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The Penny    by Joyce Meyer & Deborah Bedford order for
by Joyce Meyer
Order:  USA  Can
Hachette Audio, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD
* *   Reviewed by Jessica Weaver

Jenny Blake has never known anything but push - her father, pushing her and her sister Jean around. Pushing friends away. Never letting anyone get close, for fear they might encounter her father's wrath. And then she finds the penny.

It is the mid-1950s in St. Louis. While waiting in line at the Fox Theater to see a Grace Kelley film, Jenny sees a penny in the street. Something tells her to go and pick it up, and with that a string of events begins, so peculiar than even Jenny knows it must be fate. Along with free movie tickets and a job that comes forth from that eventful day, Jenny also starts to gain a sense of faith that is only perpetuated by her strange friendship with Aurelia, a black student at her school.

So many issues arise from this novel that it seems made for the big screen (by the way, the movie will be released in November). Sexual, physical, and verbal abuse; civil rights in the 50s; and Christian themes all fight to be the center of attention in the novel. Throughout the majority of it, I felt somewhat confused by all of the issues and cared less about Jenny than about their resolution. By the end, however, the characters of Jenny, Aurelia, and Jenny's benefactor Miss Shaw had started to cling to my heart and make a home there. I was sad to see the story end.

The abridged audio version is done very well; narrator Ellen Archer is excellent and all of the voices she speaks for the characters are well-defined. Music plays at the end of each CD to tell you it's over, which is helpful and in this case went with the themes of the novel. I felt it was abridged well and left no gaps to leave the listener wondering.

Hardcover Review by Anise Hollingshead:

In The Penny, Joyce Meyer has paired with Deborah Bedford to write a fictional novel with a Christian theme. Joyce Meyer is a Christian Evangelical motivational speaker and author, and Deborah Bedford is a Christian fiction author. The result is a mostly pleasing, well-crafted novel.

The protagonist of The Penny is Jenny, a young teenager who sets off a chain of unusual events when she stoops to pick up a penny in the road. This brings her to the attention of Ms. Shaw, the proprietor of a local store, who offers Jenny a job. The story centers on their friendship and how they help each other deal with serious events in their lives, and also how God uses forgiveness and love in our lives to strengthen our faith.

The year is 1955. Jenny lives in a severely dysfunctional home where she endures physical, emotional and sexual abuse. She has never told anyone about her home situation, but in 1955, she didn't have many options. Jenny finds faith in God and becomes a Christian, but has to deal with many issues like forgiveness, and the fact that sometimes God doesn't answer prayers in the manner we would like.

In finding the penny, Jenny believes that it is a symbol and message of love from God. She decides to pass on the gift to others by giving people a penny at various times and occasions. At first, it doesn't appear that anyone really notices, but she later discovers that she has affected people's lives with her simple gifts.

The prose of the novel is highly readable and enjoyable. Deborah Bedford can definitely turn a phrase and is one of the better current Christian fiction authors around. Joyce Meyer is also a dab hand at presenting biblical doctrine in a practical, easily understood manner. However, the story is at times unbelievable, as is the whole characterization of Jean, Jenny's seventeen year old sister, who passively endures her father's abuse. Jean has graduated high school and is planning on attending a secretarial school away from home, but still lets her father abuse her. Most kids this age would have already left home. And, we're supposed to believe that she was concerned about Jenny's safety, but she still leaves Jenny there unprotected when she goes to the secretarial school.

Still, despite these slight inconsistencies, this is a good story with solid biblical teaching about the need for forgiveness, not for the perpetrator's sake, but for our own. Fans of Christian fiction will be pleased.

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