Reviewed by Sheryl Root
Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith
"The only thing that helps ease the disappointment of having Stuck in the Middle come to an end is knowing there are two more books ahead in the Sister-to-Sister series."
As a reviewer, I read and enjoy many books, but few actually make me feel sad when I turn the last page. Those are the ones where the characters just seem to resonate with me and when I turn that final page, I feel like I'm losing a friend. That's the way I felt about Virginia Smith's book, Stuck in the Middle.
As the middle of three sisters, Joan Sanderson enjoys her job as the manager of a furniture rental store, but when she is honest with herself, she admits it's not what she wants to do for the rest of her life. Her older sister, Allie, is already married to a great guy and pregnant with their first child. Her younger sister Tori is cute and vivacious with a terrific job and fancy apartment in the city. Joan is the quiet sister and, to her eyes, the one who is easy to overlook.
When Joan's parents were divorced, her mother moved with her three daughters into Gram's house. While Joan's sisters have moved out and on with their lives, Joan and her mom, a nurse, still live with Gram, keeping an eye on her as her idiosyncrasies seem to increase with age. While Joan is determined to do everything possible to keep Gram living in her own home, she is convinced her mom wants to move Gram out into the new assisted living center.
Then Ken Fletcher, a handsome doctor, moves in next-door, and suddenly Joan doesn't feel so bad about still living at Gram's house. Joan is sure Ken's interest in her will soon be diverted once he meets younger sister, Tori, the flirt. But even when Ken seems to be more interested in her than in Tori, Joan finds herself faced with another problem. Ken's faith in Christ is so much more vibrant and life changing than hers. Can she get past the safe routines she has created to protect herself and let God close enough to really take charge of her life?
The realistic, complex and humorous family relationships in Stuck in the Middle are one of the things I enjoyed most about the book. With the initial competition between Joan and Tori for Ken's attention, it would have been easy to make Tori a one-dimensional spoiled flirt. But while it's evident Tori is used to having her way, it's also evident that she loves Joan and her family. Their showdown in the backyard after a family dinner with poor Ken is both comical and heart-warming. Joan's relationship with her mom is also wonderfully written. As Joan discovers her interpretations of her mother's motives and actions are far from reality, the change in their relationship is a highlight of the story.
The only thing that helps ease the disappointment of having Stuck in the Middle come to an end is knowing there are two more books ahead in the Sister-to-Sister series. But with all the enticing tidbits of Allie & Tori's lives revealed, it sure seems like a long time until February 2009 when the next book, Age Before Beauty, is released!
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.