“We may not have the storybook ending, but we will have some kind of wonderful. I promise you that.”
~Matt Winters, via Barbara Freethy in Some Kind of Wonderful
I have always been traditional when it comes to reading books – give me one I can hold in my hand, one whose pages I can flip and whose smell (you know, that fresh, delicious new novel smell) can tickle the air as the words tickle my mind. But when I was given a Nook earlier this year, my opinion changed. Why not try this eReader thing? I’m so glad I did, because otherwise, Barbara’s Some Kind of Wonderful may never have found its way into my orbit. And this story is worth reading. The journey is worth going on, right along with the characters … and speaking of those characters, they’re the type who draw you in, who make you ponder, who cause you to feel. If I had to describe this novel in one word, that’s what it’d be: feel. You feel for the characters, all of them. You feel for their struggles, for their decisions, for their challenges and triumphs. You feel all their possibilities and are inspired to imagine the same for yourself.
What would you do if a mother abandoned her baby on your doorstep? That’s the question asked of investigative reporter Matt Winters – and, in turn, of his neighbor, designer and bridal shop owner Caitlyn Devereaux. Ever since a childhood that was rough on a good day, painful and scarring on most, Matt has tried to close the door on his past. But those scars? They may fade, but the bruises remain. And when he realizes that this little sweetheart left for him to take care of isn’t a stranger? That she’s actually his niece, the daughter of his sister Sarah – who he hasn’t seen since they were placed in separate foster care situations over thirteen years before – well, that’s when Matt realizes the past can’t always be shut away. As he enlists Caitlyn’s help to watch over baby Emily, she begins to learn the same lesson. Burying the wounds only makes them hurt worse. With Matt and Emily, though, she lets her wounds start to heal. She lets her soul start to heal.
Together, Matt, Caitlyn, and Emily become their own kind of family. When the baby makes her presence known with a middle-of-the-night screaming fit, they take her up on their apartment building’s roof, steering by the stars. When it becomes clear that Sarah’s not coming back for her daughter, at least not anytime soon, they tackle a baby store, complete with tiny outfits, massive stuffed animals, and all the warm fuzzies that come from buying so much for someone so little. Emily may be tiny, but she quickly fills a large – and important – part of their hearts. As we watch this beautiful love story unfold, not just between Emily and her caretakers, but between those caretakers themselves, we also learn about Sarah. Her life has been difficult, filled with roads she regrets taking and mistakes she’s worried will define her. Through her burgeoning friendship with Reverend Jonathan Mitchell, we discover all she’s gone through – and, in the process, we see the ways in which a mother’s love prevails. It protects, it preserves, it prides.
This is a story about overcoming obstacles. It’s a story about reconciling who you were with who you are – and, most importantly, who you hope to be. The past can be difficult to confront, and when that happens, the future becomes intimidating. Matt’s afraid to put down roots for fear of growing something real and then losing it. Caitlyn’s afraid to let herself love for fear of falling too hard, opening herself up too much, and being unable to have the one thing she wants most dearly in the world. Sarah’s afraid of history repeating itself and making the same mistakes with Emily that own her mother did so many years before. Jonathan’s afraid of being unable to follow in his father’s footsteps, worried that his prints are too small to measure up. But, as their journeys take them down new paths, unchartered ones, they all come to learn a lesson everyone should take to heart: when the sky is darkest, the stars are twinkling extra brightly. And the past? It can’t stop us from creating a beautiful future.
This is a feel-good book. It’s a fairytale come to life. Yes, the timeline is really fast. Yes, the revelations all come at the same time. No, it probably wouldn’t ever happen like that in real life. But that’s what we’re looking for in a great book sometimes – an escape, a joy, a happily-ever-after, the best kind of wonderful.