About the book (from the publisher):
The Splendor of Ordinary Days by Jeff High (NAL, 2015)
The pastoral charm of small-town Watervalley, Tennessee, can be deceptive, as young Dr. Luke Bradford discovers when he’s caught in the fallout of a decades-old conflict.
After a rocky start as Watervalley’s only doctor, Luke Bradford has decided to stay in town, honoring the three-year commitment he made to pay off his medical school debts. But even as his friendships with the quirky townsfolk deepen, and he pursues a romance with lovely schoolteacher Christine Chambers, several military veterans’ emotional wounds trigger anger and unrest in Watervalley.
At the center of the clash is the curmudgeonly publisher of the local newspaper, Luther Whitmore. Luther grew up in Watervalley, but he returned from combat in Vietnam a changed man. He fenced in beautiful Moon Lake, posting “Keep Out” notices at the beloved spot, and provokes the townspeople with his incendiary newspaper.
As Luke struggles to understand Luther’s past, and restore harmony in Watervalley, an unforeseen crisis shatters a relationship he values dearly. Suddenly Luke must answer life’s toughest questions about service, courage, love, and sacrifice.
There’s a lot to like about this novel with its small-town setting, array of characters, and sincere topics of forgiveness, service, courage, and love. I particularly enjoyed the pieces of setting the author wove within, as well as the ordinary, daily interactions between many of the side characters and the town doctor, Luke Bradford.
While I liked most of the characters, I didn’t strongly connect to any one character. I also found myself withdrawn from some of the novel’s world while reading because of a few complications, including extra phrases within the writing (like adverb-laden phrases that could be eliminated and yet still inferred by the readers from other character actions), regular breeches of doctor-patient confidentiality (even though it’s a small town), and a few possibly stereotypical choices within characters or actions that left me either a bit uneasy or uncertain. (For example, I couldn’t figure out why the next-door neighbor kid, Will, was regularly referred to as peculiar for liking poetry and being introspective. He just seemed awesome to me.) I also didn’t fully sense Christine and Luke’s romantic connection, though part of this may be because I haven’t read the first two novels in this series.
Perhaps the best portions of the novel are those focusing on post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly among veterans. Several different characters had served in different ways, and all were dealing with PTSD in various forms. These scenes allow for a great deal of consideration on the effects of PTSD and how communities can be aware of different needs and offer healing.
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What are some of your favorite small-town novels?
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the Litfuse Publicity Group as a part of their blogger program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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