This story started a few weeks ago. It was a gorgeous Friday, and I decided to go out for lunch...by myself...and enjoy eating outside. I never do this, but it felt so satisfying to people watch and just enjoy the crisp fall afternoon. After lunch, however, I felt a pull at my heart. A pull that ultimately led me to the Christian bookstore around the corner. "I shouldn't spend anymore money. I have enough books. It will just be a waste of my time and money." Boy, was I wrong! I wandered around for a while in the self-help devotionals until my heart kind of yelled at me that it couldn't take anymore self-help, that it wanted a lighthearted, fun fiction novel. So, I indulged. I browsed the fiction section and then landed on this book. I'll admit that I judged this book by its cover at first. It's inviting and light and girly and just what I thought I was looking for - a breezy Southern read. So I bought it. Secrets Over Sweet Tea by Denise Hildreth Jones.
I started the book that night, and it was a little of a slow start - kind of vague about some of the characters, and it bounced around a lot. But, it was an easy enough read, so I pressed on. And I'm so glad I did! Here's the synopsis:
Scarlett Jo Newberry is a loud, boisterous pastor's wife and momma to five boys. She doesn't care what others think of her and she will force her way into your life and your heart. She faces some demons that she thought were put to rest many years ago. Then we meet Grace Shephard who is facing marital troubles with her professional hockey husband, as he loses himself into a bottle of beer night after night. He can't and won't touch his wife. She struggles internally and tries to keep a smile on her face through it all, but her friends and family notice and they know she's not okay. And then, there's Zach Craig, a divorce attorney in the quaint Franklin, Tennessee town, who is also facing marital problems. His wife only seems to care about material things and could care less about her husband. That's how he felt, so he found someone that he thought appreciated and wanted him. Through these struggles, friendships are made, problems are hashed out, and lots of difficult questions are asked.
*** SPOILER ALERT ***
Through these characters' soul searching and life saving, my heart was alleviated. It was like all that I wanted and was feeling was put into black and white print for me to read. This book is most definitely about relationships and divorce and marriage and healing. But most of all, this book is about reclaiming your heart. Grace makes the decision to finally put her foot down and end her marriage to Tyler and do what she's always loved to do - cook! She quits her very well-known news anchor position and opens a tearoom. And she couldn't have been happier. She threw it all to the wind and found who she was, and she was rewarded for it. Zach vowed to be a man of God that he's wanted to be all along and love his wife, not knowing whether she would forgive him for his affair or end their marriage. But he fights for her. And Scarlett Jo is forced to face her rapist twenty years later, and she breaks all over again. But this time, instead of Scarlett Jo having to be there for everyone else in the town, her new friends are there for her and pull her out of her fears.
This book makes you think about what your breaking points are in a relationship. What is worth putting up with? Is it okay to shut your heart down in order to live out something you've been content with for so long? And once your heart is broken, what does it take for you to reclaim it? Do you even want to? Is it worth it?
It asks the hard questions without the reader feeling lectured. While reading this book, a few lightbulbs went off for me, and I am forever grateful for it! It helped me further come to understand what I want and need in a future spouse, what it's like to truly go on a journey to find yourself amidst pain and chaos, and that I've got to take care of my own heart before I can be of any good to someone else. This book was exactly what my heart needed in this season of life that I'm in. God knew that I needed to read this book and find this author. He knew what it would do to my heart, and He showed me the way on that beautiful Friday afternoon.
I recommend this book to anyone and everyone, and it will always be on my must-read list when others ask. I pray that it touches and heals many other lives, as it has done to mine.