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Quaker Summer
by Lisa Samson

Reviewed by Heather R. Hunt

"Samson is an experienced, veteran writer and her storytelling skills are used here to good effect..."

I am writing this review of Lisa Samson's Quaker Summer from the perspective of the intended audience as indicated by the "Women of Faith Fiction" logo on the cover. I have not been to a Women of Faith event but my impression is that they are an uplifting, encouraging experience designed to rejuvenate and refocus women on leading godly lives in their families and communities. My other impression is that they attract primarily a middle to upper middle class audience.

If these impressions are correct, then Heather Reeves is a highly identifiable protagonist for this audience. And her encounters one summer with Sister Jerusha, an outspoken nun and godparent to a drug dealer, and Anna, the nonagenarian Quaker and her freethinking sister Liza, will strike powerful cords in Women of Faith readers. Indeed, it's a great idea to sell Quaker Summer at Women of Faith events, because it makes a great takeaway to help participants keep the holy living momentum alive as they read about Heather's journey after they return home.

When her story begins, Heather is a compulsive shopper, who lives on the hill overlooking Loch Raven in Baltimore, apparently an upper middle class area that befits her status as wife of a heart surgeon. However, her constant purchases of big ticket items, such as a Suburban, swimming pool, and now a tennis court, are causing friction with husband, Jace, and 15-year-old son, Will, who's a chip off his father's block. Stretched out over the course of the novel is Heather's growing discontent with her consumer lifestyle, her over-involvement for appearances' sake at Will's exclusive private school, and her hidden guilt over the extreme bullying she did as a child - at a Christian school no less.

When she overhears her husband talking to the woman who runs a medical missionary ship out of Chicago, Heather begins to feel even more guilty about the shallowness of her life and the fact that her husband doesn't feel free to tell her why he is making trips to Chicago. But she doesn't know what to do about it.

What will it take to shake her up enough to figure it out? Actually, a kangaroo does the job quite nicely. I won't tell you how though, you'll just have to read it.

Suffice to say this kangaroo gives Heather the jolt she needs to take a serious look at herself and her faith, aided by the elderly yet still in service to the world sisters, and the blunt-speaking nun who runs the Hotel as a last resort haven for the down and out on North Avenue in a rough section of Baltimore.

Samson divides Heather's story into three parts, and I confess the novel only picked up for me by the final section - when Heather finally begins taking action. Readers of my other reviews will know I have little patience for Hamlet-styled angsting by materially privileged people. I like action. I'm sure Heather's doubts and ruminations are very realistic, and I think Women of Faith participants will get much out of her thoughts and interactions with her family and friends.

This is a true novel in that it's main conflict is Heather against herself and the main confrontations occur in her psyche and soul. But by Part Three it becomes obvious that even inner soul-searching can often best be resolved by taking outward action. Which Heather does to both better her present lifestyle and make amends for her guilty past.

By novel's end, Heather is in a much better place spiritually and emotionally. She has confronted some of her demons and is on the road to even bigger changes. And her seemingly private journey has had a powerful impact on not only her husband and son, but also several others in her ever-widening circle of influence. Samson is an experienced, veteran writer and her storytelling skills are used here to good effect to send Women of Faith participants home with an inspiring reminder and practical example of how to live lives of service and community.

Heather R. HuntHeather R. Hunt is a business editor in Connecticut. For fun she reads, writes, cheers on the Red Sox, and enjoys tennis and cycling. She also co-leads a local tea party and enjoys holding government officials and media outlets accountable. Check out her blogs, The View from Stonewater and Connecticut for Sarah Palin.