That Faith, That Trust, That Love

( 19 )

Overview

2002 Gold Pen award winner for Best Christian Fiction

Marley Shepherd should be on top of the world—she’s a lawyer at a prestigious law firm and engaged to marry the crown prince of Atlanta black society. But soon she begins to see that her life—and her fiancé—are not as perfect as she thought. Marley seeks comfort in her mother and grandmother, but they are too consumed with anger at each other, and too blinded by their past, to save Marley from the disaster that will turn her ...

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Overview

2002 Gold Pen award winner for Best Christian Fiction

Marley Shepherd should be on top of the world—she’s a lawyer at a prestigious law firm and engaged to marry the crown prince of Atlanta black society. But soon she begins to see that her life—and her fiancé—are not as perfect as she thought. Marley seeks comfort in her mother and grandmother, but they are too consumed with anger at each other, and too blinded by their past, to save Marley from the disaster that will turn her life—and theirs—upside down. Then Marley has a spiritual awakening . . .

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Advance Praise for That Faith, That Trust, That Love

“With writing that is magical, Jamellah Ellis tells a true tale that is so heartwarming you’ll be smiling long after the last page.” —Victoria Christopher Murray, bestselling author of Joy and Temptation

“Scenes like the ghetto-fabulous wedding will make you scream, while others are so sad they might make you wail. Jamellah Ellis’s writing is beautiful, and her real-life honesty is even more magnificent. I believe that I hear angels singing.” —Sharon Ewell Foster, author of Passing by Samaria and Ain’t No River

“Fresh prose and keen insight . . . Well-paced, heartwarming and a timely challenge to traditional attitudes in the Black church today.” —Hamil Harris, The Washington Post

“The author crafts a memorable portrait of her protagonist’s passage of spiritual rediscovery while effectively fictionalizing life-altering circumstances that can break even the strongest of us.” —Tia Shabazz, executive director and founder, Black Writers Alliance

That Faith, That Trust, That Love is an excellent debut novel from a wonderful new Christian author who I’m sure will be around for a long time!” —Pamela Walker Williams, PageTurner.net

Publishers Weekly
Ellis's heartfelt but predictable debut follows 31-year-old Marley Shepherd, a Spelman graduate and attorney with a major Atlanta law firm, who is about to marry Gerrard Shore, the favorite son of one of the city's prominent developers. Atlanta's black elite believes that Gerrard, who also works in real estate development, is quite a catch, and their parents toast the handsome pair as "the couple of the century." Yet Marley is plagued with doubts about Gerrard, who calls her "my earth" but spends very little time with her, saying that business comes first. These doubts are echoed by her down-to-earth friend, Ashley, a kindergarten teacher, and her wise, no-nonsense grandmother, Ma Grand. Marley, haunted by her own parents' divorce, fears a loveless marriage but feels paralyzed-part of her is still swooning over Gerrard like a schoolgirl, and besides, the wedding means so much to her striving mother. Marley's faith in Gerrard, in herself and in God is tested by her mother's diagnosis of cancer and by her friendship with Lazarus Jacobs, rising businessman and member of Gilead's Balm Church. Readers will be able to see the moral coming from miles-or hundreds of pages-away, and the novel is further marred by stock characters and some stilted dialogue (says Ashley of her students, "It's such a mutually beneficial relationship because I get to teach them what they need to know and their innocent little spirits lighten my heart"). Ellis writes with warmth and earnestness, however, and readers will identify with Marley's dilemma. Those willing to indulge the novel's artistic shortcomings will find a strong affirmation of religious faith, simplicity and sincerity. 5-city author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Count your blessings and pass the butterbeans. Young attorney Marley Shepherd is going places. Didn't she just get engaged to the perfect man? Gerrard swears he loves her, and that's enough for Marley. Pam, her mama, and Marley's grandmother, Ma Grand, are happy for her but soon begin an I-told-you-so quarrel about the man Pam married. No use talking about a slickster like Silas, says Ma Grand, who points out that she saw right through him from the first. Pam is outraged, but Marley makes peace . . . and later, quizzes her grandmother about several generations of family. Ma Grand says that she was a hard-working mother who cooked, cleaned, and did everything she could for her children and her husband, like her mother before her; but Marley knows that Pam was never sure she was loved. While she ponders the implication of this revelation, she finds out that Pam has breast cancer and is facing a mastectomy. There's more bad news when Marley catches Gerrard with another woman and calls off the engagement. Gerrard protests, but there's no way that she'll allow that cheating, low-down, triflin' dog back in her life. Her friend Sheila, who kept the faith throughout an often difficult marriage, reminds her that "without God we are absolutely nothing, and the only way to lead a peaceful and enjoyable life with an imperfect person is to keep God in the center of it." Disillusioned and deeply hurt, Marley isn't so sure about that or anything else. Then Sheila's husband introduces her to his brother Lazarus, who coaches disadvantaged children. They date and share home cooking and good times (but not sex) and soon fall in love. Marley knows Lazarus is the right man for her when he explains how hisfamily's unshakable belief in the goodness of God kept them going despite humiliating poverty and painful setbacks. Heartfelt first novel, originally self-published: about as subtle as a brick, but with gospel-tinged enthusiasm that's contagious.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812966565
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/8/2003
  • Series: Strivers Row Series
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

Jamellah Ellis is a graduate of Spelman College and Northwestern University School of Law. You can e-mail her at jamellahellis @msn.com or visit her website at www.jamellahellis.com. This is her first novel.
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Read an Excerpt

Part One

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?

—Luke 12:27–28

Chapter 1

Some would say the ending was hard to believe, considering the way it had begun.

The breeze, faint against the warm thickness the sun had cast, gently ruffled the blossoms on the dogwood trees. The scent of lilac and eucalyptus drifted through the air. Butterflies and bees alike visited vibrant May blooms and made their acquaintance. On the lush grounds at Stone Mountain Manor, waiters decked in starched white shirts and black pants scurried about, passing stuffed mushrooms and chèvre filo cups and refilling crystal flutes. Sounds from the Macon Peach Jazz Band wafted through the air like the smell of a low country boil on a stove top in Savannah. And, of course, black folk were talking.

Gathered around over by the tulip beds, next to the stationary hors d’oeuvres, or seated at the forty white linen-covered tables, black folk were talking about how the Shores had once again upped the ante on how a first-rate celebration should be done. And they were talking about the Shores’ only son, Gerrard, and his fiancée, Marley. About what a fine boy Gerrard had grown up to be—“fine” having different meanings depending on the gender and age of the particular group doing the talking. And about how his fiancée was both beautiful and outgoing (or stuck-up and pretentious, again depending on the circle that was talking). Theirs would be the wedding of the year, for sure, but for today folk were plain happy and counted it a privilege to have been invited to the engagement party.

They studied, measured, and savored every move the couple made. When the couple wasn’t moving but just standing and chatting, the guests soaked that in, too. Gerrard, tall and strapping, was a younger version of his father. His eyelashes, stark against his honey-colored skin, looked as if they’d been hand-dipped in calligraphers’ ink. His smile willed you to forget about your bad mood. He strode as if the wind were watching, awaiting his command, pacing itself to follow him. The wind obliged him, until it ran into Marley and stopped. Not on account of her shapely figure, her long, thick hair, or her ample lower lip—traits that came a dime a dozen among the women of Atlanta. Consensus was that it was the mark. That beauty mark, smack dab in the middle of her eyebrows, held court on its own. It seemed, simply, subtly, to say, “Stop.” And so eyes, smiles, thoughts, and even the wind obeyed.

Marley’s grandmother surveyed the scene, her large, wise eyes sizing up all the characters. “There’s got to be more than two hundred people here,” Ma Grand said. “Maybe three hundred.”

“Probably so,” said Pam, Marley’s mother, her eyes twinkling with joy at the thought. She tossed her sandy brown hair out of her face and leaned forward in her seat as if she were watching her favorite movie. Pam had just finished making the rounds, greeting the guests, and her feet were aching from all the walking she had done in her open-toed satin-strapped heels.

“Good Lord, Pam, that’s nothing to be impressed with! It’s a shame before God!” Ma Grand leaned back in her seat and squeezed her thighs together, mainly out of habit—she mostly wore pants these days. Even when she did wear skirts, she made sure they were long enough that she didn’t need to worry whether or not her legs were closed.

“Mama, please. Let’s just sit here and have a good time. No criticisms, no complaints. Just peace and happiness, okay?” Pam turned her head away quick enough to catch the socially correct smiles from Atlanta’s mayor and his wife as they strolled by Pam’s table. Following immediately behind them were the presidents of Spelman and Morehouse colleges, managing well the task of chatting while munching discreetly on crab cake medallions. Pam returned their polite smiles, crossed her legs, and fought the urge to squeal in delight.

“What they grinning ’bout?” Ma Grand snapped and cut her eyes at the backs of Mayor and Mrs. Stockton. “Ain’t done nothing for the city since he’s been elected, except socialize and support his wife’s shopping habit. These politicians ain’t worth the suits they’re wearing. Atlanta ain’t been right since Reverend King died.”

“Mama, really. Please stop, will you? We’re here to celebrate Marley’s engagement, not to assassinate the character of every person that passes by our table.”

“Why do all these fancy schmancies have to be here in the first place? Is this an engagement party or an inaugural ball? You’d think somebody was campaigning for office or something!” Ma Grand rolled her eyes at no one in particular and shifted her weight in her seat. The cream linen slipcover buckled a bit, and Ma Grand frowned as she tried to smooth the fabric beneath her.

“What are you fussing about now, Ma Grand?” Marley asked, approaching the table. She smoothed a few displaced strands of her grandmother’s silver-gray hair and, satisfied, put her hands on her hips and smiled.

“Like she needs a reason to fuss,” Pam said.

Ma Grand looked up at Marley and tried her best to maintain a scowl, but her granddaughter’s smile broke her every time. She looked away, feigning disgust.

“You having a good time, Gran?” Marley pulled out a chair beside her grandmother and sat. She studied her face—every line, crease, and wrinkle. More than anything, including her own instinct, Marley trusted what she saw in her grandmother’s eyes. It dated back to her childhood, when the family had talked in code around Marley to prevent her from hearing more than what they thought a young girl needed to hear. Marley had quickly learned to search her grandmother’s eyes for answers. They were a book without a cover.

“Are you having a good time?” Ma Grand asked, turning to face Marley. She placed her Parkinson’s-afflicted hand on top of the table and grabbed at a silver coffee spoon.

“Yeah. Yes. I am.” Marley nodded.

Ma Grand looked at her oddly. “Mm-hm. Well, then, that’s all that matters.” She stared ahead.

Marley rested her chin in her hand. She glanced at her mother, who was engrossed in a conversation with a distant cousin she had insisted Marley invite to the party. Pam’s smile was big and wide, her eyes danced, and her skin glowed. Marley looked back at Ma Grand, who was examining a couple seated to her left.

“Gran,” Marley began as she scooted her chair closer to her grandmother. “Tell me what you’re really—”

Ma Grand elbowed Marley’s ribs. Startled, Marley glanced around and saw Ashley and Deanna walking toward her. Her open mouth quickly closed into a smile. Here were her lifelines, of varying degrees. The siblings she had never had. All three girls had grown up in Atlanta and, except for Marley and Ashley, who had been next-door neighbors until the sixth grade, when Ashley’s family had moved to Dunwoody, the girls had never met until they’d bumped into one another lugging bright-patterned comforter sets and Sam’s Club–size toiletries across the Oval on Spelman’s campus and through the front doors of Abby Hall.

“Hello, ladies,” Pam said after waving good-bye to her cousin. Pam looked the girls up and down. “You-all look gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous.” She beamed as if she had mothered them all. Pam recalled the girls in their late teenage years, with haircuts and boyfriends that had changed like the weather. She remembered the care packages she’d used to take to them on campus and the home-cooked meals she’d occasionally fixed for them on Sundays.

“Not as gorgeous as you,” Deanna said, smiling at Pam. The girls had always joked that they would never take Pam out with them because all eyes, young and old, would be on her.

“This is something, isn’t it?” Pam grinned.

“It really is,” Ashley agreed, taking in the celebration. Chatter filled the air and hovered comfortably like clouds. On a parquet square in the middle of the tables, several couples bopped to an old Smokey Robinson cut.

“Gerrard’s family really knows how to throw a party,” Deanna added. “I’m so sick of going to functions and eating off of veggie trays, I don’t know what to do. Feed me! Know what I’m saying? Don’t be serving finger food at five o’clock in the evening when you know people are ready for dinner.”

“Really,” Ashley agreed, turning to grab a sesame chicken skewer from a tray as a tall, muscular waiter passed by. The waiter paused, ensuring that Ashley got as much chicken as she wanted and also attempting to make eye contact with her. Ashley met his eyes with a flat, toothless smile, and she quickly turned around.

“Marley, Gerrard’s family obviously thinks very highly of you, going through all this effort to throw an engagement party,” Pam stated as she nodded her head.

Ma Grand chuckled and folded her hands on top of the table. “That’s what you think, huh?”

Marley looked askance at her grandmother. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Honey, just ignore it.” Pam waved off her mother’s comment. “Just ignore it,” she said again, smiling at the Falcons’ head coach and his wife, who were seated two tables over.

“This is a fabulous celebration,” Ashley said, in part to calm Marley’s nerves and in part because it was true. “I’m enjoying myself.”

“Good,” Pam said. “You should be. And you need to stop ignoring the advances of all these good-looking men out here and find yourself a nice, rich, eligible bachelor.”

“Not even looking,” Ashley responded quickly. “I’m dating myself.”

“Oh, good Lord,” Ma Grand said. “How long is this supposed to last?”

“That’s the same thing I asked her the other day, Gran,” Deanna chimed in. She leaned forward in her chair, her cowry-shell earrings dancing around her cheeks. “But you know, you gotta let Ashley do her thing. Live out her phases. You know what I mean, don’t you?” Deanna nudged Ma Grand.

“It’s going to last for as long as I need it to last. You-all may find it hard to believe, but I’m actually quite fulfilled with myself right now.” Ashley certified her response with a quick nod and turned her head. Her hair, neatly contained in her standard French braid, whipped over her shoulder and lay against her chest.

“You must’ve just finished a good book,” Ma Grand said, looking away. “A good book’ll do that for you. But it won’t last long. I’ll ask you again in another two weeks and see how you’re doing.”

“My answer won’t be different, I promise you,” Ashley said.

Marley stared at Ashley, weighing her words. Her straight back and clasped hands were like a fortress around her resolve. Marley wasn’t knocking Ashley’s decision. She admired it. Envied it, even.

She turned and saw Gerrard striding toward the table, his sandstone-colored linen shirt and slacks flowing behind him. He positioned himself behind Marley’s chair, planted his large hands atop her shoulders, and massaged them gently.

“Ladies,” he said, his silky mustache rising perfectly above his smiling lips.

Ashley offered Gerrard half a smile and then looked away. Deanna waved, grinned sarcastically, and said, “Gerrard, we’re absolutely thrilled to see you.” Marley leaned her head against her fist and sighed.

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Reading Group Guide

1. The contrast between Marley’s relationships with Gerrard and Lazarus is unmistakable. What is the key difference between the two? Even be-fore she knew of Gerrard’s infidelity, Marley knew there was something wrong with their relationship. Why couldn’t she do anything about it? Why didn’t Marley trust her instincts?

2. Ma Grand prides herself on speaking the truth, but it is her pride that hinders her ability to see the truth about herself. Why? Has pride kept her away from the truth of God?

3. In Pam’s eyes, her daughter has a chance to have the successful marriage and love she never had in her own life. As a result, Pam is almost more excited about Marley’s engagement than she is. Why is Pam living through her daughter? What does she realize in the end that enables her to let go of her disappointments with her own life?

4. One theme of That Faith, That Trust, That Love is making a decision to accept God into one’s life. How does each of the characters reach such a decision? What makes them resist?

5. Marley thinks church is a good idea but is usually disappointed by the messenger or the message when she does attend. How common is this among young people today? What is the difference between Gilead’s Balm and her previous experiences with churches?

6. Marley’s spiritual awakening leads to greater peace in other aspects of her life–in her work and in her relationships with her family and friends. Why does this happen? How does a relationship with God affect one’s relationships with others?

7. When Marley begins to attend church at Gilead’s Balm she feels as if the sermons are meant directly for her. Why does this happen here and not elsewhere? What allows her to open her ears and heart?

8. The verse from Luke 12:27 that opens That Faith, That Trust, That Love talks of how God’s power and the promise of faith are evident everywhere in life, even in the smallest things. How do we see this in each of the characters in the book?

9. Among the three friends, Ashley is the most secure in her relationship with God and her idea of what she wants in a man. Yet she remains single while Marley and Deanna eventually marry. Why is this?

10. Pam blames her mother for not showing her enough love as a child. Is she right in placing this blame on her mother? Is her mother’s disapproval the reason her failed marriage haunts Pam’s life? How much do parents affect their children’s choices or lives?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 19 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2004

    Fantastic Read!!

    My book club, In The Company of My Sistahs, read this selection as our last read. I could not put this book down. The author skillfully weaves intricate truths into a beautiful fabric. I'll be looking for this author's next title.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

    Great Read

    I had the chance to read this book for my church book club and I have found it to be so good, when I put it down to do something I would hurry just to get back to finish reading it. I would really encourage this book to someone who has an issue of trust, or faith in love.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2008

    A Must Read~

    I had the pleasure of reading this book for a book club (Christian)and this was by far the best, most tastefully written book under the auspices of Christian Fiction. Boring....NOT...Humorous and relatable you bet....I enjoyed every characters and their uniqueness. I refuse to give the book away in the review, however this is a must read..I am so proud of the author. Can't wait to read something else by Ms. Ellis. Please ladies if you are doubtful and thinking every Christian read is 'dry' and preachy get this book. Our book club ranges from early 30's to late 50's and ALL the women could identify with the trials and truimphs. I love, love love this book....If you don't read get it for a friend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2004

    I WOULD LOVE TO READ IT AGAIN

    This book had me falling over laughing. The characters came to life, and I hate to say goodbye to them. At other points I had my mouth covered waiting for the tears to fall from my eyes. While still in other parts I jumped and waved my hand saying, 'Hallelujiah!' Everyone should read this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2004

    Excellent book for anyone christian or non - christian!

    I really, really enjoyed this book. I did not want to put it down. Marley's search for the Lord really hit home. I felt as if I was on the journey with her. And that Lazarus, what a character. I would love to meet a man like that, so for all you men out there who are trying to court a lady, read this book and follow Lazarus' techniques. He really does come forth! All in all great book and I will definitely recommend it for any type of singles or youth group. I can't wait for Ms. Ellis to come out with more novels maybe even with a part 2 to this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2004

    Awesome book

    This a speacial book. The beautiful thing about it is that it takes you slowly through each emotion, from anxiety, to fear, to sadness and onto joy. An excellent weekend read...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2004

    Beautiful Relationships

    Marley is the central character in this book and the central theme to me was family relationships and dynamics of the bond between mother and daughter and the ever-present greatness of God in healing bonds. How important bonds are and the nurturing it takes to make successes of these bonds made this Christian Fiction book, more real that the word ¿fiction¿ implies. Ma Grand and her daughter Pam had a strained relationship at best. Ma Grand was from the `old school¿ so to say, where it wasn¿t as important to say those three magical words `I love you¿ as it was to show them. She had inherited those traits from her parents so saw no need to give that type of attention to her daughter Pam. When Marley came along, Pam felt differently about that towards her daughter and willingly lavished not only positive words, but also influence and affection upon her. It is this relationship that propels Marley to experience the same in her relationship with Gerrard her fiancé. As the novel begins, we are transported to the engagement party of this socialite couple and while things appear bright from the heavy hitters on the invitation list, looks can be deceiving. As Marley soon finds out, her fiancé has other interests that don¿t place his relationship with her in the forefront of his decisions and this leads to their eventual demise. As Marley searches for strength in the midst of this pain, illness strikes home with her mother Pam. Shrouded in seemingly dark clouds, an invitation to join her secretary in church provides a ray of sunshine to Marley. As if God is speaking to her with every word that proceeds from the Minister¿s mouth, Marley has at last found solace - a resting place for her heart and soul. An added bonus is the introduction of Lazarus into her life a God Fearing Christian, upright man. Not many of them exist today and what a treasure when one is found. It is through this relationship, with this Godly man that Marley reconciles in her mind the relationship between Ma Grand and her mother, and the relationship between her mother and herself. God creates and nurtures bonds on an individual basis because of his omnipresence. Marley blossoms into a strong Christian woman through the love of a great man and the love of great family. Through That Faith, That Trust, That Love that Marley has for God, the manifestation is seen throughout her relationships others. This is a very inspirational read to those of us who want our lives to be used by God for his purpose.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2002

    Typical Entrance

    I found this book to be a truly typical example of the things in life that wears us down and gives us only one alternative in life left to choose and that is Jesus, only after we have tried our way and have failed in every attempts. Mother-daughter relationships are not always sugary in real life as the author demonstrated in her story line, but through the blood and love of a saviour miracles do happen. The main character of Marley was highly utilized in motivation to bring about a change in her life as well as the two women whom she loved the most. The author did well in displaying the emotions you find yourself wrapped in when you tangle with God.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2002

    A Christian Love Story

    I went into one of my favorite bookstores to purchase a book that was highly recommended to me entitled 'Waiting to Exit Hell,' and it was an exceptional book. Then I asked the book store clerk if he could recommend another good Christian novel and he referred 'That Faith, Trust & Love,' by this author. It was a delightful story. The fiancee was your typical corporate male chauvenist (sp?), but the boyfriend was the type of man that I, and I'm sure many other Christian women, only dream of. If you like secular love stories, you'll enjoy this Christian love story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2002

    A must read for women of all walks of life!

    This book is an outstanding, well-written story about a young woman who experiences various trials in her life, but comes out victorious with God's help. The characters come to life and their experiences are so real. I couldn't put the book down and read it in two days flat!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 11, 2011

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    Posted October 14, 2010

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    Posted December 17, 2010

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    Posted January 4, 2012

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