Saints in Limbo

Saints in Limbo

by River Jordan
4.8 9


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Saints in Limbo by River Jordan

“River Jordan’s Saints in Limbo is a compelling story of the mysteries of existence and, specially, the mysteries of the human heart.”
–Ron Rash, author of Serena and Chemistry and Other Stories

“I lose myself in River’s writing–transported to a different time and place– and in this case,  to one that makes the ordinary mystical and magical. I give it FIVE diamonds in the Pulpwood Queen’s TIARA!”
–Kathy L. Patrick, founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs and author of The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life

Ever since her husband Joe died, Velma True’s world has been limited to what she can see while clinging to one of the multicolored threads tied to the porch railing of her home outside Echo, Florida.

When a mysterious stranger appears at her door on her birthday and presents Velma with a special gift, she is rattled by the object’s ability to take her into her memories–a place where Joe still lives, her son Rudy is still young, unaffected by the world’s hardness, and the beginning is closer than the end. As secrets old and new come to light, Velma wonders if it’s possible to be unmoored from the past’s deep roots and find a reason to hope again.   
Praise for River Jordan

“[River Jordan’s] literary spice rack has everything you need to put together a good book.”
–Rick Bragg, author of All Over but the Shoutin’ and Ava’s Man

“River Jordan writes so beautifully.”
–Joshilyn Jackson, author of Gods in Alabama and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307446701
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/05/2009
Edition description: Original
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

River Jordan is a critically acclaimed novelist and playwright whose unique mixture of Southern and mystic writing has drawn comparisons to Sarah Addison Allen, Leif Enger, and Flannery O’Connor. Her previous works include The Messenger of Magnolia Street, lauded by Kirkus Reviews as "a beautifully written, atmospheric tale." She speaks around the country on "Inspiring the Passion of the Story" and makes her home in Nashville.

Read an Excerpt

It was the kind of day when even the lost believed. When possibilities were larger than reason, when potential was grander than circumstance, when the long, dark days of doubt were suddenly cast off and laid to rest. Brushed away with a smile and a certainty. And in this moment, from this place, you knew the real magic could happen.

It was exactly this kind of day at the edge of a town in a southern place called Echo, Florida. Lying safely on the state’s northern border, Echo was first brethren more to its Alabama cousin than to the Gulf Coast. The land rolled by in rural peace and contentment, not given over to the moods of saltwater tides and open horizons but to the soft singing of wind in the pines, of roosters calling in the early morning light, of small cornfields and freshwater fishing holes.

The firstborn leaves of March had sprouted into the tiniest sea of baby green. The world was breathing in and out, moving everything in its path slightly, and on due course, with a gentle, four-edges-of-the-earth kiss. The birds had filled the trees, rumbling from their winter’s sleep, and here they were now, glorious and in full song. Squirrels scampered, quick and unseen, beneath banks of dried loblolly pine needles, then ran up the trees so fast they left nothing but a trail of falling bark.

Down at the edge of the powdery dirt road was Mullet Creek, running quietly, steadily throwing off stars of light from its surface. You could hear the airborne fish breaking the bonds of water, then falling with a plop back into the chilly green of the creek.

Within all the living things—the dirt, the water, the cloudless sky, the pine trees long and whispering—was the expectation of something coming. Something full of light and wonder.

When the expectation had stretched as far as it could, had built a crescendo into a feverish pitch, a peculiar wind appeared. Only a tiny thing at first, but even then something special, something delicious and unique. A whirl began to take shape, collecting dirt from the dry bed of the middle of the road and spreading it upward into a spiraling funnel of substance. For a moment it appeared to be an errant breeze that caught the dirt and gave it a twirl, a bit of a dance, before it would settle itself to the nothing it once was. But the dance didn’t settle. Instead, it climbed higher and higher, pulling a streamof sandy soil, twisting it to and fro, as if something was shaping it with a manner of something in mind.

At first, there was only the wind, the dust, the dirt, but then, shifting in and out of visible, were two well-worn and traveled boots.

The dirt traveled higher, faster, revealing two trousered legs and then a waist, a chest, two arms with hands, until finally a head and on that head, a hat well lived in.The image presented a man who had been around, a traveler or a storyteller.

For a time the man and the whirlwind were one and the same. Man and whirlwind. Whirlwind and man. But after a long moment, but still only a moment, the man stepped straight out of that wind, and without the least bit of tussle he planted his boots on solid ground. And in this exact manner, on this kind of a day, the man was born feetfirst onto the earth.

He adjusted himself, pulling the clothes about his body, arranging the pants, the shirt, the jacket just so.He was a million miles roamed and completely at home. King to the subjects who might demand, but simple statesman to the orphan clan.

He removed the hat and ran one hand through his thick white hair and surveyed the territory before him. Then, after careful and appropriate consideration, he replaced the hat and pulled a watch from the left pocket of his pants. He opened the cover and music began to play. Music so sweet, so hypnotic, so full, it exuded a scent with each note and left it hanging there in the air. “Right on time,” he declared aloud and then launched himself forward in a southern direction on the road that had given him life.

He traveled only a rock’s throw toward the creek, and there just before the edge of the trees thatmade up a plot considered the woods, he paused and contemplated a house. Just a small white house of little consequence. A small shelter from the storms of life. There was an old mailbox by the road on which a yellow vine crawled and encircled its wooden post. Green bushes bloomed with early white gardenias on both sides of a little porch where there was a swing. In the swing sat a small hen of a woman.

The man drew closer, almost but not quite visible, as he watched her from the north side of the pine tree woods.

The woman stood slowly and went to the porch railing, leaned out as far as she could, and peered down the road. Suddenly she stepped back two steps and wrapped her arms about herself. She pursed her lips, pulled them up to one side, listening to that spring breeze singing through the pine needles and thinking.

Then she spoke to her husband, dead now a year. It was an odd, comforting habit she’d taken up. It kept her lonely voice from rusting.

“Did you feel that? That shift in the air?Well, what can I tell you, Joe? It changed. It was one way, then it was another.”

She paused, looked out toward the tree line. “And somebody’s out there standing just beyond the trees.” She called out, “Who goes there?” and waited amoment for a reply.There was no answer, but that didn’t move her. She was certain that she was right.That someone was watching, waiting just beyond her line of sight.

Reading Group Guide

Ever since her husband, Joe, died, Velma True's world has been limited to what she can see while clinging to one of the multicolored threads tied to the porch railing of her rural home outside Echo, Florida.
Then one day a stranger appears at her door. Without knowing why, the agoraphobic widow welcomes him into her kitchen for coffee while she tells him stories of how life used to be, before her purposes were "all dried up." Just before disappearing as suddenly as he came, the man presents Velma with a special gift, one that allows her to literally step back into the past through her own memories to a place where Joe still lives and the beginning is closer than the end.
While Velma is consumed with the man's gift, her son Rudy is also being presented with a challenge to his self-centered, complacent lifestyle. And a teenage girl winds her way to Echo, determined to unravel the mysteries her dead mother left behind. As secrets old and new come to light, Velma finds herself unmoored from the fears of the past and feeling her way toward freedom.
This lyrical, Southern novel weaves mystical elements with tangible touches of God's redemptive grace to reveal a pattern of irresistible hope.

1. Saints in Limbo takes place in the deep, rural south, in fictional Echo, Florida, near the state’s northern border near Alabama. Have you read other novels rooted in the deep south? Do you believe that the southern landscape has changed in modern culture, or is it changing still? Is this of significance? What do you think should be preserved of the “Old South” and what should be released to the past?

2. Velma clings to the threads on her front porch. What do you believe that she needs from having the threads there? Do you have similar “threads” in your life? What do they provide you?

3. Early in the novel, Velma is given an incredible gift from a mysterious stranger. A rock that allows her to travel back through time into her memories. Are there tangible things or places in your life that are touchstones - like Velma's rock - that elicit your memories? Do they require protection of any kind to keep them? How can you use your touchstones to help you appreciate your memories while living in the moment?

4. Discussing what one has read is very important to Velma’s friend Sara, as she is hurt to discover that Velma actually read the copy of Moby Dick Sara loaned to her twenty years before. But Velma feels like the story loses something in the discussion. She says, “Talking about them isn’t going to change anything. Not gonna bring Moby back.” Why do you think Velma feels so apathetic about sharing with her friend?

5. The gift of reliving memories plays a significant role in Saints in Limbo. If you were suddenly given this gift to re-experiencing portions of your past, how do you think you’d respond? Would you escape into your past, or avoid those experiences?

6. Throughout the story, in the midst of everyday life, spiritual occurrences touch down and invade the natural world. Do you feel that the spiritual side of life has ever invaded, or overlapped, into your everyday world?

7. A malevolent force tries to rob Velma of her ability to use her gift to gain wisdom from the experience, and to affect her future for the better. Do you believe a force, or forces, exist that attempt to stop the good things from happening, or certain destinies from being fulfilled?

8. Velma's son Rudy appears to have wasted all his potential and seems to live an unremarkable life. What do you believe are the experiences that set Rudy’s course? By the end of the novel, do you feel that Rudy’s journey can be seen in a different light? What kind of future can you imagine for Rudy?

9. Velma and Sara are best friends, even though they are different in almost every way. Are your friendships built around people who are much like yourself? If so, why? If not, how has this affected you?

10. Annie's presence in Echo serves as a catalyst for several of the characters. Can you think of an experience with a person–friend, family member, or stranger– who served as a catalyst in your own life? Was it a positive or negative experience?

11. Near the end of Saints in Limbo, Velma sees the man who brought her gift to her on her birthday, and she now finds that it’s gone. She says, “Looks like all I’ve got left now is today.” How do you think Velma feels about this? How does this phrase make you feel?

12. Velma, Sara, Rudy, Rose, and Annie go through “stretching” experiences in the novel, testing them and challenging them to grow. Do you feel as if these characters have changed by the end of the story? Who has changed the most, and in what way?

Customer Reviews

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Saints in Limbo 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
ChristyLockstein More than 1 year ago
Saints in Limbo by River Jordan is a haunting, almost mystical story of memories, love, and the battle between good and evil. Velma True has given up on life after the death of her husband, even refusing to leave her house. She only goes out in the yard as far as her colored strings take her, always keeping her tethered to the house and the life she once knew. When a strange man visits her and leaves her a unique stone, she finds herself lost in the past and with just a hint of hope for the future. Annie, a young teen-aged runaway, finds her way to Velma's town, but she is being stalked by something evil, something definitely not human. Her journey is tied to Velma's stone, and one secret will reveal the other. Jordan's writing is lyrical and poetic, making every page come to life whether it's a bright summery day or a ominously dark sky. She weaves the various stories of Sarah, Velma, Annie, and the rest together into a beautiful tapestry of life, hope, faith, and love. Pick up this book and allow Jordan to soothe with her captivating tale.
24girl More than 1 year ago
After receiving her husband Joe's death certificate in the mail, Velma True refused to go out of the front of her house without the safety net of strings anchoring her to the porch. She did allow herself the go out the back door and through the woods to the grocery store but that was it as far as leaving the house was concerned. Her son Rudy and her best friend Sara both tried to get her to leave to no avail. On the afternoon of her birthday while Velma was sitting on her porch a visitor steps out of the woods and hands her an innocent looking river rock. Despite its plain appearance she quickly learns is very special indeed and someone very dangerous is looking for it. The rock has the ability to take Velma back to special moments in time when Joe is still alive. The trips back are meant to show Velma that her life still has meaning but she's skeptical. Having lots of potential to succeed in life Rudy disappointingly grew up to lead a mediocre life. His biggest achievement is to claim to have had most of the eligible women in town. When strange things start happening with his Mom he makes the decision to move back home for a few days and keep a closer eye her but she's not the only one experiencing something strange and Rudy steps up to the plate to become something special. If I had to sum up this book in two words they would be strangely awesome. There is an incredible story filling these pages and the writing is wondrously flowing. The opening jumps right into the story so initially was a little awkward but once I got the hang of what was going on I COULD NOT put this book down. Part supernatural, part romance and part suspense Jordan brings an amazing story to life with lovable characters. This is a must read for all fiction lovers.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Echo, Florida Widow Velma True struggles to go out her door. Her agoraphobia has been getting worse as going to the mailbox is an incredible quest that she never achieves. She traces her fear of outdoors to when her beloved Joe died.------------------ On her birthday, a stranger arrives at her door to give her a gift that does not look like much. However, somehow the mysterious present from this baffling stranger has Velma looking back over her memories with Joe and their son Rudy. She begins to appreciate what she had and still has through her memories though her reminiscences on the river of her life include some depressing moments. She begins to find herself pulled between her desire to have what she once had before Joe died and Rudy grew up, and what she has now. Finally her adventure into her mind leaves her vulnerable to a malevolence that wants the gift and will take away what she cherishes to steal her birthday present.--------------- SAINTS IN LIMBO is a whimsical tale mindful of It's a Wonderful Life with the addition of a nasty essence wanting to steal her gift. Filled with regret and remorse, Velma is fabulous as she goes on her adventure inside her mind. Although to many subplots that are left unresolved detract from this overall fine thriller, readers will enjoy accompanying the heroine as she tours her soul.----- Harriet Klausner
BabsBonMots More than 1 year ago
+It was the kind of day when even the lost believed. When possibilities were larger than reason, when potential was grander than circumstance, when the long dark days of doubt were suddenly cast off and laid to rest. Brushed away with a smile and a certainty. And in this moment, from this place, you knew the real magic could happen." Okay, I started this at around 11:30 last night (my husband was snoring), and ended up staying up till 2 am to finish it. If you were as attracted to this very first paragraph in the book as I was, you will want to run to the library and get Saints in Limbo by River Jordan. This is the first book I've read by her, but am eager to read more from this wonderful storyteller. I did not know this book was christian fiction--it is definitely the good variety of christian fiction. I didn't think it was smarmy at all. I truly dislike smarmy christian fiction! She uses wonderful language as well, something that is often missing from many genres of books. For example: "The firstborn leaves of March had sprouted into the tiniest sea of baby green. The world was breathing in and out, moving everything in its path slightly, and on due course, with a gentle, four-edges-of-the-earth kiss." Isnt' that great? I'm not going to return this book to the library for a while, it's worth a re-read.
BookReviewsByDebra More than 1 year ago
Our unlikely heroine is Velma. She is mourning the recent death of her husband. She has agoraphobia. She will leave her home only when she is low on supplies. On her birthday a stranger gives her a special rock. The purpose of the rock is to allow her relive portions of her past. She can no chose which memories she will relive and not all memories are pleasant. Through reliving her memories, Velma discovers hope and courage for her life has meaning. An evil wants possession of her gift. Saints in Limbo is not your typical story. I'm not sure what genre it is. Part fantasy, part love story, part horror. River Jordan does not easy into the story line. She jumps in with both feet. Her style is almost prose. Her words have a rhyme to them. Each character comes to life on the page. This book will leave you pondering the message long after you've closed its cover.
clydepuppee More than 1 year ago
There isn't much I can add after reading all the great reviews except that once I started reading this book I couldn't put it down. It's a wonderful story that kept me guessing right until the end. A very enjoyable read. Lorraine
MinnesotaReader More than 1 year ago
River Jordan cas created a beautifully descriptive story of life, love and hope for the future. Widowed Velma True's fears and doubts render it impossible for her to leave her homestead. On her birthday, Velma wishes she could just do her life all over again. A mysterious stranger gifts her with a magical rock, which has the ability to take her deep inside her cherished memories. Ms. Jordan brilliantly entwines the destinies of each of the people in Velma's life, as they share in her steps toward conquering her fears. With its mesmerizing, lyrical diction, I found myself completely captivated...and wishing the story didn't have to end. I truly loved this book because I could empathize with Velma's emotional pain. You must read this enthralling novel and share it with others!
TheStoryWoman More than 1 year ago
River Jordan has an amazing way of pulling you in and making you believe mysterious, other-worldly 'things' in Saints in Limbo, and I don't quite know how she does it. (But then that's the genius of her writing.) I think it sneaks up on you while you're sleeping, while her captivating characters are playing their tunes and haunting your dreams. Her story is compellingly melodic and a deep look into the heart and soul of human relationships - well, maybe even some not so human. "Strange what age does to a person. Sets him free of every regular demand and then turns right around and ties him down again in fear." These words by Jordan are what this book exemplifies, and as we, readers, emerge ourselves in this tale as members of an extended family in Echo, Florida, we all struggle with this perplexing notion. River coaxes us to come 'round, too, as she nudges her characters toward enlightenment. Now who would believe Velma, an old southern woman, can't venture beyond the length of the colored strings she's tied to her front porch? But you begin to realize these strings are the ties that bind, her memories. Then Jordan wants you to believe in the magical beauty of transformation as the simple, smooth rock Velma was given by a strange, shape-shifting fellow, who has inexplicable way of appearing out of nowhere and disappearing into thin air at will, glows and pulsates toward self-discovery for everyone in her riveting story...And you do believe. And we know the spirit is set free when we stop hiding from the truth and allowing fear to overwhelm us. Early on, Velma's son Rudy, who loves to love women and hasn't done much more than that with his life, and ultimately realizes he's never given his mother much supportive thought, says, "Can't bury the past, Mama. It'll just keep pushing its way to the surface. You know that. And whatever those things are - scouts, you call 'em - well, they'll just come around trying to dig it up." In the end, Rudy, understands the veracity of his own words as he teeters between known and unknown spaces and places. And so do we. Saints in Limbo should be made into a movie. It's heaven and hell, choice and redemption, growth and stagnation, fear and acceptance, and faith and denial all rolled into one heck of a lyrical ride through the enigmatic power of hope and love, where you're transported to another place, not another time. This story is for all time.
MizBarbara More than 1 year ago
Loved Saints in Limbo. There's no one who won't recognize at least one of the characters in this one as your neighbor, friend, or first cousin. Totally down to earth people on a totally out of this world adventure. Completely believable - I even envy Velma her rock.