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Things We Once Held Dear    by Ann Tatlock order for
Things We Once Held Dear
by Ann Tatlock
Order:  USA  Can
Bethany, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Neil Sadler shook the dust off his boots and left his small hometown of Mason, Ohio twenty-seven years ago in the midst of a tragedy that touched every part of his life. Neil made a name for himself in the New York City art community, and has most recently been teaching art. When his wife dies suddenly, Neil decides to return home to Mason in order to reconnect with his family and put right some of the things he left hanging when he fled all those years before.

Growing up, Neil had been in love with Mary, the daughter of Cal, a man Neil considered to be a father-figure. Cal supported Neil's art when Neil's parents didn't really understand why he was pursuing it. Everything changed when Cal was accused of killing his wife. Shocked, Neil fled to New York, but Mary has always held an unwavering faith in her father's innocence. Now that Neil has come home, he renews his friendship with Mary, who is experiencing trials in her marriage. As the truth about the past begins to show itself, are Mary and Neil strong enough to deal with what really happened?

Ann Tatlock is a master storyteller. Her lyrical writing style immediately pulls the reader into a story that could have been immensely confusing. With many relatives interconnecting in various ways, in the hands of a less skilled author, the reader could have been lost in a sea of characters. However, Ms. Tatlock establishes relationships and allows the reader to uncover the truth about the past right along with the characters.

Although there's a mystery that Neil and Mary are trying to uncover, the true heart of the story is discovering (and rediscovering) faith in God. The characters gently find that the love of God is real and that God truly cares about their heartaches. The faith message is very subtly woven through the plot so that Things We Once Held Dear has a wide appeal to a large audience. Readers searching for hope will find it played out on these pages. The pacing is unparalleled and the struggle to balance the desire to devour this beautiful story with the desire to savor each well-written page is a delightful one to wrestle with.

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