ANGELS? by Kathryn Maughan based on Trish's review at Hey Lady Whatcha Readin'? I was bummed that I didn't win, but it's funny how things work out! I was contacted by Trish just a few weeks ago asking me if I'd like to be a host in the DID I EXPECT ANGELS? book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours, Trish and Lisa's (from Books on the Brain) new venture. Of course, I jumped at the chance.

When I first sat down to write this review, I thought I would write that DID I EXPECT ANGELS? was a book about grieving. Both Jennifer's and Henry's stories were so incredibly painful with their losses. However, I wasn't really left with a sadness after finishing the book like I would have if grief were the main theme. Instead, I found this book to be a beautiful love story on so many different levels. There was the love between a husband and a wife as well as the love between parents and their children. But what really came through for me was the love that Henry was willing to share with Jennifer when she needed him the most -- he truly was an angel on earth.

Then, I started thinking about what constitutes an "angel." At the end of the book, Ms. Maughan writes that "everyone has had an unexpected angel -- like someone who popped up when you had car trouble, someone who phoned in your time of crisis, or just a stranger who smiled or held the door when you were having a really, really bad day." When you think about an angel that way, everyone one of us has the potential to do something good with our lives. I love reading a book where I can walk away with a powerful message! Ms. Maughan even has an on-line community where you can pay tribute to your angel -- http://www.myunexpectedangel.com/.

This is a little book (about 170 pages) that packs a mighty punch. I was deeply affected by this book, especially Jennifer's story. Maybe it's the connection that I feel to Jennifer because we are both moms, but my heart just broke for her. This was one of those books where I kept trying to put myself into her shoes. I couldn't (and didn't want to) imagine what would happen if I lost my husband in a tragic accident. I'd like to think that I could be there for my children; but like Jennifer, I'm just not sure that I'm that strong. Learning both Henry's and Jennifer's stories made me realize that life must go on no matter what tragedies we face.

I felt that Ms. Maughan did an excellent job of writing this novel. I thought it was extremely effective how she alternated telling both Jennifer's and Henry's stories. I felt like she did a very good job with Henry's dialect as well as showing how depression can affect someone's life. And while I wasn't exactly surprised with how she brought their stories together, I absolutely loved how she did it.

While I really enjoyed this story I also thought the background on this book was extremely interesting. Ms. Maughan was inspired to write this book based on a September 11th story about a widow who committed suicide near Christmas. You can read more about how she wrote this book as well as her struggle to get it published here. In addition, you can read an excerpt of the book that will give you a better idea about the story. Make sure you visit tomorrow because Ms. Maughan will be here with a terrific guest post.

I have to say that parts of this book were extremely depressing; however, I feel that the author had to take the reader there to fully grasp the beautiful message of this story. Reading this book will definitely break your heart, but it will also make you really think. I can safely say that reading this book has changed my life, and it might change yours too. I'm not so much looking for my next "angel," but I am wondering if or how I could be someone's angel. I don't mean that I expect to save a life like Henry did, but I would love to think that I'm doing some good each and every day (even if that means that I'm just a teeny, tiny angel.)

I'd love to hear a story about how someone has been an angel to you. Or, even a story about a time that you have been an angel to someone. I think the more we share examples of times like this, the more likely we are to start living as if there really are angels!

TLC Book Tours


Susan said...

I signed up to win this book too, but didn't get it :( It sounds interesting and inspirational. Thanks for the review.

BTW: I left you an award on my blog - http://blogginboutbooks.blogspot.com

Anna said...

Sounds like a sad book, but a moving book. I think I'll check this one out. Great review!

--Diary of an Eccentric

Anonymous said...

I'm working my way back thru some posts, so I read Kathryn Maughan's guest post before your review (Note to anyone who's just checking out this great book review ... scroll up and read the guest post too, maybe with a Kleenex or two!)

I think you hit the nail on the head, Julie, when you wrote that we can/should start living as if there are angels ... no harm can come of it, I believe.

I wish I had a personal angel story to share with you, but I can't come up with anything right now. I will say that "It's A Wonderful Life" which addresses this topic, is one of our favorite classic movies!

I'll be adding *Did I Expect Angels* to my wish list.