A Surprise Guest
We open the chapter with Heather making wedding decorations, worrying about the conversation she heard between Mrs. Reid and Ethel. The wedding is tomorrow, and she still hasn’t told anyone what she heard. Well good. Eavesdropping is bad, but I understand it can happen accidentally, and that when you’re a kid you don’t always know how to handle it. Reporting on what you heard, unless someone’s life is in danger, is another ballgame entirely. I’m not sure I’d be cool with that.
Heather sends up a quick prayer that Pastor Reid’s mother will love Aunt Rachel like she and God do. Props to the author, this prayer works. It feels real and honest, even if I don’t agree with the sentiment. Heather then goes to Rachel’s room to see her.
“Which dress should I wear after the wedding,” Aunt Rachel asked, holding up a dress in each hand.
Shouldn’t there be a ? after that statement?
“The green one is my favorite,” Heather answered not very enthusiastically.
“Thank you,” Aunt Rachel said. “It’s my favorite, too.”
Then why didn’t you just pick that one?
“Aunt Rachel,” Heather asked, “do you really love Pastor Reid?”
“With all my heart,” she answered.
This would have been enough. This would have been realistic. But aunt Rachel goes on.
“He’s a good Christian man. I believe God wants us to work for Him together, telling people about His love and that Jesus is coming again.”
I’m no expert in the romance department, but just from listening to people talk, that is not how people talk about the person they are about to marry. Taken out of context, this statement could be about anyone. At some point, I could’ve said this about Callie.
“I’ll miss you,” Heather said, tears brimming in her eyes.
This is realistic, and *I* don’t like Aunt Rachel, but Heather does, so ok, fair enough.
Aunt Rachel reassures Heather that she can visit often. Melbourne isn’t that far away, after all. And Heather’s father does seem to go there a lot, so frequent visits seem possible.
Aunt Rachel kissed her cheek. “There’s no time to be sad,” she said laughing. “We have a wedding to prepare.”
Your mileage may vary, this doesn’t work for me. This feels very dismissive of Heather’s feelings.
Aunt Rachel and Heather go downstairs. Mrs. Gibson and Nathan are wrapping flowers in wet cloth to keep them fresh. There’s a sweet moment between Aunt Rachel and Mrs. Gibson, where Rachel tells her sister she wouldn’t consider leaving the family if Mrs. Gibson was still sick. Mrs. Gibson, we are told, is feeling much better.
What was Mrs. Gibson sick with? How exactly did she get better? We don’t know. The only things we ever saw Ellen White mention to her were “fresh air and sunshine.” So, I guess Mrs. Gibson’s mystery illness was cured by fresh air and sunshine?
We are told a lot about Mrs. Gibson’s illness in the first book, and even a bit in the second. After that, it’s just dropped from the storyline. Even for a kid’s book, this is not acceptable. When a child has a chronically ill mother, said child is prone to worry about the parent. I feel like there was a setup for a plot line here, and then it got dropped, because….?
Mrs. Gibson reassures Rachel, gives her a hug, and it’s believable.
Pastor Reid comes in and wants to know why everyone is crying. Rachel says it’s just happy tears. Nathan asks if he can drive the buggy to church, and his father says he can even sit in the driver’s seat.
Heather giggled. “What can I do to help, Aunt Rachel?” She asked.
Aunt Rachel washed her hands in the wash basin. “Well,” she said thoughtfully. “There will be about 10 guests for dinner this evening and about 30 tomorrow for the wedding supper. Will you please help your mother with the food? There are still plenty of carrots to slice. I don’t want you overworking yourself, Aileen,” she said to her sister. “You need to stay well for all of us.”
Heather answered. “All right. I’ll be happy to help with the food.”
Said no 11 year old, ever.
Just then there is a knock at the door. It’s time for our surprise guest to arrive. Before I read this chapter, I’d put money on the fact that it was Ellen White.
But no, it’s just Laura Douglas and Addy Hart. Remember the Hart family? They converted to Adventism because Heather’s dad had bible studies with them. Addy is Heather’s age, and she stayed with Heather’s family at campmeeting, where her whole stupid family converted.
Mrs. Gibson asks Addie if her family is well.
“Oh yes,” Addie answered, her freckled checks glowing. “My father is now the foreman at the biscuit factory….we just built a church in Hamilton, too. Now we have our very own Seventh Day Adventist church building!
I know I’m supposed to be happy about this, as a reader…. but I just find this depressing.
Mrs. Gibson goes on for a bit about how great this news is, and then she and the children start scrubbing carrots.
So far this chapter has been kinda boring. But it’s about to get interesting because Ethel and Mrs. Reid are about to show up! The drama! The suspense! The excitement!
Heather dashes upstairs to wash her face and put on ” a yellow and white cotton dress.” Heather’s hands shake a little as she buttons up her dress. She’s worried that things won’t go well tonight.
And well they shouldn’t. This book has been setting up a confrontation with
- Rachel and Mrs. Reid
- Heather and Ethel
To deny us any of these confrontations is sort of like an unfired Chekhov’s gun. If there is a gun, we the audience expect it to go off. There has been a lot of setup for confrontations. If that particular “gun” goes unfired, I’m going to come away extremely unsatisfied as a reader.
Nathan whispered in Heather’s ear. “Is Mrs. Reid really as mean as you told me?” he asked, leaning on her chair.
“You’ll see,” Heather whispered back.
I like this. I like that Heather is going to let Nathan interact with Mrs. Reid and come to his own conclusions rather than putting the idea into his mind that Mrs. Reid is a bitch and letting that color his expectations of her.
Or maybe I’m reading way too much into it and she just doesn’t have much time to whisper back.
Heather looked down at the floor as Ethel walked past her.
“My parents will be along shortly,” Ethel said to Mrs. Gibson. “Something came up at the last minute.”
We never get told exactly what this thing is, and the fact that we don’t get told feels like there’s a glaring gap in the story. Either don’t mention Ethel’s parents at all, or plan to include more details in the next chapter or book or something.
Mrs. Reid sat down in the wing backed chair. “I suppose this wedding is actually going to happen,” she said dryly.
Ummmm yeah? The wedding is…today? Tomorrow? If there were any objections you felt you needed to raise, it should have been done a longass time ago. Does Mrs. Reid never talk to her son?
Pastor Reid expresses the same sentiments I do, but politer:
“Yes, mother. Did you expect otherwise?”
Mrs. Reid turned her nose up into the air. “I’m not sure,” she answered, looking coolly at Aunt Rachel.”
This is the part of the book where I thought they were going to introduce a surprise twist. It wouldn’t need to be anything too detailed, this is a kid’s book. Aunt Rachel, for example, could have had a divorce in the past. Mrs. Reid could have heard that, but not the details of the divorce. The details of the divorce could be simple: Rachel’s old husband just up and left her one day, for vague reasons. It would be a classic example of the type of misunderstanding that happens when rumors get passed along without any actual details of what happened.
Or Mrs. Reid could have found out that Rachel had broken an engagement in the past, and wondered about the circumstances of that. Is the girl flighty, or was there a good reason for it?
These are things that could still cause a misunderstanding while making Mrs. Reid seem somewhat like a sympathetic character. I would still find this overly simplistic, but it would be way better than the obvious hint we had 3 chapters ago.
Aunt Rachel looked down at her hands, her bottom lip quivering. Suddenly she stood up. “Excuse me,” she said, and ran from the room.
Yes, Mrs. Reid has been rather cool to Rachel. And tactless. And not very nice. But Mrs. Reid hasn’t really said that many mean things to Rachel? I mean, maybe it’s just me but the way it’s written, it makes it look like Rachel overreacted?
You know what, no. This is about the only scene that doesn’t make Rachel look like a cardboard cutout character, so I will stop ragging on it.
Heather gasped. Poor Aunt Rachel, she thought. Mrs. Reid is being very thoughtless.
Is this how eleven year olds talk? This was not how 11 year old me thought. 11 year old me would have thought, “what a bitch” or “how rude.”
A streak of boldness suddenly overtook Heather. She jumped to her feet and crossed her arms. “Mrs. Reid,” she heard herself saying. “I don’t care for how you have been treating my aunt. I think you owe her an apology.”
Props to Heather, this is well done. Assertive yet polite.
Unfortunately, in 1899 children like Heather could have been spanked for this sort of thing, which is probably why we get the next paragraph.
Heather couldn’t believe what she had just done. Instantly she was sorry. Heather knew she shouldn’t have said anything, even though Mrs. Reid was being unkind.
I disagree with this. Someone had to speak up about it. Especially since the adults weren’t. If no one ever speaks up about unkindness, who will?
Heather slumped back into her seat, her face burning red. Ethel grabbed her grandmother’s hand.
In the awkward silence, no one said a word.
This feels like a terrible place to end a chapter. If you wanted to end the chapter on a bit of a cliffhanger, end the chapter right after Heather’s outburst. That would have made me want to turn the page to see how people react. But here we are already showing how people react: awkward silence.
All that aside, this chapter was actually very boring. At least the last chapter had a point. This one was mostly filler material until Mrs. Reid arrived.
Next time we’ll see the conclusion of this particular book. After that we’re going to set this series aside for a while, because
the Lord the movie theater has shown me that two new movies are coming out: The Shack and The Case For Christ.
I’ve been planning to blog about these books anyway, and
the Lord has shown me that now would be a good time to do so. After watching the movie trailers I decided that the timing is right.