Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Acts of Contrition by Jennifer Handford

Author : Jennifer Handford
Series : N/A, Standalone
Genre : Women's Fiction, Contemporary, Christian Fiction
Publication Date : April 15th, 2014
Publisher : Amazon Publishing

Rating :

Disclaimer: I received this book as a free copy from NetGalley. These books are given to me as review copies to read and evaluate. I am not obligated to write a review for any of the books I receive, but it is an encouraged practice. I choose which books I review on my blog and on my Goodreads profile. I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews. My reviews are always honest...I never lie about books. My opinions are my own and may be positive or negative depending on my feelings about a specific piece. Keep in mind, just because I may like or not like a book may not mean that you will feel the same way.

Mary Morrissey is living the life of her dreams. She has a loving husband, Tom, two daughters, and twin boys. But beneath the shiny veneer, Mary hasn't taken a calm breath in ten years. She lives in a constant state of panic, afraid the secret she's kept hidden for so long will be revealed, shattering her perfect life. When addictively charismatic ex-boyfriend Landon James reappears during his high-profile Senate campaign, Mary's fears become even more real. A conditional Catholic, Mary bargains with God, negotiates deals, and promises to be the best wife and mother ever...if only He can get her out of this tight spot. What once seemed unfathomable (a deep, heartbreaking divide between Mary and Tom) is now their normal. Can they find a way to rebuild their life together? Is forgiveness possible? Acts of Contrition is a richly drawn story of faith, family loyalty, and forgiveness, even in the face of moral ambiguity, guilt, and broken trust.                                                                  -Goodreads synopsis

First of all, let me go ahead and alleviate some concerns right out of the gate. I am not a religious person, nor do I generally gravitate to religious books. Be not afraid. Though this book is pegged as "Christian Fiction", it is in no way heavy-handed. Yes there are religious aspects; no they don't overshadow the novel or make it uncomfortable or less enjoyable for those of religions other than Catholicism.

Now...with that out of the way...

I chose this book because of the cover. Seriously. It sounds ridiculous, but I just loved the cover. Sometimes that has worked out extremely poorly for me. In this case, I hit the jackpot.

This was a great book. I fell in love with it very early on.  Once I started reading it, I didn't want to put it down. Mary is a great character and I felt like I really got to know her. I also got to know her family. In fact, all of the characters were very full and real. They interacted realistically with one another and (for the most part) responded realistically. I did have a bit of an issue with her husband. I felt that he was a little overly insecure and that in a couple of spots he tended to behave a little more erratically than I felt was really believable. That was the only area where I felt the book went over the top. There weren't any other red flags for me.

I thought she did a wonderful job in particular portraying a full picture of Mary, both as her own person and in terms of the roles she plays (mother, wife, etc.). She felt  real to me. Mary could easily be a friend or a neighbor. There are parts of her I was able to identify with very easily. The supporting characters are written just as well (with the small issue of her husband mentioned above). None of the characters featured felt like an afterthought; they all served their purpose and the writing fully committed to completing their portions of the story.

There is some beautiful writing here. I loved the language she uses. Her sentences just flow. The story feels so easy. Word choices are not canned or commonplace. Things are described in a way that makes the reader easily understand and sympathize with Mary. I seriously felt at home reading this book. Though the topic of the plot wasn't always a comfortable one, it was written in a way that made me feel as if I had been welcomed into Mary's home and life.

There seemed to be little to no force in the forwarding of the plot. I felt that it progressed very naturally without feeling boring or trite. Though this book is written somewhat non-traditionally, with much of the main action of the plot having taken place before the real story starts, I thought the balance of Mary's past and present life were woven into the story line very well. There were no instances where the juxtaposition felt odd or left me confused.

Overall, I think this book managed to remain engaging without being extravagant. I could definitely go for a sequel to follow the events after the close of the book, but I didn't feel that the ending lacked any sense of reasonable closure.

I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Acts of Contrition is one that I would read again and one that I will highly recommend to my friends. Any reader who enjoys modern women's fiction or contemporary fiction should enjoy this title. Like I said in the beginning, the religious aspect of this book - while important overall to the plot - doesn't really effect the feel of the book for the reader.

I loved this book so much, that it receives a fairly rare 5-star rating from me. This is one of those "you need to read this" books.


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