A MAGICAL TAPESTRY OF LIVES UNDONE — A Review of “Sing Them Home”

singthemhomeIn 1978, in the small town of Emlyn Springs, Nebraska, a tornado has ravaged the community, swirling through its ranks and taking the wife of the small-town physician, Llewellyn Jones.

Before her final “ascent,”  Hope Jones had already begun to descend into physical deterioration through Multiple Sclerosis; being whisked away by a tornado might be seen as a kinder, gentler journey.

But the aftermath of the tornado leaves much more than the usual detritus. In the wake of its devastation, the three children of Dr. and Mrs. Jones each carry the emotional waste with them into adulthood. Larken, an art professor, comforts herself with food and protects herself from relationships with an extra layer of flesh; Gaelen, the esteemed TV weatherman in Lincoln, Nebraska, keeps himself physically fit through bodybuilding and protects himself from long term relationships by his womanizing behavior. And the youngest, Bonnie—described as Flying Girl by Emlyn Springs residents because she was found, with her bicycle, in a tree after the tornado—collects bits and pieces of people’s lives, like artifacts, hoping to make sense of it all and find meaningful connections between these treasures and the lives of those who have gone on before her.

Alvina Closs, who was Dr. Jones’s nurse and his mistress for many years, carries the pain of how her relationship with the doctor – even while his wife, her friend, was alive—might have damaged Hope in some way. She seeks meaning in her life that suddenly veers off track when Dr. Jones, now the mayor of Emlyn Springs, is struck by lightning and killed one day while playing golf. She attempts to pick up the pieces of a solitary life and makes Dr. Jones’s vision, the one that included joining forces with a “sister city” in Wales, her own.

The community—one that mirrors the Welsh one in many ways, in its traditions and heritage—bands together to enjoy a special event called Fancy Egg Days, which features a performance by several students and the crowning of Little Miss Emlyn Springs.

Throughout the book, we follow the lives and loves of the three adult children—interspersed with passages of Hope Jones’s diary from the 60s and 70s—and come to admire and cheer them on as they struggle with the foibles they have inherited (in part due to the devastation wrought by their mother’s passing), and also the unique heritage of their small community.

And then, as the drama of Fancy Egg Days draws to a close, another devastation is visited upon the town residents. Will they pick up the pieces of their lives again? Will they somehow turn devastation into triumph?

A compelling read, Sing Them Home: A Novel, introduces the reader to a treat—an exploration—into the lives of characters that become so real that they feel like our own neighbors in some small town community we know. In the end, we long for the story to continue.

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