Friday, July 6, 2012

The Guest Book - by Marybeth Whalen

In The Guest Book by Marybeth Whalen, Macy Dillon has had some family issues in her life.  Her father died 10 years ago, but her mother still celebrates his birthday, and still has a "shrine" dedicateed to him in her house.  They talk about him to Macy's daughter, Emma, whose father has been out of the picture since she was born.  Until recently, when everything begins to change.  The pictures in the shrine start coming down, and Emma's father, Chase, starts coming around.  Then, Macy's mother, Brenda, announces that she would like to take the whole family on vacation at the beach house they haven't been to since the year after her husband died.  The beach house with the guest book where Macy carried on a pictorial correspondence with an anonymous "artist" boy every year.  A boy she never met, but could never stop thinking about.  Will this trip finally solve the mystery of his identity?  Will Macy find both the answer and love in the same place?

I liked the plot idea of this book; 5-year-old Macy was too young to write an entry in the guest book, so her father encouraged her to draw a picture instead.  She never dreamed that someone would respond to it.  The idea of budding artists teaching each other about themselves through nothing but drawings, and developing a friendship through them was such a fun, intriguing concept that fit in perfectly with the setting of a beach and once-a-year vacations.

However, I did not find Macy to be a particularly likable character.  She can't kick her ex out of her life, even though she knows she doesn't want to be with him.  This hesitation is partly because of her obligation to keep him in their daughter's life, but others around her fear that he's her fall-back plan, which he does seem to be.  Then, when she is strong enough to leave him behind and go on vacation, she finds not one interesting man to date, but three.  She says that she wants only to find out who "the artist" is, but she can't bring herself to ask the question immediately.  Instead, she strings each of them on, until she does get up the nerve to ask and decides to walk away from anyone who isn't the one she's looking for.

I don't want to spoil the ending, and it is hard to give an honest opinion of how I felt about it without doing so, but I will say that the way the book turned out was dissatisfying for me.

There were good moments along the way that made this book better than I may have made it sound above.  Macy does discover that God is the true Artist, and that she shouldn't waste the talents He has given her.  Although the ending belied her discovery, she does recognize that "whoever the artist was suddenly didn't matter so much anymore.  She wasn't sure she was ever supposed to find him.  And that was okay.  She'd found Someone much better instead.  Someone she could count on no matter what."  Between her reconnection to God, and the healing she found in her relationship with her brother, the book added some depth to what could have been a shallow story.  The mystery of the artist's identity certainly kept me up too late, trying to reach the conclusion, and a book that keeps me intrigued is one I don't regret reading.

So, I give this book 3 stars.  I wish that Macy had followed through on her discoveries, and had been or become somewhat stronger than the book left her, and I didn't like the conclusion of who she ended up with, but those are both personal preference issues that didn't really affect the quality of the book.

The author has a blog HERE, and she's even running a contest based on this book - you could win a copy or a trip to North Carolina!

I received a copy of this e-book for free from Zondervan, via Edelweiss, in exchange for my honest review.

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