Tag Archives: Phillip Gulley

Books Read in November, 2009


Mary of Plymouth (1910), by James Otis
An absolute gem. If you like the American Girl series, or Dear America, you will probably like Mary of Plymouth. It is the fictional story of a girl who undertakes the journey on the Mayflower with her parents and their first few years in the New World.

While not exactly a diary, the writing is more that style than story form with plot, rising action and climax. Otis did his research well, and the book is a treasure trove of daily practices of what the Pilgrims did and how they used what was available to survive in a new land with nothing prepared for their arrival.

Highly Recommended.


Home to Harmony (2000), Phillip Gulley
First in the series of Harmony novels, it is the story of Sam Gardner’s return to his home town.


Just Shy of Harmony (2002), Phillip Gulley

Set in Midwest farm country, this book series focuses on the Quaker church in the little town of Harmony. This is entirely fitting, since the author is actually a Quaker minister himself. Just Shy of Harmony is the second book in the series and the main plot-line follows the pastor’s crisis of faith. A better description would be the wearying of his faith. He despairs over the lack of real Christianity in his church. Gulley is a clever writer because the character and plot developments seem real. Sam’s Christianity is not perfect, his congregants are not all fleshly.

“Cozy” is a good classification of this story with one startling exception: Asa Peacock has a very disturbing nightmare concerning his job at the chicken factory. I had to skip a couple of pages. It was a troubling scene and my desire is to diminish my own nightmares, not add to them.

Other than that, it is a charming book.

Why do authors do that?

Christmas in Harmony (2002), Phillip Gulley
Perhaps, familiarity is breeding contempt but some of the plot devices in the Harmony series are getting a little irritating. Dale Hinshaw is the political conservative and the out-of-place evangelical in the Quaker congregation and the butt of Gulley’s humor and a gross caricature. As I am not a pacifist, this overwriting of buffoonery for his philosophical opponents is getting tiresome. The books are okay, and a whole lot better than much of what’s being printed. Perhaps I need a break before continuing with the others.

Postern of Fate (1973), Agatha Christie
One of Dame Agatha Christie’s last books, it’s a tale of retired Tommy and Tuppence. Upon moving to a small village and buying an old house, complete with some furniture and lots of books, Tuppence stumbles upon an aged mystery and sets off to solve it. This is an absolutely delightful book, one not only for mystery lovers but book lovers as well. Later, I’ll do a post on it alone.

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Filed under Books, Cozy, Fiction, History, Thanksgiving, Using What You Have

Books Read in December, 2009


Village Christmas, (1966) Miss Read
First published as what Miss Read would call “a slim volume”, this edition of Village Christmas, along with The Christmas Mouse, was included in an omnibus entitled Christmas Tales. Set in Fairacre, it is the story of 2 aging sisters who are comfortable in their set ways, until their world is invaded by a young family who moves in across the road. Diana Emery and her husband have 3 cheerful little girls and another baby due any minute. Margaret and Mary are constantly shocked by the Emerys: Diana smoked, wore torn stockings, sent the children over to borrow a bit of string for a parcel, and was actually friendly.

“As Mary had foreseen, her Bohemian garments scandalized the older generation. An then, she was so breath-takingly friendly! She had introduced herself to Mr. Lamb in the Post Office, and to two venerable residents who were collecting their pensions, shaking hands with them warmly and asking such personal questions as where they lived and what were their names.

‘Wonder she didn’t ask us how old we be,’ said one to the other when they escaped into the open air. ‘She be a baggage, I’ll lay. I’ll take good care to steer clear of that ‘un.’ ”

While not exactly a spoiler, I just have to include a passage from the last few pages, because, of course, everything turns out to be okay. New babies have a way of changing things.

” ‘D’you know what Vanessa said when her father fetched her?’ asked Margaret. ‘She said” “This is the loveliest Christmas we’ve ever had!” ‘Twas good of the child to say it, I thought, after such a muddling old day. It touched me very much.’

‘She spoke the truth,’ replied Mary slowly. ‘Not only for herself, but for all of us here in Fairacre. ‘Tis a funny thing, sister, but when I crept up the stairs to take a first look at that new babe the thought came to me: “Ah! You’re a true Fairacre child, just as I was once, born here, and most likely to be bred up here, the Lord willing!” And then another thought came: “You’ve warmed up us cold old Fairacre folk quicker’n the sun melts frost.” You know, Margaret, them Emery’s have put us all to shame, many a time, with their friendly ways, and been snubbed too, often as not. It took a Christmas baby to kindle some proper Christmas goodwill in Fairacre.’ ”

The Christmas Mouse, (1973) Miss Read
The second Fairacre story in this volume is the story of old, widowed Mrs. Berry, her young widowed daughter Mary and Mary’s two little girls and a couple of unexpected guests on Christmas eve. It’s a bit longer than the previous story and is also a morality story with a good bit of wisdom in it.

No Holly for Miss Quinn, (1976) Miss Read

This third Miss Read Christmas story is also set in Fairacre, with a different set of characters. Miss Quinn is an efficient, executive secretary for a businessman. Her life is well ordered and just the way she wants it, with very little fuss and certainly no big celebration at Christmas. Then her brother sends out a call for help with his children when his wife has to go into the hospital and he, being a vicar, is busy with parish duties.

Caring for a whole household is a new experience:

“With a shock she remembered that there had been no preparations made for lunch at home. For the first time in her life, she bought fish fingers, and a ready-made blackcurrant tart. How often she had watched scornfully the feckless mothers buying the expensive “convenience” foods. Now, with three children distracting her and the clock ticking on inexorably, she sympathized with them. Catering for one, she began to realize, was quite a different matter from trying to please the varying tastes of five people, and hungry ones at that.”

It’s a lovely story, with even a touch of romance, and I read it again nearly every year.

Christmas Scrapbook, (2005) Phillip Gulley

A second Harmony Christmas story by Gulley, concerns the Quaker minister’s attempts to make a really special gift for his wife, a scrapbook of her life. Gulley is a real-life Quaker minister and I’m a little uncomfortable with the casual lying in which his protagonist engages. It’s an okay book, but no great shakes, and unlike the Miss Read pieces, I won’t reread.
Esther’s Gift, (2002) Jan Karon

If you’ve read any of the Mitford books, you know that Esther Bolick’s claim to fame is her Orange Marmalade Cake. This story is about her preparation of several to give as Christmas gifts and her struggle with generosity.

Once I read that when Jan Karon first mentioned the cakes in her series, that she didn’t have a recipe for it, just the idea. Memory fails me as to how she finally came up with it, but I’m glad that it’s included at the end of this story. It sounds mouth-watering.

Same Kind of Different as Me, (2006) Ron Hall and Denver Moore, with Lynn Vincent

Not a Christmas book at all, but simply an incredible story, Same Kind of Different as Me, is a double first hand account of redemption and freindship. More on this book later. Here is their website.

Christmas Cookie Murder, (1999) Leslie Meier

Really, I should know better. A couple of weeks ago I was at our local library and looking for some light reading and picked this one up. One of the Lucy Stone series, it’s set in a little town in Maine. Lucy is a wife, mother and part-time reporter for the local newspaper. Meirer’s story lines are mildly interesting but they drip with political correctness.

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Filed under Books, Christmas, Cookbooks, Cozy, Faith, Fiction

Through It All

THROUGH IT ALL
by Andrae Crouch

I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow.
I’ve had times when I didn’t know right from wrong.
But in every situation
God gave blessed consolation,
That my trials only come to make me strong.

I’ve been a lot of places
And I’ve seen so many faces,
But there’ve been times I’ve felt so all alone.
But in that lonely hour
In that precious, lonely hour,
Jesus let me know I was His own.

Through it all,
Through it all
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
Through it all
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

So I thank God for the mountains,
And I thank Him for the valleys.
I thank Him for the storms He’s brought me through.
Cause if I never had a problem,
I wouldn’t know that He could solve them,
I wouldn’t know what faith in His Word could do.

Through it all,
Through it all
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
Through it all
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
Yes, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

A really nice version by Selah on youtube. Also on their album Hiding Place.

This morning I read Brenda’s Sunday Afternoon Tea post on Coffee, Tea, Books and Me concerning the trials of this life and that as Christians, we know that this world is not our home and we look toward the time when we will be with Jesus in heaven. She writes about how life doesn’t turn out like we plan or think it will, either with income or health.

Honestly, I don’t think I ever had the expectations she had about comfortable income and life plans. My life didn’t begin with material comfort, and I never expected it to. Of course, there have been times of more prosperity than others. When my dad and brother had their own businesses, we were quite comfortable. And Joe has a good job but as it was with my dad’s factory work, we have had a lot of experience with lay-offs. During the past 27 years, Joe has been laid off 6 times. Going without regular income for a year or two (that has happened twice) depletes resources and takes a good long while to recover from.

God has always provided and I’m thankful for what he’s given us. While Joe was in college and we were expecting our second son, my dad gave us the down payment for the mobile home we still live in. Over the years we would occasionally think about buying a house, but never could decide on one. Almost without fail, Joe would be laid off within a few months and we would be so glad we didn’t take that leap, because we would’ve lost a house when the income dropped.

For many years we wanted to move out onto rural property, but acreage with houses is way beyond our means. Then in 2001, we found our land and moved the trailer out here to our own place. Joe removed not only the wheels but the axles, too. He named it Kizzie (from Alex Haley’s Roots: a woman named her daughter Kizzie because “she was gonna stay put”). No more moving this house on wheels. Bought new in 1980, we have lived in it 6 different places.

I have plans for remodeling, adding a screened-in dining porch on the front, big wide porch on the front for rocking chairs and summer mornings, a deck on the back for sitting in the winter sun. Most of that will have to wait for Joe’s retirement because we just don’t have the time for big projects.

I’d like some improvements, but I’m grateful for what I have. The world doesn’t understand. If it did, it wouldn’t take such pleasure in remarks about trailer trash. It’s the politically acceptable prejudice. Those who wouldn’t dream of discriminating racially, seem almost proud to despise mobile homes. I remember what James Carville said about Paula Jones, something to the effect that you never know what you’ll get if you drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park. Or people who don’t want you on the PTA board at your son’s school, because you “wouldn’t fit in”. Or a woman who turns away from talking to you when she asks where you live and you tell her. Because the world judges on the outward appearance.

There was a really wonderful passage in Phillip Gulley’s novel Just Shy of Harmony on page 128:

Outside the trailer, winter was coming on. A skiff of snow blew across the fields. A car drove past on the highway. The driver looked at the sagging, tired trailer, saw the lights go off, and felt the cold push of a northern wind nudge his car toward the shoulder.

“Wouldn’t you hate living there?” the driver said to his wife.

“I can’t imagine anything worse.”

But back in the trailer, on that night of love reborn, there was no other place Wayne and Sally would rather have been than in their little trailer, with all the world at bay.

Beautifully written, I’ve never seen anything else like it in print.

Health and family are where my expectations were not realised. I expected to live as I always had until I died. About 25 years ago, I knew there was something wrong with the way I occasionally felt (especially when tired), but my doctor couldn’t find anything. Six years ago I got the diagnosis of fibromyalgia when going in for problems with plain old arthritis. These are not crippling problems; most days are okay if I don’t forget to take the ibuprofen, but then there are the days when I’m down all day, maybe several days. Makes it very difficult to commit to plans. Volunteering had been a part of my life since I was a child, but now I’m very limited.

But I’m grateful, because it’s not what I call serious. It’s not life threatening, just limiting. I’m still mobile and still travel, although I prefer something other than flying. I have fallen in love with trains.

Family is where I have had the biggest blows to expectations. We’ve really had our share of anguish, which I will not elaborate on. Family is where we have invested our money because our loved ones are more important to us than lovely houses, wonderful houses or material gain.

Family is very valuable to me. Never did I think my mother would get Alzheimer’s and live in a nursing home. I always wanted several children but had three miscarriages.

We have 2 handsome, brilliant sons whom we love very, very much. Our older son has blessed us with 2 wonderful grandsons. But we now have 2 almost ex-daughters-in-law. And even when they weren’t ones that I would’ve chosen for my sons, it has really hurt to lose them. It feels like amputation.

So when I think about the vicissitudes of life, I think about this song, which I love.

The trials only come to make me strong.

O Lord! Have I learned anything? Have they made me strong?

Oh, I hope I haven’t wasted my sorrows.

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Filed under Aging, Alzheimer's, Faith, Family, Vicissitudes of Life