Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Vote of Confidence (The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs), by Robin Lee Hatcher (author), Kathy Garver (narrator)

Zondervan, ISBN 9780310302421, April 2009

Guinevere Arlington has made a good, independent life for herself in Bethlehem Springs, Idaho, near her father and sister on their ranch, but inside the town, with neighbors, friends, and students for the music lessons she offers. When the mayor of the town has to step down due to illness, though, and the only candidate to replace him is the hard-drinking owner of the local saloon, both her sister Cleo and the editor of the local paper, for which she writes a weekly column, suggest that she run for major. As mayor, she'll be able to push for the modern changes that Bethlehem Springs needs in order to thrive.

It's a startling idea in 1915 Idaho, but the social changes that will result in the flappers of the 1920s and the independent professional women of the 1930s have begun to take effect.

Meanwhile, newcomer Morgan McKinley, a wealthy easterner who is building a health resort just outside of town, is having problems with the chairman of the county commissioners who, for unknown reasons, opposes the health spa and wants to buy the land. Morgan decides he has no choice but to run for mayor, in order to have more input into the decisions affecting his business. As mayor, he'll be able to push a modernizing agenda that will benefit everyone--including himself.

Sparks are bound to fly.

Hatcher has a nice feel for the time she's writing about--convention still holds that women should defer to men and stay out of public life, but things are changing, and it's only surprising, not shocking, when a woman chooses to break the mold a bit. In Idaho as in several other western states, women have had the vote, and have been at least technically eligible to hold elected office, for years. It's a fairly ordinary background detail, in this setting, that Gwen is a regular columnist for the local paper as well as having the more conventional occupation of music teacher.

The characters aren't enormously deep; the good people are very, very good, and the bad people are very, very bad. Most of the characters, though, are genuinely likable. Gwen and her sister Cleo, as different as they are, have a convincingly close and affectionate relationship. This is also a Christian novel--and I would say genuinely Christian, not a cloying and shallow "Christian."  Gwen, Morgan, and others have a robust Christian faith that supports them in facing life's challenges. Contrary to the stereotypes many have imbibed, Gwen is confident God gave her a brain as well as a soul for a reason, and that He didn't intend her to be a doormat or to pretend that she's an idiot.

This is a very engaging light read. Recommended.

Book trailer:

I borrowed this book from the library.

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