Monday, August 29, 2011

Review of “Stealing Jenny”: A Novel by Ellen Gable

I have reviewed Ellen Gable’s first two novels “Emily’s Hope” and “In Name Only” on this blog, and have eagerly awaited her third novel. Ellen is a pro-life writer who writes in an engaging manner, with keen personal insight and always a hopeful and pro-life message.

After enduring three miscarriages, Jenny is expecting her sixth child. Denise is her neighbor, who secretly envies Jenny her ability to pro-create and watches her and her children from across the street. She is plotting to kidnap Jenny and steal her baby.

Unknown to Denise, Jenny has a complication that requires a caesarian section. Although the title gives away the main event of the novel, the reader is kept in suspense, as the well-being of Jenny and her baby are held in the balance.

At home, Tom takes care of his five children, praying and hoping that Jenny will be found and returned before she goes into labor. Kathy is the police detective who follows the scanty clues to try to find her whereabouts.

“Stealing Jenny” departs from the Ellen’s previous novels in style in that it is modern, without historic elements, and more of a thriller in its genre, with out-of- the ordinary events happening to the heroine. However, the undercurrents of faith, hope, and marital love present in the first two novels are the same here.

The self-analysis that the characters go through in her first two novels is also a big part of the book. Ellen writes in the omniscient third person, bringing the reader into the thoughts of each of her main characters. At times, the characters reminisce, letting us know what has happened in the past to cause them to act or think the way they do in the present. Ellen does this skillfully and seamlessly.

Why anyone would be so ignorant and blatantly disregarding of human life to try such a scheme, Ellen explains by giving Denise’s history. Ellen’s attitude toward the protagonist is a Christian one, hating the action but showing sympathy toward the sinner.

Any woman who has ever really wanted to conceive; any woman who has been through a miscarriage; and any woman who has been through a difficult pregnancy, will sympathize with Jenny, even before she gets kidnapped. Her condition adds a heightened dimension to the plot of a kidnapping.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes suspenseful novels. If you are going to give this to a teenager, you should read it first. The book deals with such topics as premarital sex, abortion, and labor in an unusual situation. The moral viewpoint is Catholic and pro-life.

“Stealing Jenny” will be available from Full Quiver Publishing and on September 15, 2011.

Look for my review of “Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship”, edited by Ellen Gable, in the coming weeks.

For more information about the author Ellen Gable and her books:
Editor, Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship
Author, "Emily's Hope" (Honorable Mention 2006 IPPY Awards)
Author, "In Name Only" (Gold Medal winner 2010 IPPY Awards)

Sunday, August 28, 2011


The impending storm barely blipped on my radar earlier this week. I received an email from Examiner asking for articles relating to “Extreme Weather” in connection to Hurricane Irene. In recent years we have had so many tropical storms come our way that I don’t give them much notice. “Every family should always be prepared for an emergency,” I wrote in my column, “If you have all the staples in your house you won’t have to run out and buy batteries, bread, and water.”

On Thursday night, I had a list building up, and finally decided to take a trip to Wal-Mart. The bunny and dog needed to eat, and I recently noticed the family’s underwear was getting a little threadbare. My twelve-year-old tagged along, wanting to buy some new material for a project she wanted to sew.

Rolling around the store with a cart filled with socks and underwear, I felt amused looking at the things other people were buying. Stacks of water bottles. I made a mental note to start filling empty jugs with tap water.

“Sorry, ma’am, we’re all out of batteries. Flashlights too,” an employee explained to a customer. I wondered, why did people need all these batteries and why did they not have an emergency supply at home? How many people did not already have a flashlight at home?

I felt proud of myself as I checked out. I had none of the mundane supplies other people were buying. We had materials for a weekend project, our pets would be fed, and if we had an emergency we would not be caught with holes in our socks or underwear.

Friday I saw the Red Cross signs outside of our local high school and I started to get nervous. I went back to Wal-mart to buy tape for my windows. I noticed they had restocked their batteries.

On line with my three rolls of Duck brand strapping tape, I stayed quiet as a large, rough-looking man in front of me waved his arms and declared, “All this … for Irene…. BAH!” and he threw a small piece of rolled up paper into a side display. “After I check out I have to take care of the a—hole in the auto department. He told me he was all out of batteries and I said, ‘Show me where they used to be,’ and he pointed, and there they still were, and I said, ‘What do those look like, a—hole?’… I know a shyster when I see one and I knew he was a liar...A real con artist…You’re pretty quiet aren’t you?” [I nodded.] “You don’t let much bother you do you?” [I shook my head.] “Yeah I can tell about people.”

I looked away, hoping he would stop talking to me, and fortunately he was swiftly taken care of. I noticed a big supply of batteries behind the counter. He had told someone else he only had AAA and AA so I asked him for the largest package of AA. Not that I didn’t have them at home; it is the size we most frequently need. I scanned the display for flashlights. I didn’t see any and didn’t ask. I knew of at least one working flashlight in the kitchen drawer.

As I walked out, I passed the man at the courtesy counter, complaining about the a—hole in automotive.

When I got home, there was a message from the Town of Brookhaven. “This storm will be a historic one of epic proportions,” it said, and listed all the important things to do. [Note the current advise is NOT to tape the windows, but my dad was a builder and he still says tape them, so I do.]

The kids asked me why I was taping up the windows. I remembered asking my parents the same thing before Hurricane Gloria in 1985. I remembered their answer. “It keeps the glass from shattering if it breaks,” I answered.

“It’s not even going to be a big storm,” my eldest said.

“You have never seen a real hurricane honey, you are in for an experience,“ I said.

“Didn’t you write in your column you were supposed to tell your kids not to be scared?” she challenged.

“That is true. But I also want you not to be blasé about it and help me to prepare,” I answered.

We walked around the yard, picking up toys, furniture, flower pots, garbage pails, and other loose items. We secured them all in the shed and garage. After swimming, we secured all the pool stuff in the pool storage unit.

I went food shopping, not because of the storm, but because we were out of food. I planned on having the electricity go out on Sunday. So I bought enough perishables to last through Saturday night and got lots of bread, nuts, fruit, vegetables, and cereal. I remembered my need for coffee and picked up some instant coffee. Three gallons of milk and six cans of evaporated milk.

A man behind me had a shopping cart filled with beer and iced tea. A Hurricane Party?, I wondered. The lady in front of me had a cart filled with junk food. People don’t even buy healthy food when they’re not in a hurry, I thought.

Saturday brought a little rain and kept my husband home. “I’m going for a swim,” he said. We pulled out a couple of pairs of goggles and all did our laps. I showered, my last shower for the week, I thought. I made dinner, my last fully home-cooked meal for the week, I thought. I filled the washer machine with water for flushing toilets and washing hands in case the water stopped pumping.

Then we waited. The kids wanted to stay up for the storm. We told them they would miss it if they slept too late. We stayed up and watched the coverage.

I didn’t sleep well. There is a very tall pine tree behind my bedroom, and I was worried it would crash through the roof and land on me while I was sleeping. I kept waking up, and turning on the television to make sure we still had electricity and satellite service. At 3:00 a.m. there were young men walking around in the streets of the evacuated town of Long Beach with a blown-up dolphin. At 4:00 a.m. there were people swimming at Long Beach. At 5:00 a.m. the eye was coming into the tri-state area. At 8:00 a.m. it passed over New York City. It was downgraded to a tropical storm.

At 10:00 a.m. the phone rang. My little brother had called to check up on me. “We’re fine,” I answered groggily, “We were sleeping.” I went back to bed, and when I woke up at 11 the storm was over.

The kids woke up and looked out the windows.

“We told you it would just be a little rain,” my daughter said.

“You did say that,” I responded.

“And you said it would be a big storm,” she prodded.

“None of us is the expert. You made a lucky guess,” I said.

I was thankful we were okay and that everyone we knew was okay, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I had kind of wanted my kids to experience a real storm – but safely. One of these days there really will be a direct hurricane hit here, and nobody will believe it.

Upon further inspection, I discovered my gutters had come a little lose in three spots. That will require some tacking down. Maybe we did have enough of a storm after all.

My daughter and I made a pillow together – so the weekend wasn’t a total loss. I drove to the library to return a movie. The traffic lights were out. I passed three uprooted trees.

On the radio, a meteorologist stated that this year several hurricanes will follow the same path. The next one is due in 15 days. “Consider this last one a dress rehearsal for the direct hit of a real hurricane,” said another of my favorite meteorologists.

I have a full stock of batteries and water, a roll of strapping tape, and five loaves of bread. Maybe I should leave the flowers in the garage.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Welcome to the Texting World

“Give me your cell number so I can text you the information,” the coach said over the (home land line) telephone last week.

“We don’t have texting,” I replied.

He laughed at me. “Well, texting is how we get information to the parents during our away tournaments,” he explained, “so it really is necessary.”

The next day I was on the phone with my cell phone company adding texting to our family plan.

My husband and I have resisted this for several years now, seeing no “up” side to the ability to text information to people, when email and phone calls can do the same job. Everywhere I look I see people looking down at their phones, their thumbs going crazy. Up to this point, I have been happy to be relatively immune to the outside world when I am out with my children. The cell phone only rings if one of my children needs to get in touch with me. I can enjoy the here and now.

I started to have second thoughts while at Pony Nationals in North Carolina two weeks ago. I was at a park in the middle of nowhere at 7 a.m., my 12- and 5- year olds in tow. I was carting a medium-sized cooler full of ice and water bottles. I was on foot when I realized I was at the wrong field, and there were six other fields in the park. Then I was told there were copperhead snakes in the woods.

I called one of the other mothers on the team, who picked us up, brought us back to our car, and had us follow her to the correct field. When I got there, the other parents said that the manager had texted them the correct field number.

So I thought maybe, just maybe, I would add it on to my plan before the next school year started. My older daughter has been missing team texts for cross country, and my son’s baseball team now uses texting as its primary form of communication. I also get bad reception on the phone and can hardly hear the person on the other end.

I tried to send my husband my first text. “I” I wrote and hit send by accident.

He called me back. “Did you try to call me?” he asked.

“No. I tried to write I love you.”

“Why don’t you just call me?” he stated, annoyed.

“I’m sure the office will appreciate you have texting now,” I offered.

“The beeper works fine,” he insisted.

Friday found us on the way to Massachusetts for the tournament with this new team. My 12- and 14- year olds were pretty quiet in the back seat, giggling once in a while about something someone had texted them. They were communicating with every girl they knew who had a cell phone, even the ones they don’t usually talk to.

We got to their cousins’ house and found there was no cell phone reception in the house. I was slightly relieved. Until that evening when I was still waiting for a text from the coach about what time to meet for breakfast. I had to go out in the middle of the street, being eaten by bugs, to find a signal.

They locked up the house, not knowing I was out there. I rang the doorbell. My brother-in-law opened the door, surprised. “I was trying to get a text,” I answered, embarrassed.

“Welcome to the texting world,” my friend texted me.

“Thanks,” I replied.

“Yeah,” she wrote.