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The Shepherd’s Song
2. “She felt the ambulance sway, then the jolt of a sharp turn. ‘Help.’ Kate gasped again as pain stabbed through her side. ‘Stay with me.’ A wave of dizziness. Then nothing.” Return to this opening scene in the ambulance. What first impression does Kate make on you? How would you characterize her?
3. When John McConnell learns of his wife’s accident, his reaction is one of determination: “There will be a way to fix this. There is always a way to fix things.” Do you agree with John’s statement? Discuss the ways in which what he says is true and the ways in which he is wrong.
4. Discuss how second chances are a theme for the novel. Who gets a second chance in The Shepherd’s Song? Who doesn’t?
5. Kate’s last thought is revealed: Please, let my life count. What do you think Kate meant by saying this? In your opinion, is her last wish realized?
6. How would you describe John and Matt McConnell? How would their lives be different without Kate? Use one word to describe the impact Kate had on her husband and son.
7. “There was something almost irresistible about nice clothes. It was like he could become someone else, someone worthy”. In what ways does borrowing Matt McConnell’s peacoat change Chris’s life?
8. François wonders aloud to himself, “But how in the world do you restore a soul?” Answer François’s question, using examples of times in your life when you felt your soul needed restoring.
9. The sight of his newborn son turns Patrick’s life around. Revisit the scene of Patrick’s homecoming, taking note of the many ways in which Patrick realizes God’s love all around him. Why do you think children so often bring about such realizations in life? Has this happened to you?
10. Why do you think Marra chooses to tell her life story through tattoos? If you were to summarize your life in an image, what would it be and why?
11. To which story did you most relate? Which story touched you the most? Why?
12. Discuss the ending chapter of The Shepherd’s Song. On what note does the story that began this book, end? What are the most poignant lessons you take away from the book?
1. Judy describes her Thanksgiving traditions to Roland, making his mouth water in the process. Host a faux Thanksgiving dinner with your book club. Have each member bring a dish that is important to his or her Thanksgiving tradition. Over dinner, have each member share a personal recipe and why that particular dish is so important to him or her. Take a moment to thank God for the many ways in which your own cup runs over, and after, discuss with your book club Roland’s encounter with Judy. Has there ever been a “Judy” in your life?
2. Cornelia’s short story about Little Bunny gives a lot of insight into her own life and character. Reread Cornelia’s short story. Then have each member write his or her own “Little Bunny story,” using Cornelia’s as a model. Share the stories out loud with the group; explain how your story reflects some aspect of your life.
3. Continue in the vein of The Shepherd’s Song by reading either Andy Andrews’s The Butterfly Effect or his The Traveler’s Gift. What common theme can be found in the two novels you’ve read? How does each touch on the notion of faith changing the world?
1. The two of you are seasoned children’s book authors, but this novel marks your debut into the world of adult fiction. What are the differences between writing for children and writing for adults? Is one more challenging than the other?
BETSY: There are more similarities than differences. Everyone likes a good story, and although the themes may be more advanced for adults, the basics are the same—tell a good story and tell it simply.
LAURIE: Our years of writing for children helped us to hone our skills. Children are a discerning audience, and they detect any trace of the artificial. To keep a child turning pages requires an economy of words and a constant reward of action as the story moves forward. These are things that adults like, too.
2. What is it like to co-author a book? You touch on this question briefly, but it would be wonderful to hear more about the writing process and how the work is divided between the two of you.
BETSY: We use a common document online that we can both access, so either of us can make changes at anytime. We’ve found this to be much more convenient than sending attachments back and forth by email and ending up with multiple copies of the manuscript.
LAURIE: Usually one of us will start a story; the other will then jump in and add some backstory, or another character, or a plot twist. It’s fun to go into the document and read what’s new.
This method also requires trust. Twenty years of publishing experience has helped. We both have worked with a variety of editors, so we’ve learned how to let go of passages and ideas.
BETSY: The interaction makes it fun. This is how it goes:
The phone rings.
“I have some bad news.”
“I just killed Cornelia.”
“No! You can’t kill Cornelia.”
“Sorry, it just happened.”
LAURIE: Or sometimes . . .
“Hey, guess what? Chris is engaged!”
“What?! Our Chris? To the girl in the red beret?”
“Oh, I’m so happy for him.”
3. You write that as sisters you meet often to pray about your next book project. Briefly describe the power of prayer in your lives and how prayer and faith are tied into your careers as writers.
LAURIE: Prayer makes collaboration possible . . . especially as sisters. We are both different people with different personalities, but we have the same God. As we both surrender our work to God, we come into alignment with each other.
BETSY: We discovered early in our attempts to write together that when we prayed, we could remove our egos from the writing and allow God to work through us together.
4. The character Cornelia writes that “writer’s block was simply fear.” Do you two agree?
BETSY: You caught us being ourselves! Cornelia was a fun character because we could tap into our own fears and insecurities as writers.
LAURIE: Most writers struggle with fear—fear of failure, rejection, exposure, even fear of success. Writing authentically requires courage. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and open yourself up to the possibilities of rejection. Cornelia was also fun, because we were able to show her conquer her fear—a hope we have for us all!
5. What would you name as the major theme(s) of this novel? Is there a lesson you hope readers will take away from this story?
LAURIE: There are so many powerful themes that flow from the twenty-third Psalm. God’s deep love and care for us and His protection and blessing. The idea of second chances permeates the book. God is constantly seeking us and restoring us.
BETSY: As we read scripture we are continually called into second chances, to start over again like Roland, to heal like François, to restore relationships like Patrick, to begin to know God like Matt. No matter what has happened in our lives or what we have done, God is always ready to welcome us back into the fold.
6. The Shepherd’s Song is about so many different people in so many different situations. Does the format of this story represent our shared story as human beings living together on the same planet?
BETSY: Although Zoey was Chinese, there are students all over the world who leave their homes to go to other countries for educational experiences; and although François was French, men and women everywhere lose spouses to cancer. And across the world women are in abusive situations, people lose jobs, deal with loss, estranged relationships, discouragement.
LAURIE: The issues in The Shepherd’s Song are universal issues, and the beauty of the Bible is that it crosses cultures to heal and give hope in all life situations.
7. Were any of the characters based on people you have known? On historical figures? On yourself?
BETSY: Characters are multilayered, and the different layers come from different places. Physical traits can come from someone we know or a stranger we spot on the street. Personality traits can also come from people we know or someone we read about in the paper.
LAURIE: Sometimes characters just come straight out of our heads, with no connection to anyone.
BETSY: The feelings of the characters come from our own experiences. Grief, pain, love, shame, and fear all are in some way and at different levels common experiences for everyone.
LAURIE: During the writing of a story characters evolve, and quickly they become real people to us.
8. What was it like writing about characters from so many different cultural backgrounds? How do you go about doing this authentically?
LAURIE: More than writing about cultures, we were writing about people. A Kenyan runner running across the plains of Africa. An olive grower looking out over the Bay of Naples. A wounded soldier in a hospital in Iraq. These were all people, people in different settings. Reflecting the culture authentically was important to us.
BETSY: There is so much diversity within our own communities that we found we had, right around us, many resources to draw from. Each story that reflected a different culture was read and critiqued by a person of that culture.
9. Why Psalm 23? What special place does this particular psalm hold in your hearts? What important message do you each find in this psalm?
BETSY: We both remember this psalm from childhood, in the King James version. Although we used a more modern translation in The Shepherd’s Song, the old words still resonated with us. In our minds He still leadeth and restoreth us!
LAURIE: Psalm 23 is the most well-known scripture passage in the Bible. The challenge for us was to look at these familiar words in fresh ways and imagine how God could work in a person’s life through each phrase.
BETSY: As we studied the psalm and meditated on the truth behind the words we developed a different understanding. Psalm 23 is such a beautiful picture of shepherd’s role and therefore God’s role in our lives.
LAURIE: From the opening line “The Lord is my shepherd,” where God is confirmed as completely in control; and throughout each line where he is looking out for our well-being and loving us sacrificially; to the final line with a remarkable promise of dwelling with Him forever.
10. What’s next for the two of you as writers?
LAURIE: When we showed up at the coffee shop two years ago and prayed “Here I am,” we began a journey that took us into writing The Shepherd’s Song. We love the idea that through fiction you can show how holy words can heal and give hope and change lives.
BETSY: As long as God continues to give us ideas, we will continue to write.
Posted March 11, 2014
As Kate McConnell is rushed into surgery, she vaguely remembers the car accident that brought her to where she is presently. As she tries desperately to piece it all together she remembers the fight she had with her son upon finding a note she wrote to him that simply contained the words of the 23rd Psalm on it. Tucked away in his coat pocket she had hoped that one day he might find his way to Jesus but once again he fought her constant efforts to remind him of his shortcoming in still remaining the prodigal son. Now as she slips into that perfect sleep brought on by the administrations of medication before surgery, she releases her life to Jesus asking only that He make her life count somehow.
As John McConnell rushes to the hospital hoping to meet his son Matt there, neither of them can understand how Kate has managed to be in an accident. She was literally the rock that kept the family together, and after meeting with her doctor, he can only provide them with a vague answer that she might be able to pull through despite the odds against her. Now all Matt and John can do is to pray that God will return Kate to them. All Matt can remember is their argument this morning and how despite his mom's best intentions, he never meant for these to be his final words to her. He struggles with understanding that his mom isn't looking to interfering with his life, but to enable him to find a source of peace and contentment in including Jesus in it. He only wishes he can have the opportunity to tell her himself.
In the novel, The Shepherd's Song, by authors Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers, as known as the Writing Sisters, they take a simple random event like the notation of the 23rd Psalm and show how God can take something simple and connect all the dots along the way. It reminded me of Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven. How each person who encounters Kate McConnell's handwritten note containing only the 23rd Psalm makes life changing moments occur all around the world, from a young man who wears the coat on the snowy night that Kate is rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, knowing he will return the coat to the cleaners in the morning and finds the note in the pocket, to a chance meeting in a coffee house where he passes the note along to a girl he meets there who is writing to her brother in the war in Iraq. From there it finds its way into the hands of just the right person who needs to hear another line in the 23rd Psalm, where it winds up full circle again to the man who needs to hear it the most.
This is one of those novels that once you read it, you walk away with a feeling of touching something inspiring and touched by God. It really makes you consider all those random moments we have every single day that when it is all said and done, Jesus shows us where it all those ripples lead and how we are each connected to one another in remarkable ways. The authors compare this much to Andy Andrew's The Butterfly Effect which I agree. I thought the ending would be different than what I imagined but love where they took it instead. This is the perfect book for those that often wonder what their life's purpose is and just where God is at in all the day to day happenings in our life. I easily give this book a 5 out of 5 stars in my opinion. I received this book compliments of the authors Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers who reached out to me and asked I would review this for them. I am so humbled and honored that they did! I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own.
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Posted August 5, 2014
If you have ever wondered if you have ever made some difference in your life, then you should definitely need to read this book. This books will make you believe that EVERYONE makes even the smallest dent in others lives.
With each individual chapter, you will enjoy a story all its own, culminating in the assurance if one individual that she did make the world a brighter and more fulfilled place, and even in the one MOST IMPORTANT INDIVIDUAL she was trying to make a dent in.
You will be waiting for every new chapter and the characters you meet, their stories, will make a dent in your life.
These authors have made their dent....thank you.
Posted April 5, 2014
With concern for her wayward son, Kate McConnell writes the words of Psalm 23, folds the sheet of paper, and tucks it into the jacket pocket of her son. When that same jacket goes to the dry cleaners, Kate fails to empty its pockets. Thus begins a trip around the world of her note for her son, changing the lives of twelve people. Duffey and Myers write excellent variations of characters, settings, and cultures. For those who read this book, many times twelve lives will be changed for the better. If you like reading Andy Andrews, you’ll love this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 1, 2014
What a beautiful story.
From the first few pages my heart was captured by the message of this book.
Have you ever wondered if your life really makes a difference? I think we all have. This book will encourage you to believe that you are making a difference in ways and in people’s lives that you have never met or imagined.
You will follow one piece of paper as it makes it way across the world and see how God’s Word can transforms lives. I love how each chapter is really like a short story all by its self. But each chapter is connected by the Word of God. With each page turn I wondered how was the paper going to reach someone new and how would it touch their lives?
Everyone has a story, as I believe with all my heart, and this book shares the stories of broken individuals in need of hope and who find it in the best place possible, the Word of God.
If you enjoy stories that encourage, you will love A Shepherd’s Song.
A copy of this book was given to me by the authors in exchange for an honest review.
Posted March 22, 2014
The Shepherd's Song is based on the 23rd Psalm. One Psalm that means so much to so many people. The book starts with Kate McConnell, a wife and mother, whose son fell away from God when he started college. Kate was constantly encouraging Matt and trying to help him find God again. On that fateful morning, Kate slipped a paper into Matt's coat pocket. On it she had carefully and meticulously written the words of Psalm 23. The paper was left in his coat pocket when she took it to the cleaners and, soon after, Kate was involved in a multi-vehicle accident on the interstate. She felt like her life didn't matter, that she hadn't accomplished anything for God's ministry. Little did she know that tiny slip of paper she had toiled over so tediously while writing Psalm 23 was on its way around the world and would change many lives in the process.
I love the concept of this book. It reminded me of a commercial I saw once about one person doing a kind deed for someone else and that person doing a kind deed for another person and so on and so forth. It snowballed and the kind deeds just kept spreading. It was called "Pay it Forward" and I have never forgotten it. I don't think I will ever forget this book either. One simple, but very significant, piece of paper with Psalm 23 written on it travels from Baltimore to Iraq to Turkey and Italy, weaving it's way back home to touch the very life it was intended for in the beginning. It heals hearts, lives and relationships. It helps a soldier in Iraq make peace with the death of a friend in battle. It helps a lonely old man move on after the death of his beloved wife. It helps a victim of abuse in Barcelona. One little piece if paper weaves together hearts and lives that will forever be changed. Each verse represents a different story of restoration, hope, courage and love. I have never seen Psalm 23 told in quite the same way and I was so encouraged by the stories of the people within this book. They found hope when there was none and the courage to make it through but, most importantly, they found their way to God. Whether they didn't believe in God at all or they had just lost Him somewhere along the way, they came to know Him in a whole new and powerful way. Betsy and Laurie usually write children's books and this is their very first adult fiction book. I think they hit a home run with The Shepherd's Song and I hope this isn't their only attempt to reach out to adult readers. I was enthralled and excited to keep reading to find out who was impacted next. I don't believe you can read this book and not be encouraged. I also don't believe you can read it and not have your faith strengthened. I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves stories of faith.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are mine alone. If I recommend a book it's simply because I love it. I received no monetary compensation for this review.