Sometimes, God won’t let me read a book. I’ll pick it up, read a few pages, sigh, and set it down. Nothing is wrong with the book; it’s simply not the time. (It took me nearly three years to read The God Chasers by Tommy Tenney. Once I read it, it blew my mind and I knew I’d have never been in the right place for that if I’d read it when I bought it.)
I bought Eva Marie Everson’s Things Left Unspoken in May. Instantly picked it up to read it and set it down. Tried a few weeks later… and set it down. Not a thing wrong with the book. In fact, I wanted to read it. Something in me simply wouldn’t let me.
About ten days ago, I picked it up and devoured it. The more I read, the deeper I got, and when I finally closed the book and looked up, I knew why God didn’t let me read it earlier. It wasn’t time.
This is a two-part book review because this post is not the actual book review. This post is what the book evoked in me.
Ironically, I started the book here in our temporary home in Georgia (just a handful of hours from where the book is set)and I finished it on a trip back home where I grew up. That’s pretty fitting, since this was my first trip home since the funeral, my first trip back to the house where I essentially grew up… and the house where my grandmother no longer cooks huge Southern dinners on a Tuesday or walks up the creaky floorboard hall. My brother is there now, with his wife and, soon, their baby. It is a home, and it will always be my home, but in an odd way, it is no longer my home. It’s weird, they haven’t changed a thing in the house, and yet everything has changed.
Things Left Unspoken opens at the funeral of Jo Lynn’s beloved great-uncle. How Godincidental that I’d pick the book up within two weeks of my own beloved relative’s funeral, the one who shaped my own sense of home so much?
I sat the book down when I finished and thought about my hometown the way it was when I was a kid. When the four corners of Main and Church Street were Mr. Millard’s barber shop, Mr. JD’s butcher shop/grocery store/gas station, the massive old brick schoolhouse, and the old wood-floored general store. Back then, going to town meant loading up the car or pickup and driving a good half-hour to the nearest grocery store.
When I was home last week I took note of the fact that the four corners are now an two empty lots, the “new” post office, and a small grill/hardware store. And with the new bridge, Wal-Mart is only fifteen minutes away. Still small town, but oh so different.
There’s the old church on the river and it’s massive, tree-shaded grounds, which was founded in 1758 and built in 1855. Graves in that church yard range from the 1700s right on up to my grandmother’s. It’s newer, “daughter” church is “downtown” on Church Street and is the church my grandmother attended. Another Godincidence? The second-to-last thing I ever did with my grandmother, the last time I saw her, was ride out to the old church and visit my granddaddy’s grave. We had not done that in years.
When I was very small, we lived in an asbestos-sided green house in the middle of a field on one side of town. When I was in high school, after several moves, we lived in a brick house on Main Street on the other side of town. My grandmother’s house? Smack in the middle of the two.
As Jo Lynn walked the streets of Cottonwood, GA and remembered things as they used to be, I mentally walked through the streets of my hometown and did the same. I saw what is there now, and I saw what will never be there again. And I needed that, much in the same way I needed to see my brother and his wife settling into the home where my grandmother will never be again.
God knew what I’d need and when I’d need it. He knew I’d need the reflection. He knew I’d need to walk some steps parallel to Jo Lynn’s and remember. He knew I’d need to remember things that, right now, hurt to remember because they are gone forever.
He knew my soul needed to take a walk around the town that was my grandmother’s town… and to remember.