Belonging, Book Review, Books, Christian Writer, christmas, Faith, Forgiveness, Grief, Seasons of life

TALKING TO CALIPPA CUMBERLAND: BLOG TOUR BOOK REVIEW

Christmas is coming! I know, I’m beginning to panic a bit too – it’s less than a month to go and I don’t feel in any way prepared for it! I am however praying that this Christmas will be a good one; a celebration of family and fun, a ray of light in the dark winter days, a time full of joy and hope. It will be wonderful, yet again, to tap into the true meaning of Christmas and look beyond the festivities to the One who came to bring the joy and hope, and dare I say it, fun!

I love Christmas. I treasure the memories of Christmases past and truly look forward to this one, especially as it is my first as a grandparent! But for many, Christmas isn’t a time for celebration, and may not carry those happy memories. For many, Christmas is a stark reminder of loved ones lost, of childhood traumas, of heartbreak and of the relentless passing of the years. It can be an acutely painful and lonely time.

ONE CHRISTMAS EVE

Front cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

Chick Yuill has drawn on that reality in his latest novel, Talking to Calippa Cumberland and I am absolutely thrilled to have been included in the blog tour. It all starts one Christmas Eve in 1976. A small child shopping with her mother in a department store hears the tannoy announce that there is a little girl lost and crying for her parents. For 3 year old Lori Bloom that lost child stays in her heart and imagination. The name she thinks she has heard is ‘Calippa Cumberland,’ and Calippa becomes her imaginary friend, someone she can talk to and confide in, someone who perhaps understands her. Because the truth is that Lori Bloom is herself lost.

As chapter follows chapter we follow Lori’s life through a snapshot of subsequent Christmas Eves. We journey with her into her teens and into adulthood, as she discovers painful secrets, faces betrayal, suffers heart-breaking loss, and makes life choices with complicated consequences. All the time she is confiding in her faceless friend, Calippa Cumberland. All the time searching for someone who understands and someone she can finally, fully trust.

UTTERLY COMPELLING AND DEEPLY PLEASING

Back cover of the book, Talking to Calippa Cumberland

The book is utterly compelling. I read it in almost one sitting. Chick draws Lori’s character so well, and describes the things she goes through sensitively and convincingly. It is not a maudlin book, but it is real and raw in places. The story brings tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat, but also the odd smile and nod of understanding. It covers subject matters that are not uncommon, things that many of us can relate to in some degree. You find yourself rooting for Lori, hoping that she will ultimately find what she is looking for.

She does find good friends, and one in particular has a lasting and positive effect on her. Not to divulge any spoilers. Let’s just say things definitely get better for Lori, and she comes to terms with much of what life has thrown at her in a deeply pleasing way.

WHO ARE WE TALKING TO?

I was unsure at first of the device Chick used to let us hear Lori’s deepest thoughts. Is it strange to have an imaginary friend, even in adulthood? Is it strange to write notes to them pouring out your soul? Well as one of the characters in the book says…

 ‘every night before I sleep I have a conversation with someone I can’t see, who many people tell me is a figment of my imagination and whose existence I can’t prove…’

What Lori is doing, is what many of us do in praying and journaling. Except of course, for those who know Him, Jesus is no imaginary friend. Talking to Calippa Cumberland is Christian fiction, and the message of the gospel is there subtly throughout, but is never forced down your throat. I found myself yearning for Lori to meet the one person she could completely trust and pour out her thoughts, fears and feelings to. The One who could make the lost child feel found again, and forever secure.

The book set against a Christmas scene

A FABULOUS CHRISTMAS GIFT

I loved this book, and Chick writes so well, especially as he convinces us that he knows what it feels to be like a woman with definite female issues to contend with! And I salute his encyclopaedic knowledge of Christmas Number Ones! I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially seeing as Christmas is just around the corner. This book would make a fabulous gift to anyone who loves a well written and beautifully told story based around Christmas. And perhaps is also a book not just for Christmas…

photo of the author

SPECIAL OFFER

As a special offer, Chick is offering readers of this blog, a signed paperback copy of the book for the discounted price of £9.00. To avail yourself of this kind offer, and to bless the author, contact him via margaretyuill@martyart.co.uk  before 4th December and quote the code joysblogg

Talking to Calippa Cumberland by Chick Yuill, was published by Instant Apostle (22 Oct 2021), ISBN 1912726483, RRP £9.99, and is available from all the usual places.

Belonging, Book Review, Books, Christian Marriage, Christian Writer, Faith, Forgiveness, God's faithfulness, Healing, Lessons from life, Seasons of life, Thankfulness

BOOK REVIEW: ALL SAINTS? BY ELLIE CARTER

I love reading new books by new writers, who like me have been brave enough to put their writing out there. Which is a very scary thing, believe me. I especially love books that are very definitely inspired by God, with a great faith message, that is lightly handled and wrapped up within a gripping fictional tale.

All Saints? Is one of those books and I am very happy to recommend it. I’ve seen it described as Christian chick lit, but I wouldn’t label it such, as it is such a good observation of everyday life, that I think it would appeal more widely. If you have ever been involved with church, if you have ever had to deal with real life challenges and heartbreak, if you are a man or woman with questions about faith, then you will find things to relate to in this book.

Clever Title

All Saints?’ is a clever title. It refers to the Parish Church that sits at the centre of the tale, but as the story also follows three Christian women connected to the church, it explores just how saintly each really is. Of course the Bible might describe all believers as ‘saints’, but how we live out our lives is often far from deserving of the title, and that is normal! Sophie is the church minister’s wife, juggling handling a difficult adopted toddler and also trying to support her husband in his role, whilst being a good friend to the others. She also has deep wounds related to her struggle with infertility that resurface when her friend Hayley announces that she and her husband are also unlikely to be able to conceive naturally. Hayley is desperately unhappy and makes a decision that has devastating effects for all of them.  Lucy is single, and feeling bypassed, calling out to God for a man to love her. It seems God has answered her prayers. Her journey is heart-breaking.

Raw and real, and relatable

All Saints? is raw and real in places, shocking even, but it is also heart-warming, as the bonds of friendship, and the love of God, see these three friends, their partners and families work through their issues together. That it is set around a church, works brilliantly.  For anyone like myself, who has grown up immersed in church life, the different (odd) people that make up the congregation, the funny little incidents, the frustrations and the joys are all so recognisable. The green cup/blue cup mix up made me laugh – I’ve seen something very similar happen myself, and can even picture those ‘church’ cups and saucers. The open day where half the village come because it’s free – and none of them actually then come to church as a result, had echoes of many ‘failed’ outreaches I’ve been part of. The rich parishioners who think they should run everything, including the minister, but would rather raise money selling jam than donate money themselves to repair the pot-holed driveway, also made me smile knowingly.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, reading it in a couple of days, and becoming quite invested in all of the main characters. It does cut quite close to home at times, but also talks about faith matters in a gentle and non threatening way.

Well done Ellie Carter on your debut!

*Romans 1:7

Ellie Carter has walked the path of infertility. She and her husband are now blessed with two adopted children. If you would like a personally signed copy of All Saints? please bless the author by contacting her direct at elliecarterauthor@gmail.com.

She is offering the book at a discounted price of £7.00, including postage, to anyone who contacts her as a result of this post.

All Saints? was published by Instant Apostle on 19 June 2020, ISBN 1912726211, RRP £8.99

Acceptance, Belonging, Books, Christian Writer, Faith, Healing, New Author

LONG LOST FAMILY

I love ITV’s ‘Long Lost Family’ –  a show about reconnection and restoring of broken family relationships. It’s definitely one where having a box of tissues handy is advised! Some of the stories are heart-breaking – young mothers forced to give up babies, siblings separated through no fault of their own, long held feelings of guilt, shame, abandonment, loss. The reunions are always wonderful. Especially when the reconnected families look so similar, or speak or laugh in the same way. Heart-warming stuff.

I’m thinking a lot about families at the moment. The easing of restrictions has meant that we can reconnect with long lost family members of our own. This weekend we have travelled south to attend a wedding celebration and we will be seeing family members in the flesh, some of whom we haven’t seen for two years or more. Not quite a lifetime of separation, but it will certainly be great to reconnect and catch up with them all. I am so thankful for my biological family, they are all so cherished.

Another family I am grateful for is the long lost family I didn’t even know I had, until the beginning of this year. In January I made the bold move of joining a zoom call with a group of writers I had never met before. I had found the Association of Christian Writers online, and joined up, but this was new territory – actually introducing myself to a group of real faces, and as an actual bona fide writer. I discovered a family there. These were people who knew what being a writer felt like, who had the same joys and frustrations as me, knew the pitfalls, had experienced the highs and lows. I was so warmly accepted, and now some of those people are really dear friends. One of them, Maressa Mortimer, is hosting us this weekend in her lovely holiday home, and it is so good to finally meet her in the flesh. Another, Wendy H Jones, has opened many writing doors for me, one of which was inviting me to contribute a chapter to an anthology for writers. Creativity Matters: find your passion for writing, is available to purchase now. Exciting times! mybook.to/CreativityMatters

One thing that does upset me when watching ‘Long Lost Family’, is the way individuals talk about ‘feeling empty inside’, as though something is missing, disconnected, incomplete. They are looking for long lost family members in the hope of filling those voids, healing that emptiness. I wonder if they really do truly find that missing piece?  

It’s true that we all need that sense of belonging, that sense of identity – who I am, where I come from, how I fit in. We can get a measure of that from our biological families, and that is wonderful. We can also get acceptance and a sense of belonging from groups of people who share our passions and beliefs. But a part of me, a big part of me, knows that however good our human relationships are, that void can persist. That uncertainty as to my identity can easily be triggered if I base it on how well I am accepted and loved by those around me. I have learnt, and relearnt, over the years that true acceptance, belonging, and identity can only come from God my Father. After all, He knows absolutely everything about me, He made and designed me as I am, and yet STILL loves me unconditionally. If I take my sense of who I am, from who He says I am, then, in Him, I am never disconnected, never abandoned, never alone, and never lost.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.’                                                                           Isaiah 43: 1 NKJV

I have loved you with an everlasting love; 

Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV

Joy Margetts is new to blogging, and new to being published. Her debut novel ‘The Healing‘ was published by Instant Apostle on 19 March 2021. A work of historic fiction, set in mediaeval Wales against the backdrop of Cistercian abbey life, it is also a story of faith, hope and God’s redemptive power. Joy has also self- published a short novella, ‘The Beloved‘ as both a companion to ‘The Healing‘, and as an easy to read standalone story, which is available to buy on Amazon Kindle.

More information on Joy and her writing can be found here www.joymargetts.com