I was initially drawn to “Secrets of the Porch” by Sue Ann Sellon because of the compelling back cover text. The brief blurb highlighted the plight of a troubled teen unwittingly cast into a unique multigenerational relationship and latent coming of age situation, and was ripe with keywords that caught—and held—my attention. Agony, danger, and four instances of the word “secret”… But when the book arrived in the mail, I was a little disappointed. I thumbed through the pages and saw many references to God, faith, and love, and, alas, I hadn’t expected this to be one of “those books.” You see, I’m an analytical thinker, and while I don’t discount the idea of God, I don’t dwell on it either. I was born on the tail-end of Generation X and, over the past two decades, most of my conversations with The Almighty have centered on one question: Why? I lost my mother, sister, father, and grandmother all within seven years of each other; I recently separated from my husband and am tormented by complicated child custody issues; and, if there is a God, well, let’s just say, I’m fairly certain my other relationships with men would offend, rather than please, Him. I’ve been where I’ve been and seen what I’ve seen, and the last thing on earth (or in hell or heaven) I need is a cleverly concealed piece of Christian fiction to tell me about life, love, and loss… Nonetheless, I decided to read “Secrets of the Porch,” because, when you order a bacon cheeseburger, you can’t turn your nose on it ‘cause it ain’t kosher.
Much to my surprise, this cleverly concealed piece of Christian fiction tugged at my heart’s strings and struck a chord deep within me. Its 224 pages spoke volumes about life, love, and loss in a way that even someone like me could completely relate to and understand. The two central characters—sixteen-year-old Sophie and her seemingly perfect grandmother, Lila—stand in stark contrast to each other, though, taken together, they represent two threads of the same torn psyche. Between the two of them, they’ve been where I’ve been and seen what I’ve seen, and then some—yet, somehow, firm beliefs in God, faith, and love manifest in their story, while they’ve been woefully absent from mine, which begs a familiar question… Why? The answer spills from just about every page in this remarkably tender tome. Both Sophie and Lila brim with a sense of hope that I have not lost, but have abandoned, and each exudes an openness to possibilities, both earthly and divine, to which I have otherwise closed my eyes. I could say that I’m jealous of these fictitious females, but I am not. If anything, I’ve learned a great deal from them—and, even if you are battered, bruised, and broken, you probably will, too.
They say God works in mysterious ways, and, hell, maybe He does. I received this book for free, in exchange for an honest review, and, in the end, I got a lot more than I bargained for. “Secrets of the Porch” truly was a gift to me, at exactly the right moment in my life, when I needed to be reminded that I am not alone, in any sense of the word, and that there is more to life than the dark shadows looming on yesterday's horizon. I give it four, rather than five, stars because, although the story is entirely realistic, at times, the dialogue is not, and there is some incongruity in the timeline and progression of seasons, which, for this reader, was a touch troublesome as Sophie's personal growth is frequently likened to nature.