by Elmer Seward
Deena is running from a dangerous past. When she finds herself in a small fishing village tucked away on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, she thinks she is finally safe. While there, she discovers a journal that weaves a story of secrets, passion, and unrequited love. In its pages, she discovers the answers to her struggle with the shadows of her own past. In the end, those shadows close in on her and threaten all that she holds dear.
It was a sleepy September Sunday in the ninth pew. A fly circled Mr. Branson’s slightly balding head like a helicopter searching for a level clearing. Old lady Carter’s head dropped in notches like a Ford coming down an old-fashioned car jack. At the bottom, it bounced back up only to begin its jerky descent again. Mr. Wilmar was busily taking sermon notes in sweeping strokes—obviously another short-lived bulletin board art display. I was penciling small figures on the borders of successive hymnal pages. Then I flipped them to watch the dancing circle, with its moving stick arms and legs. I glanced up. It was at that moment that I finally understood what Pastor Tompkins called the “everyday miracle.”
The morning sun was low and bright, straining to filter through the grays and blues of the stained glass, storm-tossed waters. Jesus, in a brown robe, strode triumphantly on the waves. Peter, in a faithless moment, reached for help as he sank in the sea. A broad yellow halo encircled Jesus’s head. As the sunlight streamed brightly through the yellow glass, tiny particles of dust floating in the air gave a smoky glow to the ray that fell on the pew two rows up…fell on the girl I’d never seen before. A flip of her golden hair, a turn of her head, a smile.
There are moments in life that you remember because they’re surprising or unique. They’re the Christian Laettner buzzer-beating shots that win the game, or the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunctions on live TV, or maybe the Richard Nixon resignation speeches. They’re the “Where were you when?” moments in life. And then there are other moments—the ones in which the arc of your life is forever altered. You’re no longer the person you were just seconds before. In one instant, the world screeches to a stop and spins out of control, all at the same time. These aren’t just moments you remember. These are moments you’ll never forget. The miracle of the girl in the seventh pew is that moment I’ll never forget.
My makeshift flipbook was forgotten, to be discovered by some other spiritually stranded soul. The rest of that Sunday service was dedicated to the miracle in the seventh pew. I imagined several times that she glanced back, but then I quickly looked up at the pastor. I didn’t want to give the impression that I was staring at her, although that’s exactly what I was doing.
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Elmer Seward was born and raised along the Chesapeake Bay in southeast Virginia. Growing up, the cemetery behind his house was his playground. The metaphorical theme of death and rebirth that figures prominently in his novels is probably influenced in some way by the time that his mother heard, through the screened window, a small voice crying for help. Rushing from the house and through the yard, she discovered her all-too-curious six-year-old son at the bottom of a freshly dug grave. In that moment, he discovered that trouble is much easier to get into than it is to get out of. Sometimes we need help getting out of the hole that we jump into willingly.
He is blessed to have a large blended family and is the reluctant servant of three crazy dogs, a Maltese, a Japanese Chin, and a BruMaltChiYorkie. All of these strongly influence the characters and events in his novels; however, his beautiful wife, Mitzi, is the true inspiration for the tender hearted but determined women in his stories.
Set You Free is Elmer’s third novel. His previous novels are Hearts in the Storm and Dreams of the Sleepless.
Twitter - @elmerseward2
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3.75 out of 5 stars
Set You Free: Love, Lies, and the Secrets that Bind by Elmer Seward is a suspense story with romantic elements that follows a mysterious woman named Deena who is fleeing in a terrible storm while accompanied by her young daughter. A chance encounter with a stranger named Blake changes her life as she gets integrated into the network of folks who inhabit the small town of Opechancano. Each person she meets has a challenge that they have fought to overcome, but they all are inexplicably willing to extend a helping hand to Deena and her daughter. Unfortunately, evil is stalking them, and the inhabitants of Opechancano may or may not be able to withstand the death and destruction headed their way.
I was entertained that this book opened with a scene that brought to mind the classic setting of a dark and stormy night. The author did a nice job of building on that base and gradually fleshing out the characters whose lives intersect, while reminding the reader that everyone has something painful that holds them in the past IF we let it. There are intriguing twists that play out as barriers are let down and the tragic events that have shaped these people are exposed. The pain exposed as the story progresses is artfully depicted and I enjoyed the way we were able to view each character differently as more information came to light. There is a bit of graphic violence, so those who are squeamish should proceed with caution, and the base subject is very sobering and thought-provoking. For me, the pace is a little uneven and a few things were predictable but I enjoyed watching the two different mysteries unfold and I cheered at the fortitude and small-town cohesiveness that is depicted even though I think that some things were tied up just a little too neatly. Those in the mood for a mystery within a mystery will undoubtedly enjoy this tale.
A copy of this title was provided to me for review