This split-time novel has the unique distinction of keeping me completely riveted even while I battle lack of sleep. No, really. It does. I don’t know if you can get “jet lag” coming home after a short flight from South Carolina to Ontario, California, but if you can, I’ve got it. After spending three-times the amount of time it usually takes for me to read half as many pages, I finally am giving up. So much for my leisurely book reading tonight.
But this was my first impression of The Lady in Residence.
The book is well-written, intriguing, and with more than one quirky character. I love the character of Dini, and I suspect I’m going to love Sallie. Was it true? Did I? Let’s find out!
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This Split-Time Book Has Me Eager to Read More
In what is a potential stroke of literary genius, Allison Pittman has told a dual-time story that leaves you wondering why it is so believable and so impossible at once. Every bit of it that shouldn’t make sense, feels inauthentic, or has some other “flaw,” actually works perfectly in the setting that the author has put it.
As Pittman says in her Author’s Note, the story has an unreliable narrator. That makes all the difference. Had we been meant to take it all as fact, I’d be singing a different tune. Indeed,The Lady in Residence is a rare example of this literary device in Christian fiction, and I for one loved it.
So where does that leave us? Two fascinating stories woven around one small true crime. Characters who are both loveable and deplorable. I imagine some readers will not like Dini, but oh, boy do I love her. She’s so blessedly real, broken, socially awkward, and eager for a chance to live a “regular” life while being her total self at the same time. In other words, she’s a perfect picture of some part of all of us whether we admit it or not.
Do I have issues with the book at all?
I do. Despite excellent writing, some seriously great characters, a fabulous combination of plots, and the wisdom not to rush the telling, there are problems.
First, while the spiritual content is subtle, it is there. We see a man’s spiritual growth through his admission of past flaws and present focuses. However, one of those past flaws is still a big problem. He completely neglects any focus on Dini’s faith or lack thereof.
Add to that a couple of (in my opinion, anyway) over-the-top sensual scenes that frankly cut to black at the last possible second it seems and yeah. There are problems. Actually, the sensuality level is high regardless. That part was disappointing. Still, they’re skippable.
The Lady in Residence is recommended for lovers of illusion, history, ghost stories (or not!) and split-time novels. Not recommended for those who don’t like to have to skip intimate-leaning scenes and the investigation of paranormal activity.
Book: The Lady in Residence
Author: Allison Pittman
Genre: Christian Historical
Release date: February 2021
Can a Legacy of Sadness be Broken at the Menger Hotel?
Visit historic American landmarks through the Doors to the Past series. History and today collide in stories full of mystery, intrigue, faith, and romance.
Young widow Hedda Krause checks into the Menger Hotel in 1915 with a trunk full of dresses, a case full of jewels, and enough cash to pay for a two-month stay, which she hopes will be long enough to meet, charm, and attach herself to a new, rich husband. Her plans are derailed when a ghostly apparition lures her into a long, dark hallway, and Hedda returns to her room to find her precious jewelry has been stolen. She falls immediately under a cloud of suspicion with her haunting tale, but true ghost enthusiasts bring her expensive pieces of jewelry in an attempt to lure the ghost to appear again.
In 2017, Dini Blackstone is a fifth-generation magician, who performs at private parties, but she also gives ghost walk tours, narrating the more tragic historical events of San Antonio with familial affection. Above all, her favorite is the tale of Hedda Krause who, in Dini’s estimation, succeeded in perpetrating the world’s longest con, dying old and wealthy from her ghost story. But then Dini meets Quinn Carmichael, great-great-grandson of the detective who originally investigated Hedda’s case, who’s come to the Alamo City with a box full of clues that might lead to Hedda’s exoneration. Can Dini see another side of the story that is worthy of God’s grace?
About the Author
Allison Pittman is the author of more than a dozen critically acclaimed novels and a four-time Christy finalist—twice for her Sister Wife series, once for All for a Story from her take on the Roaring Twenties and most recently for the critically acclaimed The Seamstress which takes a cameo character from the Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities and flourishes her to life amidst the French Revolution. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, blissfully sharing an empty nest with her husband, Mike. Connect with her on Facebook (Allison Pittman Author), Twitter (@allisonkpittman) or her website, allisonkpittman.com.
More from Allison
From Haunting to Healing: How Stories Bring New Life to Old Ghosts
If you really think about it, every story is a ghost story. Not the floating spirits of the dearly departed kind, not bumps in the night or mysterious howling in the darkness—but the best stories come from examining a haunted heart. Memories that pursue the present.
A few years ago I took the walking tour of haunted San Antonio. It was a lark, a fun touristy thing to do with some visiting friends. I’m not a believer in ghosts, but I am a collector of stories. The tour opens at the Alamo—sacred ground of slain soldiers. The second stop is the Menger Hotel, listed as one of the most haunted hotels in the United States by those who measure and evaluate such things. And while the tour guide waxed on about the guests’ litany of haunted experiences (including Teddy Roosevelt raging through the lobby), my mind stuck with the story of Sallie White.
Sallie White is the Menger Hotel’s most famous ghost—a chambermaid whose apparition is reported to be seen walking the halls, towels draped over her arm, or to be heard as an efficient two-rap knock on your door late at night. My mind, however, didn’t dwell on Sallie the ghost, but Sallie the woman—just a normal, hard-working, poor woman, murdered in the street by a man who claimed to love her. But for that, she would have passed into history unknown. Instead, her story is told every night as strangers gather on the very sidewalk where the crime took place.
Years after first hearing the story of Sallie White, I stayed in the Menger for a few days to gather details for The Lady in Residence.
I booked what they call a “Petite” room—meaning it is a room that maintains its original structure. Read: tiny. Exposed pipes, creaky wooden floors, antique furniture—the only update, the bathroom fixtures. As it turned out, my room was directly above the place where Sallie White was murdered. One night I pressed my ear against the glass and listened to the ghost tour guide tell her story. The next morning, I stood in the exact spot with a fancy Starbucks drink, thinking about her. She lives on, not because people claim to see her walking and hear her knocking in the dead of night, but because she is a woman remembered.
So, is that beautiful? Is it ghoulish? Maybe it’s both, but when I was given the chance to write a story set in and around the Menger Hotel, I was determined to make Sallie White’s story a part of it. I didn’t want to write her story—that would have required embellishment beyond those few historic, factual tidbits that such a woman left behind. Sallie White didn’t have correspondence to catalog or a journal to give us insight into her thoughts. Instead, I wanted to tell it to readers everywhere who might never make it to San Antonio to hear it for themselves. When you read The Lady in Residence, you are going to hear the true story of Sallie White, all of it taken from a newspaper account of the time. And then, I did what all historical writers do…I folded it into my own tale and folded that tale into another.
That’s really the joy of writing a split-time novel—being able to draw back and shoot a narrative-arrow straight through the hearts of two stories, threading them together, to bring a haunting to a place of healing.
Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, February 23
Artistic Nobody, February 23 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)
Fiction Aficionado, February 24
For the Love of Literature, February 24
Where Faith and Books Meet, February 24
Texas Book-aholic, February 25
Mia Reads Blog, February 25
Connie’s History Classroom, February 26
Inspiration Clothesline, February 26
Locks, Hooks and Books, February 27
Books I’ve Read, February 27
Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 28
Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, February 28
Remembrancy, March 1
Bigreadersite, March 1
For Him and My Family, March 2
Hallie Reads, March 2
deb’s Book Review, March 3
Blogging With Carol, March 3
By The Book, March 4
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, March 4
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, March 5
The Write Escape, March 5
Life of Literature, March 6
Inklings and notions, March 6
Godly Book Reviews, March 7
Vicky Sluiter, March 7
To Everything There is A Season, March 8
Pause for Tales, March 8
To celebrate her tour, Allison is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of Lady in Residence!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.