My feet pounded the treadmill as I scrolled page by page through the book. I’d never heard of the author—Courtney Walsh. But the cover had taunted and tempted me until I bought it. I hadn’t even read the synopsis, but after I did…
Bookstore? Refurbished furniture? Notes on hearts? What isn’t there to love?
Maybe I built it up too much in my mind, but by the time I’d swiped the last page, I was disappointed. The cover didn’t fit the time of year (a personal pet peeve). Valentine’s Day in Colorado does not conjure up the idea of green trees and sundresses. Just sayin’.
But it wasn’t just that there was something else about Paper Hearts that didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t bad, by any stretch, but it wasn’t the amazing book I’d hoped for.
A couple of years later, I read Just Let Go by the same author. Now that book I loved. Like almost everything, I had things that kept it from being perfect, but I think I gave it five stars. If not, it was like 4.49999 or something. 😉
Not long after that, I read about Ms. Walsh’s daughter having been diagnosed with cancer.
I got her age wrong, I think… or maybe she had a birthday SUPER close to when I read about it, but I immediately put a sticky note up on the wall of the lighthouse. When someone gave me the news a few months ago that she was now in remission (or cleared or whatever you call it… the word used was remission, anyway) and headed off to college, I couldn’t believe it had been so long. She was seventeen now. What? I prayed for this girl all this time. Prayed for her mother and the fears that only moms get—fears we rarely share.
And most of my cancer prayers have ended in begrudging thanks to the Lord that He is always good, even when we’re not ready for His decisions. Like the ones that remove those beloved people from us. Not this time. Not this time. I got to go into that little room with the hundreds of sticky notes on the wall and write the words, “In remission. Praise the Lord!” and move it to the “answered” side of the room.
Not gonna hide it. I cried.
Yeah, I did. Me—the one who never cries. Wracking sobs of grateful tears that at least one mother didn’t have to say that kind of goodbye. She got to send her girlie off to college. She got to deal with the mess and horror that comes in the fallout of medical trauma, maybe. But her girl is still here.
See, I HATE cancer like nobody’s business. I watch it creep in and break hearts. Real ones. Not paper ones filled with sweet messages. Real ones full of hopes, dreams, pains, sorrows. And I hate it.
But not this time, you stupid radical cells. God said no this time. Those tears were praise and worship of a God who remembers that He had a mother here who mourned him. He truly does know the pain from all sides.
Courtney Walsh recently released a new book, If for Any Reason, that she wrote during the medical nightmare called cancer.
I was anxious to read it, so when a blog tour opportunity came up to request a review excerpt, I took it. Except I didn’t want an excerpt. I wanted the book. So I bought it. I read If for Any Reason last night. Yeah, this book might be a podcast episode all by itself. Just sayin’.
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Sometimes “It’s Better” Is the Greatest Understatement Ever
Each book I’ve read by Courtney Walsh has been better than the last—in my experience, anyway. I feel like a hypocrite saying that, because I really feel each book should be viewed on its own merit. But I can’t deny that each book really did improve on the last.
Sigh. But that’s such an insane understatement when it came to If for Any Reason.
To be fair, I think a significant part of why has to do with the fact that I would call this “Romantic Women’s Fiction” rather than straight-up romance. It is also solidly redemptive fiction, which I LOVE as well.
What did Walsh do so well this time?
So many things. Let’s start with characters. I’m a sucker for messed-up characters, and Courtney Walsh has written an entire cast of really flawed, need-a-come-to-Jesus-moment characters. From Emily to Hollis, Isabelle to JD, the grandparents to even Jolie’s mother, these folks are messed up on so many levels. Christians act like Christians… and don’t. The unsaved act unsaved… and sometimes they act more “Christlike” than the saved. It’s authentic. Real. Familiar.
Even the redemptive story woven through each character doesn’t have a neatly tied bow at the end of If for Any Reason. And thank you, Courtney Walsh for that. It’s what makes the story feel so believable and what gives it so much hope. How often do we think we’re never going to “arrive” because on the screen or the page, the “good guy” ends up one spit-wash away from perfect? Walsh doesn’t do that. Spit-washes are just going to make mud in the tears of her still-broken but healing characters.
The plots—yes, plural. In this time-split novel, we have several plots and times playing out as we learn what brought everything to where it is today even as we live through the today. She uses the epistolary device in such a beautiful and unique way. I love how she did that.
Capital L-O-V-E. Love.
But more than anything, I love the faith in If for Any Reason Walsh didn’t beat us over the head with it. Each character embraced or repelled the Lord in ways that fit his or her own character perfectly. If I have any criticism of this book, it would be that there was one tiny nuance that would have been beautiful to show and she didn’t. That said, I don’t know if you could do that without making it preachy.
Look, this book doesn’t have sermons. Conversations about the Lord are kept to a minimum. Prayers are gritty, transparent things from a hurting soul. It’s not neat and clean by any stretch of the imagination.
Instead, If for Any Reason is one of those books that I’ll be chewing over for days. I’ll probably reread it. Soon.
SO glad that when offered an excerpt to review, I chose to just buy the whole thing and read it all. I’d never have been satisfied with just an excerpt.
Book: If for Any Reason
Author: Courtney Walsh
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 3, 2020
Emily Ackerman has traveled the world, her constant compass and companion a book of letters her mother left for her when she died. With no father in the picture, her mom’s advice has been her only true north. But when professional failure leads Emily back to Nantucket to renovate and sell the family cottage she inherited, she wonders if her mom left advice to cover this . . . especially when her grandmother arrives to “supervise.” And especially when her heart becomes entangled with Hollis McGuire, the boy next door–turned–baseball star who’s back on the island after a career-ending injury.
As sparks fly between her and Hollis, Emily is drawn to island life, even as she uncovers shocking secrets about the tragic accident that led to her mother’s death. With her world turned upside down, Emily must choose between allowing the voices from her past to guide her future or forging her own path forward.