We’re participating in the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop and I can’t think of a more heartwarming novel to feature as our giveaway than bestselling and award-winning Bette Lee Crosby’s new addition to the Wyattsville series, Passing through Perfect. As with the prior two novels in this series, you can read it as a stand-alone novel; however, I strongly suspect, once you’ve read it, you’re going to go back and read the first two as well. This series is southern historical fiction at its best.
Like the first two novels in the series, Passing through Perfect doesn’t shy away from the hard truths about what it was like to live in the South in the mid-20th century. Warning: This one will really touch your heart. I’m so happy Bette has provided us with an autographed copy of Passing through Perfect to offer in our giveaway!
Benjamin Church joined the Army Air Corp in World War II hoping he’d learn to fly planes while helping defend his country. Instead he ended up scrubbing toilets until a good deed he did an officer resulted in him learning to become an aircraft mechanic. Benjamin had a knack for knowing how to fix things, so becoming a good mechanic came naturally. He thought when he got out of the service in 1946 that he’d continue to be a mechanic but life had other plans for him. His widowed father, Otis, needed him on the farm back home in Alabama.
“Benjamin raised his arm and waved. Otis brought his hand to his face and shielded his eyes from the sun. He leaned forward, trying to identify the stranger.
Dropping his duffle in the road, Benjamin took off running. He was three steps shy of the porch when his daddy finally recognized him.
Otis gasped, ‘Lord-a-mercy, I hardly knowed it was you.’
Benjamin hugged the frail Otis to his chest and laughed. ‘You saying I put on some weight?’
‘Some weight?’ Otis echoed. ‘Why, you went from boy to man.’”
Still Benjamin had plans for the farm where his father was a sharecropper and it didn’t take him long to get the farm back on its feet, rotating crops so they produced year-round and plowing any extra money back into improvements. He even bought an old car and a used tractor, and put his mechanic skills to work making them run like clockwork. Even though he wasn’t working as a mechanic, life was good and he could see farming for the rest of his life being a very satisfying thing.
When Otis decided it was time for Benjamin to get married, he lured Benjamin to a dance in nearby Twin Pines. That’s where Benjamin met the love of his life. That Delia wasn’t the woman Otis had lured his son there to meet didn’t matter because he could tell Benjamin and Delia were meant for each other.
“She [Delia] was in the middle of telling about how they’d moved from Ohio because her Daddy took on the job of shepherding the flock at New Unity Church when Benjamin blurted out, ‘I’ve done decided you’re the girl I’m gonna marry!’
Delia laughed. ‘Marry? A wife ain’t like an apple you pick off a tree. A fella’s got to court a girl and make her start liking him. Then maybe he can ask if she’s willing to marry.’
‘I know that,’ Benjamin answered. ‘And I’m gonna ask proper, when the time’s right. But ‘til then I thought you ought to know how I’m feeling about you.’
Delia gave a funny little shrug. It was neither an agreement nor disagreement. ‘I suppose you can feel however you want to feel. But I ain’t about to marry somebody I don’t know a thing about.’
‘We got time,’ he said. ‘We got plenty a’ time to get to know one another.’ He gave her a knowing wink, then began telling her about the farm in Grinder’s Corner.”
Delia’s preacher father, on the other hand, didn’t want Delia getting married. Delia Finch was supposed to leave Alabama to go to college and better herself, not marry some sharecropper and live in Grinder’s Corner for the rest of her life. When they showed up to get his blessing, he shocked them both by declaring Delia dead to him and shunned them both. In gaining a husband, Delia lost her family because her mother was too afraid of her father to go against his wishes. That was a hurt so painful Delia was never able to make peace with it, or to give up the faint hope that it might one day change. She had gone from the apple of her father’s eye to someone he called a whore in the blink of an eye.
Still, life goes on and Delia learned the skills she needed to be the wife of a sharecropper. Benjamin loved her with all of his heart and Otis was thrilled to have her join their little family. When their son, Isaac, was born, they all adored him. And life continued to look good for the Church family. Benjamin felt like he was the luckiest man on earth but then, as it does sometimes, life began to hand out set-backs.
Drought is a farmer’s biggest enemy and drought is what came to Alabama. The crops couldn’t make it and without the crops, Benjamin had to find some other way to earn the money needed for them to survive. He swallowed his pride and began to knock on back doors in Bakerstown, despite the town’s attitudes about “colored” people. Because he worked hard and did an exemplary job, word of mouth spread and soon he had plenty of hard work that brought home enough to keep them alive. Most of the time he was treated okay, although some people were not very nice. He chalked it up to ignorance and just kept working. It meant 12-14 hour days of hard labor but he didn’t care if it kept food on the table and a roof over their heads. Delia began to take in laundry or anything else she could to help out.
They were still happy because they had each other, and that was all that mattered. Benjamin believed things would get better and they would find a way out of these hard times. But then one night on a back road in rural Alabama, life decided to hand out the worst thing that could possibly happen to any family and their lives would never be the same. Can they recover from such a low blow?
I’m not African American and neither is the author. That said, I think she has done a pretty good job of portraying at least some of what it was like to be African American in the late 1940’s and the 1950’s. That’s always a tough call; however, this novel includes things I heard about and saw that I never understood as a small child in the South (or as an adult for that matter). Bottom Line: Racism has never made sense to me. Benjamin is one of those characters who I instinctively like from Page 1. Delia is a strong woman with a big heart and I liked her instantly too. I could picture Otis so well in my head that he could have been sitting across the room from me. And Isaac – well, I couldn’t help but think about him, as with them all, what a different life they would have had if the world around them had been a different place.
Bette Lee Crosby has an amazing talent for portraying that which is good in people while addressing harsh issues that still face us today. And she does it all so well that it just kind of sneaks up on the reader. When I read one of her novels, I know I’m not going to want it to end. The same was true for Passing through Perfect. It’s a story that will stay with you for days afterward and touch your heart all over again every time you think about it. I can’t wait for her to write another one! Yes, of course I’m recommending Passing through Perfect. It will make the perfect heartwarming winter read!
Can’t wait to read it?
Passing through Perfect was published on January 14, 2015, so it’s available now from your favorite online bookseller below (or in the right column for iBooks). Please note: This book is only available online as an e-book. If you don’t have an e-reader, just download the free app to your computer or tablet and you can still read this wonderful e-book.
I’d love to get your comments on Passing through Perfect, Bette Lee Crosby or her other work, and/or this review.
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One lucky reader will win an autographed ARC (advance readers copy) trade paperback of Passing through Perfect by Bette Lee Crosby!
Once you’ve entered our giveaway, be sure to link to all the other book-related giveaways in this wonderful giveaway hop below the Rafflecopter form.
Because I’ve got the flu (bleh), I’m making this giveaway super simple.
1) The deadline for entries is Monday night, 1/26/2015, at 11:59pm EDST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) You must be at least 15 years old to enter this giveaway.
4) You must use the Rafflecopter form and follow the instructions for your entry to count.
5) If you do not provide a complete mailing address in the Rafflecopter form, your entry will not be eligible. We will use your mailing address to ship your book to you. Please allow 2-3 weeks for book delivery.
7) That’s it – it’s a super easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!
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