||July 8, 2010
Barnes & Noble.com
They were alone and apart until Destiny Stepped in
Peter and Tara Miller are the image of perfection. They have three beautiful children, live in a wonderful neighborhood, and are still each other’s best friend. One day in May their world begins to disintegrate as one of their son falls out of a tree. Tragically six months later their other son takes his own life. Tara snaps and she recedes into the confines of her darkened room.
Emotionally abandoned, Samantha Miller must survive the aftermath of her brothers’ deaths, her mother’s breakdown and her father’s demands. When she has the ability to break free she does and discovers that the real world is not much kinder. Emotionally shattered she struggles through college and law school to discover that her dead twin can direct her to a safe haven. The solace of the ocean and a dog give her the strength she needs to find peace and happiness.
Timothy Bleak is raised in a kind, loving family and is virtually invisible. His voice goes unheard, his needs are unmet and his emotions are squashed. Unbeknownst to his parents he chooses the opportune time to leave the family and set out on a new adventure of his own.
Follow the story as these two bereft beings find each other and their lives intertwine as they face the challenges of life, love and happiness together.
Samuel and Camilla were born two minutes and three seconds apart. Peter and Tara Miller welcomed their new bundles of joy with open hearts and widespread arms. “They’re beautiful,” the nurses all said, as they peered at the babies in the nursery.
“Look identical, not fraternal,” Lacey Henry, the head nurse, declared. She’d seen her share of newborns. “These two are going to turn some heads, mark my words. Just look at those eyelashes, and the perfect curve on the nose.”
“Are these their first?” someone asked.
“No, I heard they have an older son, about five,” Lacey responded. She felt it was her duty to know everything about everyone. She’d been there for twenty-five years, seen more nurses come and go than she could keep track of. Still, she had the charm to make the new mothers feel at ease. It must be that soft, curly head of hair, and the sweet, pleasant smile and her spongy middle. She looked like everyone’s favorite Grandmother. “But these two sure are beauties. Mark my words; they’re going to go far with those looks.”
Peter, Tara, and Jason Miller lived in a cookie-cutter house placed in the middle of a tract of homes in a fairly large subdivision of Vista Oaks. Subdivisions built during that time had three plans: two-bedroom one bath, three-bedroom one bath, and the deluxe model of three-bedroom and two baths. To people driving down Pixie Lane, the floor plan was not identifiable. All of the houses on the street appeared, from the outside, to be the same. The only difference was their placement on the lot. You drove either to the left or right to get into the garage, and then the living room was on the adjacent side of the house. The remaining living space, regardless of the floor plan, was placed behind the living room and garage.
Vista Oaks advertised this subdivision as the most glamorous part of the world and called it, “Vista de Oaks.” Every lot boasted at least one oak tree in the front, and if they were lucky, they had one in the backyard as well. Over the years, inhabitants of the houses had made improvements, either to the building itself or to the landscape. The Miller house, when they purchased it, had not been altered from its original form. That was part of its appeal.
Now, more than fifty years later, those trees, if they hadn’t been cut down, were uprooting the houses, and destroying the plumbing. Original standard home colors were beige with dark beige trim or dark beige with light beige trim. These colors had altered greatly over the years as well, and Pixie Lane boasted a cornucopia of colors.
“Peter, look at that oak in the front. Our kids can climb the tree when they get old enough,” Tara commented the first time they drove up.
“Honey, we don’t even have kids.” He laughed. “Don’t you think we should look inside the house before you decide this is the one you want?”
As they walked through the house, Tara pointed at what she liked. “Peter, we can make this into a nursery. See how the sun comes in here?”
Cindy, their Realtor, spoke up. “As you can tell, this house sits on a south-facing lot, so the window in this room will pick up the afternoon sun, where the kitchen will catch the morning sun.” Cindy Reynolds had been a Realtor for nearly ten years and learned early on that inserting herself in the clients’ conversation usually sold the house. Her narrow frame, long blonde hair, sunny disposition, and broad smile made most clients instantly comfortable with her. This was her last showing of the day, and instinct told her that Tara loved it as soon as she walked up the front steps.
“So we could actually watch the sunrise from our kitchen?” Peter joked.
“I’m not sure about that, but it is an eastern-facing view,” she responded. “I heard Tara mention kids. Are you expecting?”
Tara beamed as she answered, “Yes, I’m four months pregnant.”
As they sat discussing the offer, Peter was a bit concerned about the size of the house. “I’m not sure about three bedrooms and only one bathroom. I think we might be asking for trouble down the line.”
“Honey,” Tara squeezed his hand across the table, “everything else we’ve looked at in this price range only has two bedrooms. I’d much rather have three bedrooms than two bathrooms.”
Peter started to chuckle. “Is that pregnancy logic?” he asked his wife of three years. They’d known each other since grade school but had not really been friends. It wasn’t until after college that they ran into each other again and started dating. Peter was a sales executive for a pharmaceutical company, and Tara was an assistant manager at the local bank.
“No, Peter,” Tara’s eyes began to fill with tears, “that’s not pregnancy logic. That’s real logic.”
Peter realized he’d touched a raw nerve and began to back pedal. “Tara, I didn’t mean it that way. Honey, of course this house is the best house we’ve seen for the money. I’m just concerned that we might need more than one bathroom; that’s all.”
Swatting away her tears, she asked, “Can’t we add one later?”
“Do you like this house that much?” Peter asked.
Tara looked at him and said, “There’s something about it that feels like home; like we belong here.”
Turning toward Cindy, who silently witnessed this discussion, Peter wrote down their final offer. “Take this to the owner, and let them know we are not moving off this number. We can’t afford anything higher. My wife’s in love with the house, but we’re expecting our first child, and that’s all we can do.”
When Tara and Peter pulled into the driveway of that same house six years later with newborn twins, the appearance of the front yard had dramatically changed. Tara had always dreamed of a house with a white picket fence, and Peter had built one for her.
“You know,” she said as they drove up, “I’ll always love the fact that we’re the only house on this street with a white picket fence. It makes our house special.”
“I’m pretty sure there’s more than the white picket fence that makes this house special,” he said, as he came around to help her out of the car. “Let’s get you out of the car first, and then we can introduce Jason to his new brother and sister.”
“Take ’em back. We don’t need them!” Jason screamed at his father. “Why can’t it be the way it’s always been?” Jason started hitting his father.
Peter grabbed both of his son’s fists and calmly answered, “Jason, we talked about this, remember? Mommy’s tummy was big, and we talked about what was happening. You, me, and Mommy sat right here on this couch.” He patted the couch in the living room.
Tara and Peter had introduced Jason to Samuel and Camilla a few minutes earlier. They had placed the babies’ car seats on that very same couch, and Jason had looked at both of them with disgust. He tried to pull their seats off the couch and throw them on the ground. Tara quickly grabbed their seats and took them into the third bedroom where their cribs were waiting. The same room just six weeks before had been a semi-office/storage room.
Peter continued talking to his oldest son. “Jason, you even helped us decorate the new room and move in the two cribs.”
“Yeah,” he lunged toward Peter with his fists, “but that wasn’t supposed to be for babies!”
“It wasn’t?” Peter asked. “What did you think was growing in Mommy’s tummy?”
“You said I was getting a new brother and sister, I thought they’d be just like me. Eddie Loomis has a baby in his house, and it cries all the time.”
“Well, maybe we’ll get lucky, and Camilla and Samuel won’t cry that much.”
Jason’s blue eyes overflowed with tears as he looked up at his father and quietly begged, “Daddy, can’t we send them back?”
I have to admit that when I got this book in, the cover didn't jump out at me and I had to go back and check to see the description to refresh my memory. Yes, I am awful and tend to judge a book by its cover first and then my senses kick in and I read the descriptions on them before purchasing. Hint to publishers and book cover creators, covers jump out and make someone notice. If a reader isn't an avid book grabber then they won't stop to read the description to decide if the book is for them. Of course, I also have a hard time finding a book that isn't for me. LOL But back to the book at hand. Restored Hope by Brenda Youngerman is a story about love first and foremost. Not about gushy romance novel love, but real love. Love from family, for family, for others, and from others. It is about loving and losing. It is about finding yourself when you feel like you are invincible in the world.
The story starts off with the birth of twins. Samantha Miller is born as Camilla Miller. She and her brother Samuel were born to seemingly perfect parents. With an older brother named Jason, whom they were hated instantly by, the twins grew to be 10 years old without much craziness. Then on their 10th birthday everything changed. Jason and Samuel are closer than ever and they are setting up for the party. Samuel dies. I am not saying how. Just that he does. The same day Camilla "dies" and is reborn as Samantha. You realize then that Samantha had been invisible in home. Then a little later Jason dies. Then Samantha's mother goes crazy. Really. The poor child.
Okay, I have to stop in describing this book for a second. Because while reading this, and seeing how the twins were treated, it made me stop and think. As a mother of twins, I pray daily that I show them each love. I strive to give them their own space to be individuals. I never want to look back on this time and have them tell me later that one of them felt more "visible" than the other. It was heartbreaking reading Samantha's story. But it really gave me perspective as a mother.
Back to the book.
Samantha goes off to college. While at college she loses her dad, then after college loses her best friend. She becomes a successful attorney, and meets Timothy. Timothy came from a large family. He has felt his whole life that he was invisible. He left home and moved to California and started his own business. When he meets Sam, everything changes for them both.
You would think that the story would mainly revolve around these two people finding themselves. But it doesn't. It encompasses Tim's family and loads of problems they work through. It goes on and ends way later with Tim and Sam as grandparents. On the beach. Which is when it dawned on me what the cover represented. LOL This is a book I sat down and read TWICE. You really have no idea how amazing that is for me. I can't read a book twice. No matter how many years it has been since I read it the first time around. Which is another reason Donnie gets so frustrated with my need to have new books in the house constantly. Poor guy. I absolutely loved this book, and have passed it on to a friend to read as well. Of course I totally expect to get it back or we will have issues. Thank you so much Brenda for sharing this book with me.
If you would like to read this book yourself, you can purchase it at most of your local bookstores or online at several sites. It is 276 pages long and will cost you $15.99.
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Restored Hope is Brenda Youngerman’s fifth novel, a story of tragedy, heartbreak, love and ultimately the restoration of hope.
The Miller family’s happiness is shattered by the death of their son on his tenth birthday. As his twin, Camilla is fractured creating a new identity as Samantha to cope with his loss. Youngerman charts the disintegration of Samantha’s family as the loss is compounded by guilt and grief and crushed by further tragedy. Samantha barely manages to survive the remains of her family. Emotionally fragile, she struggles to find her place in the world, until she finds companionship in a stray dog, and love with Timothy Bleak.
Youngerman explores some confronting themes in her novel. As each shocking event unfolds, it can make for uncomfortable reading. Grief, mental collapse, suicide, domestic violence are all issues Samantha confronts at different stages in her life. At times these elements can be overwhelming but the author does a credible job of portraying the honesty of the experiences.
It’s not difficult to see Samantha as a sympathetic character though she will be hard for some to relate to for the sheer tragedy of her experience. There is a lot to admire in her eventual achievement of moving forward in her life, and as a reader, to want better things for her.
It’s a relief when she meets Tim who is sensitive to her difficulties with self esteem and trust. Tim’s openness is a good balance to Samantha’s closed nature and the blossoming of their relationship is sweet.
Tim’s background is almost ordinary and yet this family is not immune from hardship either. It becomes evident that Tim’s sister is struggling in her marriage which ultimately leads to a string of further tragedies that caught me unawares.
In her epilogue, Youngerman talks about restored hope however there is not really a traditional happy ending for any of the characters we meet. They are understandably scarred by their experiences, but the reader is left hoping for better things for the next generation.
Restored Hope is a thought provoking and emotional novel, Youngerman describes her work as Fiction with A Purpose, her intention is to draw attention to the reality of the tragedies of everyday people and give them a voice.
Restored Hope is one of those novels that you have to put down after you read and re-evaluate the way you see the things around you. Brenda isn’t afraid to write about the social issues that no one else wants to embark on and this novel is no exception.
This story is about a dysfunctional family that keeps up the appearance of happiness while inevitably descending into guilt and self-blame. Throughout the book, we read about the chronicles of Samantha, who previously was Camilla, Sammy’s twin. Samantha goes through life as if she’s invisible – as if she was her dead twin brother’s shadow. No one remembered her, not when they were all self-absorbed into their despair. We watch as Sam struggles through the loss of her family and best friend, and as she attempts relationships that fall into ruin.
It was easy to empathize and connect with her – from everyone leaving in her life ever since she was a kid, to being invisible, to trying to rebuild that trust she lost. There are so many ways Sam could have handled her situation, yet she did it in the best way possible: pick up with her life and try to move on. She got help from Tim, naturally, but she got to where she was the day she met Tim on her own. Instead of following in the footsteps of her mother, Camilla “died” and Sam emerged, going on to live her life. When she eventually had kids of her own, she learned from her experiences and made sure none of her children (or nieces/nephews) ever felt unloved. She changed all of their futures because she learned the hard way how it feels like to be dealt a bad hand.
This novel is full of tragedy around every corner, but it’s all believable: the downward spiral of a seemingly happy family could be happening right next door to you, and you’d never know. But through all the tragedy emerges hope. Hope that one day, everything will be okay and the grievances of the past will just be memories.
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