Reviewer Conny Withay:Operating her own business in office management since 1991, Conny is an avid reader, volunteers reading the Bible to the elderly, and makes handmade jewelry. A cum laude graduate with a degree in art living in the Pacific Northwest, she is married with two sons, two daughter-in-laws, and one granddaughter.
Authors: Rene Gutteridge and Michelle Cox
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
“Unlike a crooked nose or being a size A, you can’t fix other people. You can only fix how you view them, the lens by which you see them. You can pray for your children, guide them, live a good example in front of them. But you can’t fix them,” Helen is told in Rene Gutteridge and Michelle Cox’s novel, Just 18 Summers.
At three hundred and eighty-four pages, this paperback targets those interested in Christian fiction involving contemporary family relationships. With no profanity, sex, or violence, it is apropos for mature teenagers and adult readers. After the story, there is a note from Cox, acknowledgements, the authors’ biographies, and ten discussion questions.
This tender tome involves four families and their personal dynamics after Jenny, the wife of Butch Browning, dies tragically from a car accident. Butch becomes overwhelmed by being solely responsible for his eight year old, precocious daughter, Ava. In turn, Ava misses her mother dearly as she tests her father’s limits continually.
Butch’s sister, Beth, and her husband, Larry, are further along in their family, having their daughter engaged to be married, their older son graduate high school, and their youngest still at home. As Larry tries to correct things he missed during his children’s upbringing by having the “Summer of Intense Fun,” Beth falls into guilt and anger not being able to control anyone anymore.
Next door neighbors, Charles and Helen, over-compensate financially and responsibly their three children whose constant schedules and focus on importance leave more than the parents regretful and distant. As Helen tries to maintain the look of perfection, relationships crumble around her.
Tippy, the foreman of Butch’s construction company, and his wife must learn flexibility and working together as a team when she becomes pregnant and obsessive about raising a child.
As all characters learn to let go and let God handle each one’s path in life, they are forced to adapt and accept decisions made that change not only their lives, they must forgive their own past and realize God’s grace.
Gutteridge and Cox set up a quick read that would make a wholesome Christian television series of families in crisis that learn to cope, trust God, and lean on one another. Readers will laugh, cry, and connect with one or many of the individuals as they, too, relate to their own insecurities and imperfections experienced sometimes well past eighteen years of family living.
Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for furnishing this book in exchange for a review based on the reader’s honest opinion.