About the Book:
At just twenty-four, Shiloh Jacobs is on her way to the top at a coveted Associated Press post in Tokyo and engaged to Carlos, one of the most handsome and wealthy men around. She doesn't need help from anyone, especially God. But when she receives the news about her estranged mother's untimely death and travels to rural Virginia to sell the house she's inherited, life begins to unravel before Shiloh's eyes.
Trapped in an iconic Southern town full of pick-up trucks and deer hunters, Shiloh stumbles into unlikely friendships with quirky people like the widow who knew her mom, a chain-smoking next-door neighbor, and a funny but genuine redneck couple whose dream is to overcome infertility to have a child. Broken and confused, Shiloh tries to salvage what's left of her once dream-come-true life. But as the situation goes from bad to worse with no job, no buyers for her house, and old debts piling up, will Shiloh ever get back to her beloved Japan--or will she find a new home at the intersection of loss, laughter, and forgiveness?
I saw this book last year when it first came out and because of the title, I glanced over it. But somehow I didn't think it would be the story for me, so I left it. What a bad idea! I should have grabbed it up immediately! As a southern girl myself who moved to the big city, I can absolutely relate to Shiloh's culture shock. The quirky neighbors, the friendly people, waving at everyone you meet regardless if you know them or not; this story was like going home again. Ms. Spinola did an excellent job of describing the atmosphere of the south along with the people without making them caricatures. The warmth and friendliness of those who live down there is very true to life. It made me want to visit again! If you live in the south, have lived there, or have visited, you'll see really quickly that Ms. Spinola knows what she's talking about. Granted, trying to write out a southern drawl is pretty difficult, but it works. I could hear missing consonants and the y'alls as I was reading them! :)
Now the story is about Shiloh and her journey, but the real character and the real momentum of the story is simply the town of Staunton (STAN-ton, not STAWN-ton) and people who live there as a whole. Getting to know "Southern Speak", hugging everyone, the whole atmosphere. It's like a sweet love song about the quirks and the craziness of us southerners, that doesn't make sense to anyone until they've spent some time there themselves. Ms. Spinola gives everyone a chance to do just that! Shiloh's journey is not easy though. In fact, I didn't start out liking her too much. Her selfishness and wrong decisions, her whining; at times they bugged me. But thankfully she doesn't stay that way (and the character has to start out at a bad place so they can change, right?). She soon comes to appreciate these people and their charms. Who could withstand those who love and help you even when you insult them and complain? Shiloh is brought very low, pretty much rock bottom; but with new friends picking her up and reminding her it will be okay, she slowly moves out of her pit. Still, life isn't all sunshine and roses, so Shiloh's life isn't miraculously restored to what it was. Instead it's very realistic in the struggles that God allows to be thrown her way and how she works to get through them.
There's more books about Shiloh. I was very happy to realize that the library had books 1 and 2, and tonight I found out book 3 is coming out soon. Can't wait! :) Several moments of laughter and smiling happen when you read this story! Do yourself a favor and try it.
A favorite passage:
I made a mental note to write starlings in my "Southern Speak" notebook. I'd already started the second page, thanks to Faye and Bobbie. One corner of his mouth turned up in a smile. "I try. So, Churchville. Let me see the map."
I followed his directions, asking questions, until he drew a big circle around the funeral home. "That's it right there, just off 42. Or Buffalo Gap Highway. But you might not see any road signs. Out there things are a little...well, less posted. People just sort of know where they are. So look for these things." He drew in some more notes and--I'm not making this up--something like bugs with stick legs.
"What are those?" I asked, not intending to sound rude. "Roaches?"
"Those are cows. There's a pasture here."