|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)|
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Hope means everything when you've got nothing, and hope's all I have when I leave my brother, Jayden, to check on the baby rabbits.
It hadn't been hard to find their nest during the day. The swirl of grass and fur the mother had spun together around the shallow burrow gave it away when I'd nearly stepped on it a couple days prior. Though nearly midnight now, the August wind rustles hot through the leaves and creaking arms of the ash tree stretching over the moss-lined patch of brush I'd marked to remember where the nest is at night. When I see the red scraps of yarn haven't moved from where I put them over that morning, I know their mother isn't coming back. I use a twig to nudge the leaves, and I glimpse the rise and fall of the frail, downy chests, fluttering like there isn't enough air in the world to satisfy them.
I've been watching the mother rabbit for a while now in the mornings, my baby brother, Jayden, in my arms, taking his first bottle of the day as the horizon turns teal, then pale yellow like the cinquefoils while the western sky still glares black. If I'm still, she can't see me watching her through hazy sliding-glass doors. Isn't hard to tell her from other rabbits just passing through on their way to the meadow. As wild as she is, she has habits — the way she nibbles on the same patches of overgrown clover and sedge fruits, the way her nose and ears twitch, always looking out for predators. She is a good mama. That's why I suspected when I didn't see her three mornings in a row something was wrong.
"Fox got her, prob'ly," Sudie said yesterday.
Sudie's my neighbor, a wildlife rehabilitator — that is, when she's not taking care of the cemetery on the outskirts of town. I've been following her around ever since I can remember, learning that when it comes to wild creatures it's important to watch and wait. Plenty of folks come across a bunny nest thinking the babies are orphaned, but most of the time they're not. If those folks watched and waited, they'd see the mama come back at night, once, maybe twice, and just long enough to nurse them. Keeps predators from finding them as easy as if she was there all day long. If those folks knew to put crisscrossed strings on top of a nest like Sudie taught me, they could tell whether the bunnies — kits, as she likes to remind me — are truly orphaned like these.
I kneel and set the shoe box next to the nest, adding a handful of dew-damp grass to the clean, dry rags inside. The night smells thick and rich, like coffee grounds still warm from brewing. Nudging the leaves aside again, I see the kits can't be much more than a week old, their eyes still shut tight as if trying to keep the world out. They hardly look like bunnies except for their ears, long and laid back flat on their heads. I count a total of eight kits before I lift them one by one into the box. They squirm at my touch. Even so young, they recognize I am not their mother. The sides of their chests flutter against the palm of my hand, their heartbeats so quick they feel more like a tremble than a rhythm. It's a wonder something so small and helpless will be strong enough in just a handful of weeks to leap across meadows and fend for themselves.
I think about Jayden again, the glow in the window of our trailer across the field of high grass and milkweed reminding me I need to get back to him. I hated to leave him at all tonight, but Sudie's knee is acting up again — forty, sometimes fifty hours a week at the cemetery's a lot for a woman in her sixties. And the bunnies won't last another night without something in their bellies.
The last of the eight kits curls against the backs of the others as I lay it in the box. I cover them all with one of my clean hair bandannas and stand, the box weighty with the life inside. Overhead, the moon shines through the thick summer leaves, the white bark of the sycamores reflecting back like bones. Big brown bats dart overhead, chasing moths, mayflies. I hear laughter in the distance, then realize it's not laughter at all but barred owls carrying on like old ladies on a front porch complaining about the heat.
"The heavens proclaim the glory of God," Sudie likes to remind me when we're outside together. I can't hear all these sounds and feel all these creatures around me without sensing that's true.
Dew soaks through the canvas of my sneakers as I traipse toward her trailer, and I glance again toward our place. I'm out of earshot to hear if Jayden is crying. Mercy, I hope he's quiet. Before I came out here, I made sure he was settled in good in his crib that's in the room we share. I patted his tummy until the worry lines on his brow faded. I waited until the pacifier lolled out of his sleep-slackened mouth before leaving.
Lord, please let him be still.
He's been a hard baby to quiet since birth. Seems like every second of the day he requires swaddling or holding or both, and the cold and fever he's been fighting just adds to his fussing. Sudie says it's no wonder he's having such a time, considering, and I try to keep that in mind when the crying starts to feel like too much of a burden since Mama's no help. He's better than he was when he was a newborn, but the company Mama's keeping on this particular evening isn't the kind to put up with a screaming baby. That much they made clear.
Mice, maybe a snake, maybe a raccoon, scuttle away as I invade their spots in the quiet meadow. Ahead of me is Sudie's place, three down from ours, the last in a long line of mobile homes, rust stains running down the sides of most of them. Side by side they sit angled like white dominoes or tall, empty cartons of cream tipped over and forgotten, some on concrete, some still on wheels as if they held out hope of leaving someday.
Shady Acres is the name of our trailer park on the outskirts of Riverton, Indiana, tucked away tight in a curve of the Ohio River as if God himself is trying to hide us from the rest of the world. It's clear from the looks of the place none of us including Sudie have much besides hope, and not even that most days. Somehow she makes her poor-paying job at the cemetery, caring for herself and all the critters work. If something needs taking in, she takes it and finds free goat's milk from a farmer down the road, hunts for bugs and plants in the woods, even grows a few vegetables in her backyard next to the cages she keeps out there.
Sudie stands at the screen door waiting for me. June bugs, gnats, and mosquitoes swarm the struggling glimmer of her porch light. "Consider the lilies," she sighs, as she always does. The hinges creak open as she welcomes me and this next collection of needy critters. "If the good Lord feeds the birds, surely he'll feed me and these."
I don't know anybody besides Sudie — 'cept maybe Reverend Payne — who takes the Lord's Word as flat-out truth and who doesn't worry about whether the food stamps or disability check will last the month, if the propane will last the winter, or if we'll lose another neighbor too young.
"I can't stay," I say, setting the shoe box on the counter, clean but stained from years of use. Next to the sink is an old green soda bottle, a couple of wild daisies stuck in the top of it. Along the opposite wall are wire cages and glass tanks of all kinds of sizes. Several brown bats hang, indifferent, from the screen lid of one cage. From another, the shiny, beadlike black eyes of a couple of adult squirrels follow my movements. And from another, a Cooper's hawk turns its head to one side to get a better look at me. I am not as familiar to them as Sudie.
"I know." Sudie nods in the direction of my place, her brow furrowing because she knows the reason for my worry. She turns her attention to the box and lifts up the bandanna. "How many kits?"
She turns the water on to let it warm, then brings out small syringes, paper towels, and powdered milk replacer to make up a batch of formula. There's a hand-painted scrap of wood hanging above the sink that reads, "In you alone do the orphans find mercy. Hosea 14:3." This is how she thinks of the critters. Her orphans.
"It's a wonder any make it at all," I say as Sudie lifts one out of the box.
The bony ribs and limbs look even more angled and weak in the light of her kitchen than they did in the woods. She takes a syringe of the formula and presses the tip of it against the side of the kit's mouth. The front and back legs push against Sudie's hand as if trying to get away, but I've learned they push against their mother when they nurse from her, too, nature's way of helping her release more milk. Still it always looks like they're struggling, awkward and blind to the fact someone is trying to save them.
"I'm sorry I can't stay." And I am. The first few hours of a new rescue are intense.
"It's all right. I'll settle them. You come by when you can," she says, using my bandanna to dab at drops of formula on the kit's nose, which is raised in protest to the hard plastic syringe.
Outside, the heat presses down on me, and I cough back the shock of the thick humidity. In the distance, an engine starts, then revs several times before squealing onto the main road. The blue flicker of a TV glows from one neighbor's window. The muffled sound of glass breaking against a wall echoes from another across the way.
I think about Jayden, alone with Mama and her company, and I run toward home.
Excerpted from "Before I Saw You"
Copyright © 2018 Amy K. Sorrells.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wow! This is my first ever Amy K. Sorrells novel and it most definitely will not be my last one. This book, it's setting, it's characters, it's messages......all of it absolutely gripped me and took me on an emotional roller coaster ride. I was up, down, sideways, in and out while reading this novel, and it left me with a feeling I haven't had with a book in a long, long time. As a former street drug abuser, I related with this book on so many levels, with it's work of opioid abuse weaved into the story line. It's a very real thing now a days, and so many people are dying from the use of it. Thankfully, with God's love and kind forgiveness, I was saved and have been drug free for more than 15 years now, and this novel brought with the flood of emotions. Watching Jaycee struggle with certain decisions, watching her and her faith grow stronger through the novel, really made me see myself in her. Throughout these pages, Ms. Sorrells has woven a message of the utmost importance from our God.......true love. I love my children more than life itself, but my truest love of all comes from, and for, our God. I could feel that message unweaving with each page turn, felt it envelope me and keep me hooked to the story. This is more than a 5 star book. This is one that I highly recommend to everyone. This book is emotional, gripping, and may not be an easy read for some, but it's one that will forever be on my shelf and one that I will turn to when I need a reminder that sometimes struggles are what are needed to over come the mountains that God puts in my life. Faith,hope, love and more make up this novel and I can't wait to dive into another amazingly chiseled creation from this talented author! Well done, Ms. Sorrell! *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and was under no obligation to post a review, positive or negative.*
Remarkable novel that covers difficult yet realistic issues. There is truly something special about the writing style by Amy Sorrells. She has an amazing way of pulling you into the story and doesn't let go, even after you finish the last page. Her ability to bring her characters to life is another reason I love her work. The topics that are covered in this book are difficult yet very real. The heroin epidemic is everywhere. It doesn't matter if you live in poverty or are among the wealthy, no one is immune to its pull and the devastation it leaves in its wake. This story takes you into the lives of some of the folks who not only take the drugs but those who are affected by their choices. There are other difficult situations dealt with but I don't want to give too much away. I'll just say that there is an unplanned pregnancy among other things. If you like to read fiction that touches on some difficult yet realistic subjects, you will want to pick up this novel. I will warn you though, it's going to bring emotions out of you that you aren't expecting. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
This story took me to Shady Acres, a small trailer park in southern Indiana. To be honest, this isn’t a location I would’ve sought out to visit. Initially, it looks to be a deplorable place riddled with disparity and discarded heroin needles and users. But after meeting Jaycee, Sudie, Gabe, and the rest of Riverton’s townsfolk, I yearn to visit there again. If a sequel isn’t in the making, it certainly should be. These people, this town, they have so much more story to tell. Sigh. I love this story. As I sit back and reflect on Jaycee’s story I realize I’m changed. My eyes, my heart, my mind—they’re opened a little wider than they were yesterday. Amy Sorrells is a gifted storyteller. The spiritual thread throughout this novel is weaved intricately, softly, and expertly. You might think a story seeded in a small town ravaged by a heroin epidemic would produce gloom and ruin. But you’d be wrong. Before I Saw You yields mercy, faith, and a huge heaping of hope. I received a complimentary copy of this fabulous book.
Before I Saw You is set in the small southern Indiana town of Riverton. The town has seen its share of hardships, but the ravages of heroin use has left it almost without any hope. The story is told in the first person voice of Jaycee Givens, a girl hanging on by the barest of threads. Jaycee, the main character struggles with. doubt, and always second-guesses herself and God. Her family consists of Sudie, an elderly cemetery custodian, Carla, her boss at the local diner, Gabe, a newcomer to town and several other community member who stand along side her even in the darkest times. I loved the picture of church family that the author paints, grace-filled and mercy-led. Jaycee sees God in action throughout the book. Two of the themes that stood out to me are learning to let go and give things over to God and trusting Him with the many curveballs that life may throw at us. “Before I saw You” is well written love how the author weaves grace, mercy, forgiveness and love into the story that leaves the reader feeling blessed throughout the book. I highly recommend Sorrels’ other novels, “How Sweet The Sound” and “Lead Me Home.” I received a complimentary copy of the book from Tyndale (publisher) in exchange for an honest review. These thoughts and opinions are my own.
BEFORE I SAW YOU by Amy K. Sorrells was moving, thought provoking, and genuine, making for an emotional but fulfilling read. Jaycee Givens’ life has been a difficult one. Loss, betrayal, and tragedies have plagued her, even before reaching adulthood. Even so, with her overcoming spirit, she refuses to give up on life, even if at times the obstacles before her seem insurmountable. Jaycee has a unique circle of friends she has come to rely on and is making the best of her lowly situation. But when Jaycee literally stumbles into Gabe Corwin, a new guy in town, her daily life slowly changes. There is a spark between Jaycee and Gabe, and soon a friendship forms. However, when Gabe finds out Jaycee is pregnant, she feels his judgment in the way he keeps his distance. Gabe eventually apologizes for his behavior and soon becomes one of Jaycee’s strongest allies. Even though Jaycee has the support of her little community of friends, she realizes she has a very difficult decision to make-keep her child or give him the chance she never had. BEFORE I SAW YOU draws you in, even if the pacing seems a bit slow. Amy Sorrell allows the story to build with an unhurried momentum which may not sit well with all audiences, but I think it allows the reader to absorb Jaycee’s story at a thought-provoking tempo. I would recommend BEFORE I SAW YOU to anyone who enjoys stories about real life without a lot of sugarcoating or frills. Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.
Before I Saw You is quite an emotional read for me. Jaycee Givens has been through so much throughout their lifetime. She experiences more as a child than anyone should ever have to their entire lifetime. I enjoyed watching her grow in the book. She has to learn how to love, forgive, and trust again. Then ending was so heart wrenching but yet encouraging. I give Before I Saw You 4 1/2 stars. Such a powerful and inspiring story of faith and hope. I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
“You may not have a choice in this, but you can give your baby a chance,” Jaycee is told in the novel, Before I Saw You, by Amy K. Sorrells. ~ What ~ At three-hundred-and-sixty-one-eight pages, this paperback targets those who enjoy contemporary women’s fiction involving adoption, forgiveness, and complicated relationship dynamics. Using the slang word “heck,” topics of child endangerment, physical abuse, opioid addiction, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending includes a note, excerpt from another one of the writer’s novels, twelve discussion questions, author’s biography, acknowledgments, and advertisements. In this tale told in first person, Jaycee Givens has had a rough upbringing growing up in a run-down Indiana trailer park when her mother is addicted to drugs, she feels responsible for her young brother’s death, and she hides her unplanned pregnancy. As she sorts through her life-changing options, she yearns to trust God’s soft voice with the help of newcomer Gabe’s determined friendship and a wise animal lover’s gentle advice. ~ Why ~ With the heroin epidemic ravaging America, this book points out how it can devastate not only the user but family members too. I appreciate how Jaycee works through her issues of not only breaking up with an abuser but also reconciling with loved ones, dealing with the loss of a dear friend, and making the ultimate decision to give her child a better life. ~ Why Not ~ Those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ may not like this read. Others may feel uncomfortable reading about the ramifications of drug use and heartbreaking decision to give up a child for adoption. ~ Wish ~ I wish all pronouns of God were capitalized for reverence and the slang word was avoided. Due to the ending, continuing the story of some of the characters could be an anticipated sequel. ~ Want ~ If you are looking for a touching, tender, and redemptive read, this one that shows how God knows and cares about what happens to us will keep you turning the page as tears gather in your eyes. Thanks to Tyndale Blog Network for this complimentary book that I am under no obligation to review.