Reviewed by Sheryl Root
Doesn't She Look Natural? by Angela Hunt
"Expect the unexpected' is Angela Hunt's tagline—a good choice because you never quite know where her stories may take you. However, no matter what the genre . . . there are other things you can also "expect" from her novels. Sympathetic and well-rounded characters, authentic storylines, and plots that keep you turning the pages."
Doesn't She Look Natural?, the first book in Angela Hunt's Fairlawn series, is the realistic yet humorous story of newly divorced Jennifer Graham. Jen, once a capable and efficient senator's chief of staff, now finds herself an unemployed single mom. She and her two sons, five-year-old "Bugs" and thirteen-year-old Clay, are living with her mother while Jen pounds the pavement trying to find another job on Capitol Hill—one that doesn't involve her charismatic ex-husband.
When Jen receives a phone call informing her she's the sole beneficiary of her great uncle Ned's estate, a funeral home in picturesque Mt. Dora, she's certain that this will be the answer to her financial problems. Since it's summer and the kids are out of school, Jen decides to pack up her family, including mom Joella, and head down to Florida. She plans to spend a few weeks fixing up the property—an old Victorian home that houses both the mortuary and Ned's personal residence—and then sell it for a profit. Her rosy balloon bursts, however, when she realizes it will take a large investment of money before the property will be anywhere near saleable.
Gerald, the caretaker and Ned's right-hand man, suggests re-opening the funeral home to bring in some extra income. While Jen is a little creeped out by the idea, it does seem to be the most logical way to proceed until she can fix up the house. But between trying to juggle the renovations, keeping her well-meaning mother from interfering in her life, and dealing with her son Clay's rebellion, Jen is soon at the end of her rope. Gradually, however, the small town pace of Mt. Dora begins to give Jen a new outlook on life. But will her ex-husbands arrival with surprising news take that away from her?
Doesn't She Look Natural? is told primarily from Jen's viewpoint, but also includes sections written in Joella or Gerald's point of view. It can be tricky for an author to handle this switch from first-person to third-person and back again, but Ms. Hunt does it well. It's an effective tool in illustrating both how differently people can interpret the same conversation and how easy it is for misunderstandings to occur in our relationships.
"Expect the unexpected" is Angela Hunt's tagline—a good choice because you never quite know where her stories may take you. However, no matter what the genre—whether biblical fiction such as Magdalene or contemporary fiction such as The Elevator—there are other things you can also "expect" from her novels. Sympathetic and well-rounded characters, authentic storylines, and plots that keep you turning the pages.
The second book in the Fairlawn series, She Always Wore Red, is scheduled to be released in Spring 2008. I look forward to returning to Mt. Dora and finding out what happens next in Jen Graham's unpredictable and always entertaining life.
Sheryl Root is Partner Database Manager at OneHope, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reach every child with God’s Word. She’s also a writer and a reader of everything she can get her hands on … books, blogs, magazines. In other words, she’s both a data geek and a book nerd. She loves to be able to support Christian authors and spread the word on great books and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a wonderful community of published and yet to be published writers. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sheryl_Root.