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Despite tranquil blue skies and only a slight onshore breeze, the air felt chilly today. Or maybe it was just her. Anna pulled her cardigan more tightly around her as she looked out over the sparkling river. Perched on the hand-hewn log bench, she stared blankly toward the river and surveying her old faithful dugout canoe, let out a long, weary sigh. She'd gotten up extra early this morning. Planning to paddle the Water Dove upriver, she'd wanted to soak in the sunshine, breathe the fresh summer air, clear the cobwebs from her head, and gather her strength for the day.
She'd imagined paddling hard and steady upstream and finally, after her arms grew tired, she would turn the canoe around and allow the river's current to carry her back home ... back to Clark and Lauren and the Inn at Shining Waters. But now she felt it was useless ... futile even. She simply didn't have the strength to pull the dugout down the riverbank and into the water. Planting her elbows on her knees she leaned forward and buried her face in her hands. A praying position, and yet she had no words. Nothing left to pray. Already she felt emotionally drained, and it was still early morning. How would she ever make it through this painful day ... her beloved granddaughter's eighteenth birthday? It didn't seem possible that Sarah would've been eighteen by now.
More than two years had passed since Sarah had vanished from their lives. As far as they knew she'd run off with her boyfriend, Zane. She'd only been sixteen—just a child—and yet old for her years. Anna had tried to appear strong, hoping that eventually Sarah would return to them. In the meantime, she put her energies into working hard alongside Clark and Lauren. The three of them, connected in their silent grief, cooperated with one another as they kept the inn going and thriving, making constant improvements, increasing the business, faithfully serving the never-ending roster of eager guests.
It was for the sake of these guests, and even more so for her family, that Anna had maintained a positive outlook as she went through her daily routines. But beneath her veneer of hopeful confidence, the concerns for her granddaughter's welfare had remained in the shadows. How was it possible that Sarah had so completely disappeared? Without a word—not a single letter or phone call—the sixteen-year-old had seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. And for two years, despite her family's best efforts to locate her, Sarah was not to be found. What did it mean?
Anna's unspoken fear was that Sarah had come to serious harm ... that perhaps she was even dead. Otherwise, she surely would've contacted them. At least, Clark had said early on, she would've contacted Anna. Because, as he pointed out, the bond between Anna and her granddaughter had always been a strong one—symbiotic. Besides that, Anna felt it uncharacteristic for Sarah to be so selfish and inconsiderate to cut them off so completely. Even in adolescence and amidst her parents' marital troubles, Sarah had been thoughtful and mature. She wasn't the sort of person to intentionally put others through such pain and misery. As hard as it was to face it, the only logical explanation was that something had happened to the girl. Something tragic.
Still, no one ever voiced these mute terrors. Saying the words out loud would make it seem too real. So Anna and the others had clung to the hope that Sarah was alive, that she had simply chosen to separate herself from her family, and that someday she would return. But as months passed, and as one year slipped into the next, Sarah's name was spoken much less frequently. And if her name was mentioned, there was always an uncomfortable pause that followed ... a quiet awkward moment would linger before the conversation resumed itself.
But realistically—as painful as it would be—it might be easier if they were informed Sarah was actually deceased. At least they could properly grieve for her then. They could hold a memorial service to remember her and to celebrate the years of her life that had been so sweet ... so innocent ... so pure. Perhaps they might even build a monument of sorts ... at the very least a special plaque or carved stone—they could set it right here by the river, and it would be a quiet place where they could come to think and to grieve and to remember Sarah's short but beautiful life in their midst.
Anna sat up straight now, gazing out over the river again. But in lieu of the crisp and clear diamond sparkles on the surface, she now saw a blurry watercolor image instead. It all looked murky and distorted ... and hot tears ran freely down her cheeks. She hated to be weak like this ... to give into this kind of sadness and despair. But it all seemed so senseless ... so unfair ... that a grandmother should outlive her granddaughter. It was just wrong.
She pressed her lips together, using the palms of her hands to wipe away her tears. This would not do. She had to remain strong today. As much for Lauren's sake as for her own because she knew Lauren would be especially mindful of her only daughter today. Eighteen years ago, Sarah had made her entrance into this world. And although Lauren hadn't really been prepared for motherhood, it had been a happy day for Anna. She had felt an immediate bond with her granddaughter.
As difficult as it would be, Anna was determined to pull this off. She intended to make this a good day. If any words were spoken of Sarah, they would be positive words, remembering all the sweetness that the girl had brought into all their lives ... despite the brevity of her stay. Anna took in a slow deep breath and stood. She would be strong and of good courage. There would be time enough for tears tomorrow.
As Anna turned toward the house, she heard the sound of a boat's motor coming up the river. Pausing to listen to the rhythm of the engine, she couldn't help but remember the comforting sound of Henry's old boat. How she missed deep chortling echoing along the hills of the river. She missed Henry, too. As well as Babette ... and so many others. Times and people had changed over the years, but the Siuslaw River remained the same, moving out to the sea, being pushed back gently with the incoming tide, always on the move.
Her people had lived alongside and loved this river for countless generations before her. Her grandmother's old stories made references to them. According to Hazel's research, the Siuslaw had been a matriarchal society. And Anna had known that it was the women who had handed down the traditions and what little belongings that were accumulated in a lifetime. Anna had always hoped to do the same, to leave a timeless inheritance for the generations that followed her, from Lauren to Sarah ... to Sarah's descendants. But it seemed that was not meant to be. Perhaps the heritage of the shining waters was going to end far sooner than she'd expected.
Anna was nearly at the main house when she heard the boat's engine slowing down, and when she looked, it was veering toward their dock. It looked like the Greeley's Groceries boat. In an attempt to increase business, the store in town had decided to make deliveries on the river during the tourist months. Mostly, Anna supposed, because the youngest Greeley boy wanted an excuse to have a motorboat. But their groceries had been delivered yesterday, and she wasn't expecting anything else today. Cupping her hand over her eyes, she peered to see Bobby Greeley at the helm. Sure enough, he was stopping at their dock.
"Hello, Bobby," she called out as she walked toward the dock to meet him. "What are you doing out—" She stopped herself as she stared in wonder at the waiflike, dark-haired girl huddled in the back of the boat. Wrapped in an olive green woolen blanket, she looked at Anna with large, dark eyes. Sad, hollow eyes.
"Sarah?" Anna felt her heart give a lurch. And suddenly she was running down the dock. Blinking in disbelief, she stared at the girl. "Is that you? Sarah?"
The girl nodded mutely as she stood, letting the blanket fall onto the bench behind her. "Grandma," she said quietly.
"Oh, Sarah!" Anna grabbed the rope from Bobby and hastily tied it then climbed into the boat and threw her arms around the trembling girl and began to sob tears of joy. "I can't believe it. I cannot believe it!" Now she held Sarah back with straightened arms, looking deeply into her eyes just to be certain she wasn't imagining this moment. "It really is you!"
They were both crying now, hugging each other tightly until finally Anna knew that she needed to get Sarah up to the house. She glanced at poor Bobby, who was watching with troubled eyes, as if he wasn't sure what to do about this feminine display of emotions.
"I'm sorry, Bobby," Anna told him. "I'm just so overwhelmed. This is my granddaughter, Sarah. I haven't seen her for years."
"That's okay, ma'am."
"Thank you for bringing her out to us," Anna quickly told him. "I, uh, I assume you'll just put the charges on our bill."
"Come on, Sarah." Anna helped her out of the boat. "Let's get you inside." She looked around the boat now. "Do you have any bags?"
Sarah simply shook her head. Now Anna studied her granddaughter more carefully. Looking painfully thin beneath a long raggedy dress of faded blue calico that reached nearly to her bare ankles, she had on worn leather sandals, and her long dark hair was uncombed and dull looking. Anna put her arm around Sarah's shoulders, holding her close as they walked up the dock.
"Is my mother still here with you?" Sarah asked quietly.
"Yes. She helps with the inn."
Sarah stopped walking. "I don't want to see her."
Anna looked into Sarah's eyes now. "Your mother has changed, Sarah, a lot. She's like a different person."
Sarah's dark eyes seemed even darker. "I don't care. I don't want to see her."
Anna didn't know what to do.
Sarah looked back to where the boat was pulling away from the dock. "Maybe I just should leave and go back to—"
"No." Anna's hold on Sarah grew tighter. "You can't leave. Not until we talk." She hugged Sarah close to her again. "We have been worried sick about you, Sarah. You have family here. We love you. And even if you and your mother had your problems, you still belong here with us. Do you understand that?"
Sarah just sniffed.
Anna looked into her eyes again. "This is your home, too, Sarah. This is your river. Clark and I ... and Hazel ... and your mother ... we all love you."
Sarah still seemed unsure.
"Please, trust me, Sarah," Anna said quietly. She was desperately trying to think of a plan to ease Sarah back into their world. Her old room in the house might feel too confining, too close to the rest of them. Plus, Anna knew Lauren was already in the kitchen working on breakfast. And since the summer season had just begun, the inn was full. But then Anna remembered that Hazel's cabin, the same cabin that once belonged to Anna's grandmother was unoccupied right now. Hazel was touring in Asia and wouldn't be home for a couple of weeks.
"I know," Anna told her. "You'll stay in The Oyster."
"Grandma Pearl's cabin?"
Anna smiled as she hooked her arm into Sarah's. "That's right. And that would make Grandma Pearl very happy!"
Some of the guests were milling around the grounds now. Some said hello and some just looked curiously at her and Sarah. She knew that Sarah looked like someone who had stepped out of a different world, almost as if she'd been living in a different era, and she knew that Sarah probably had a story to tell. And Anna certainly had plenty of questions. But not right now.
"You look tired," Anna said as she opened the door and led Sarah into the sweet little cabin.
"I am." Sarah went over to the table by the window that faced the river and, running a finger over the grain of the pine, looked out with a wistful expression.
"I want you to make yourself at home," Anna told her. "If you like, I won't even tell your mother that you're here yet. You can have a shower, and I'll bring you down some breakfast and some clothes and things. You'll eat and you'll rest and then we'll talk." She stroked Sarah's tangled hair. "Okay?"
Sarah just looked at her. Her eyes reminded Anna of a frightened doe.
Anna put both her hands on Sarah's cheeks, once again peering into those troubled dark eyes. "You are home, darling. This river and this inn and even this old cabin ... they all belong to you just as much as they belong to me. Do you understand what I am saying to you?"
Sarah still looked unsure, but at least she nodded.
Anna hugged her again. "You are home, Sarah. At long last, you are home." She kissed Sarah's cheek then promised to return quickly with some food. And then, feeling as if she had wings on her feet, Anna ran up to the house, with each step wondering how she would share this good news.
Excerpted from River's End by Melody Carlson. Copyright © 2012 Melody Carlson. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted September 6, 2012
I absolutely loved this book and the whole series. It has a little of everything in it once Instarted I read all three books. It is good wholesome reading. It also teaches us some good lessons. I highly recommend this book and the series.
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Posted September 23, 2013
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Posted September 28, 2012
Posted September 24, 2012
River’s End is the third and final book in ‘The Inn at Shining Waters’ series. This is the story of Anna’s’ granddaughter, Sarah, who is bitter and angry and unwilling to forgive her parents for the neglect and abandonment she endured growing up.
Anna is heart-broken over the bitterness that her Sarah won’t let go of. As she tries to help heal the relationship between her daughter and granddaughter, she relies on the peace and comfort of the river, and the power of God to guide them.
This book is so well written, I felt like I was transported right into the story. The beautiful descriptions of the Inn and the River made me feel like I was right there. Anna’s character is strong, lovable and friendly , I easily bonded with her. I felt her joy and sorrow throughout the book.
This was more than a story about forgiveness; it’s also about learning to accept the changes that life brings and making the best of it. This is a beautiful inspirational read and I would recommend it to any one who enjoys a meaningful historical Christian story.
I received a complimentary copy from Abingdon Press and PumpUpYourBooks. I received this book in exchange for an honest review the opinions stated above are 100% mine.
Posted September 15, 2012
Melody Carlson in her new book, “River’s End” Book Three in The Inn at Shining Waters series published by Abingdon Press takes us to Oregon in 1978.
From the back cover: Three generations of women face brokenness, humility and hope.
In the final story of The Inn at Shining Waters, Anna Larson’s granddaughter, Sarah, is beginning to find her independence. But her relationships with her parents suffer as a result and she travels away from all that is familiar.
The solace of the river calls Sarah back but surprises await upon her return and three generations of family heartbreak and disappointments converge at Shining Waters. Reuniting with her mother and grandmother, however, shows Sarah the conquering strength of family and faith.
Generations is the theme of this novel and it is marvelous in the hands of master storyteller Melody Carlson. This time the focus is on Sarah Larson but Anna and Lauren still have roles to play as well. There is something about the river, Shining Waters, that helps to bring about renewal of the soul. And, in this case, it is Sarah who needs the power of the river and the Holy Spirit to provide reconciliation and forgiveness.
Melody Carlson knows how to tell a story and in ”River’s End” she has given us a book where we can explore how to deal with our own pain while watching how Sarah deals with hers. “River’s End” is an amazingly beautiful story of how God can take our hurts and turn the bad into things that are good. I liked this book and am sorry to see this series end.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Abingdon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Posted October 15, 2012
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Posted October 5, 2012
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Posted August 19, 2012
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