As I said last week, when I sat down to read Eva Marie Everson’s Things Left Unspoken, it grabbed me in an emotional place. It took me home. In some ways, I wonder if that’s not the best thing someone can say about a book. It took me home.
I’m glad I didn’t write this review a week ago. A week ago I didn’t fully understand the depth in this novel. It has stewed in me since I finished it and, just this morning, I began to see the layers. It was almost like a set of Russian Matryoshka dolls (the ones that nest inside one another) was set in front of me and revealed one by one. By the time I pulled the last doll out, I sort of stood back in awe of Eva Marie Everson. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to take a book title and make it mean so many things. She weaves the theme through every part of the book like a master craftsman, and she does it in such a way that you don’t always recognize it until after you think about it. (That’s a good thing, by the way…)
I initially thought this novel was a book about secrets, about those “things left unspoken” in families and communities. Jo-Lynn Hunter sets about to restore her family home, only to find the old farmhouse holds secrets about itself, about her family, and about the town in which she grew up. The things she learns cause her to question the people she loves most, cause her–in some instances–to question the foundations of what she’s always known. I have to be honest here… I tensed up right along with Jo-Lynn. My heart broke with hers as the house gave up its secrets.
After I put the book down, more little Matryoshka dolls popped up. There are also “things left unspoken” in our relationships. These things are not always secrets. Sometimes they are simply emotions or thoughts we do not voice. And the words we do not speak can creep in between us and our loved ones, can rip a relationship apart. Sometimes the tear is hard and quick. Sometimes the damage is stealthy and slow. Eva Marie Everson weaves for us several love stories in the book: young love, married love, lasting love, fleeting love, passionate love, forever love… And two of those relationships suffer due to “things left unspoken.” One is unraveling. One is riven forever.
And then there are the things we do not even speak to ourselves. Jo-Lynn’s Aunt Stella, I believe, buries some unspoken things along with her secret and–except for one near-tragic incident–does not let herself voice the emotions and words even to her own spirit.
Speaking of Stella, there’s another thing to love about this book. The characters are wonderful. There are plenty of them, but each is distinct and relateable. They are real. They are so real that I was frustrated at one point; I wanted a grandfather hug from Valentine Bach. Even the old house is written in such a way as to be a character in itself. You can tell this is a story close to Eva Marie’s heart.
I’m a girl who hates cliches. (That’s come up in a previous review.) As I read, I grew more and more afraid that Things Left Unspoken was going to wrap up at least one of the storylines with a big fat bow of a cliche’. YAY, Eva Marie! It never did. Each plot of the book came to a satisfying, real-life conclusion. No, the desires of most hearts were not fully granted, but the answers God gave were perfect nonetheless. Isn’t that just like life?
I read Things Left Unspoken the first time with a reader’s eye, for pleasure. I think I want to go back and read it again with a writer’s eye to catch the way the theme and the plots are put together, where the knots and threads intersect. That’s the kind of tapestry I want to weave.