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A Song I Knew by Heart by Bret Lott
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A Song I Knew by Heart

by Bret Lott

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This book was so poorly plotted I began to wonder if it was a spoof. Obviously a retelling of the biblical story of Ruth & Naomi, I can't imagine a real daughter-in-law being so in love with her mother-in-law, or 70+ yr old women so enmeshed with "girls", or that age of a woman being so broken up about the death of her son. Ruth is made as meek & full of self-doubt as a teenager (from the '50's, not current era). Were Ruth & her husband really happy sharing their morning breakfast routine with Naomi?
The writing is too full of similes. I can't believe this woman goes around thinking about "trying the empty words...like some sort of sales pitch for a product she'd had no choice but to buy" (p.90)or, driving down the street, compares herself to the last dead leaves on trees in winter (p. 74). And Lott obviously wanted us to ponder his use of the image of Naomi's arthritic hands, constantly referring to them and to the pain whenever she holds someone's hand (altho noticeably not when she holds Ruth's p. 90) and finally "painlessly" (p. 290, 292) at the resolution of the story's crisis.
Even up in Massachusetts the characters (except for the German immigrant) all talk with the same cliched style "bless your heart", "might could", the use of "to" instead of "at" as in "a rummage sale out to Belchertown" (p. 61).
I have no empathy for this woman who goes around thinking God has visited sorrows on her (p. 65) yet also remembering the love she shared with her husband. SPOILER ALERT!!! She is harping on a single adulterous incident, which apparently didn't bother her so much when her husband was alive. She can only let go of her shame after a near-death experience which convinces her to let joy and love back into her life. So I guess the moral of the story is you can't change who you are unless you almost die.
So, yes, this could be a spoof. Yet reading the author's brief bio, I notice he resides in the same town featured in the novel. I can only imagine the ladies in his Baptist Church saying "you've got to write our story, you've got to write a good Christian story about the power of God's love." Hence this duty tale, without life. ( )
  juniperSun | Apr 27, 2013 |
The story is a familiar one, based on the story of Ruth from the bible. The tragic death of Ruth’s husband, Naomi’s son, is where this version picks up. The grief the women share creates a deep bond between them. Naomi, who lost her own husband 8 years before, is overwhelmed by the need to reclaim herself. Thinking she will find redemption and forgiveness by moving back “home”, she makes plans to return to where she grew up in South Carolina. Ruth has no family of her own and so binds herself to Naomi saying, “Where you go, I will go. Where you live, there will I also live”. Once in South Carolina Ruth finds a fresh start more quickly while Naomi struggles, as she runs from God and the forgiveness that has been given to her.

From page one I was moved by this book. More than just a story that is told, this is a story that is felt. Lott allows the reader to discover Naomi’s character as she is rediscovering herself. The themes of grief, forgiveness, redemption and grace are woven throughout every page. New beginnings and the love of family await the characters, and the reader, in the final chapters of this novel.

The story seems to move across the pages, however there were a few times I felt it was dragging a bit (Lott used Naomi’s memories to craft the present scene more clearly). In the end I realized it was all necessary to depict who Naomi had been/was becoming.

The only thing I was dissatisfied with is how Ruth’s story ends. In trying to stay true to the biblical plot line, I felt the modernized context didn’t work very well. Though a minor point in the grand scheme of the novel, it was enough to keep me from giving it 5 out of 5 stars.

I feel I should mention that though there are Christian themes running throughout, there are also a few very subtle se*ual references. Nothing graphic in nature, more along the lines of human nature. And certainly nothing that I felt embarrassed about reading.

That being said, if you are looking for a story that is deep with a heartwarming touch, I recommend this book whole heartedly. ( )
  caseygirl1107 | Jan 22, 2008 |
Based on the biblical account of Ruth and Naomi. Will move you s with its heart warming tale of compassion and forgiveness. Thouroughly enjoyed it ( )
  serbook | Dec 7, 2006 |
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Epigraph
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. ---Psalm 137
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? --Psalm 139
Dedication
for my home: Melanie, Zebulun, and Jacob
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I stood outside my son Mahlon and his wife Ruth's bedroom door, in my hands two coffee cups, the pain sharp shards in my old fingers looped through the handles.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345437756, Paperback)

During a cold Massachusetts winter, a tragic car accident leaves a mother childless and her daughter-in-law a widow. Naomi and Ruth are now each other’s only comfort. Naomi lost her own husband eight years ago, and now she has lost her son. Carrying a deep secret in her soul, Naomi decides to return to her childhood home in coastal South Carolina. When she tells Ruth her plan, she receives an unexpected reply: “Where you go, I will go.” So the two women plan the journey together, arriving at a place that is flooded with a love they are nearly too fragile to accept. Surrounded by the warmth of their newfound family, Naomi and Ruth begin to find themselves reawakened–and open to the possibility of redemption.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:21:59 -0400)

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"During a cold Massachusetts winter, a man's car fatally skids on black ice, leaving a mother childless and her daughter-in-law a widow. Naomi and Ruth, bound together as kin, are now each other's only comfort. Naomi lost her own husband, Eli, eight years ago, and now she has lost her son." "Watching Ruth struggle through grief, Naomi suddenly realizes what she must do to make herself whole again: She must return to her childhood home in coastal South Carolina. There, she remembers, was the innocence of youth and first falling in love. But when she tells Ruth about her plan, she receives an unexpected reply: "Where you go, I will go. Where you live, that's where I'll live too." So the two women plan the journey together."."The only family Naomi has down South are in-laws, people she hasn't seen in decades, having kept in touch over the years only through annual Christmas cards. But when she phones, apprehensively, to tell them of her plan, they welcome her with openness and warmth. Arriving at a home full of sons and daughters and grandchildren, Naomi and Ruth are flooded with a love they are nearly too fragile to accept." "Yet Naomi carries a deep secret in her soul - and not even this change of scenery can erase its dark shadow. As the long Southern days seep into their hearts, both she and Ruth begin to find themselves reawakened. And as the love of her newfound family and her enduring bond with Ruth prove themselves stronger than sin, stronger than heartache, redemption finds Naomi once and for all."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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