Once upon a time, I was a rebel. And I have the tattoo to prove it.
Then there was the spiked hair–the shade of which changed monthly–“colorful” language that can’t be found in your everyday sixteen-count crayon box, a pack-a-day habit, less-than-modest wardrobe, and an obsession with guitar-trashing, drum-bashing music.
Did I mention I’m also a preacher’s kid? That’s right. And like the prodigal son after whom I modeled myself, I finally saw the error of my ways and returned to the fold.
Today my life is all about “lead me not into temptation.” When I’m not serving as Women’s Ministry Director at my father’s church, I’m working at Gloria’s Morning Café. I even have worthy goals, like saving enough money to buy the café, keep my Jelly Belly habit under control, and to never again hurt the people I love. No more parties. No more unsavory activities. And no more motorcycles! You’d think I was finally on the right track.
But since my dad’s replacement hired a hotshot church consultant to revive our “dying” church, things aren’t working out as planned. And now this “consultant” says I’m in need of a little reviving myself. Just who does this Maddox McCray think he is anyway? With his curly hair that could use a good clipping, tattoo that he makes no attempt to hide, and black leather pants, the man is downright dangerous. In fact, all that’s missing is a motorcycle. Or so I thought… But if he thinks he’s going to take me for a ride on that 1298cc machine of his, he can think again. Harriet Bisset is a reformed woman, and she’s going to stay that way. Even if it kills me!
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Read an Excerpt
Don’t want to think about anything. Which isn’t all that hard to do when you’ve had one too many drinks. So I do what comes naturally under the circumstances–I feel. And who cares what happens, ’cause it’s not likely I’ll remember anything in the morning. And if I do, it’ll all be fuzzy.
So feel away, girl! Forget all your troubles. Forget Harley–the pig! Jason–the swine! Blade, the oinker! Oh, and don’t forget to forget your family–church and otherwise. Just feel.
Closing my eyes, I command my body to feel the beat of the music that pounds from the speakers as I move with…
Um, let’s call him Contestant Number One.
He pulls me closer than a good girl should allow. Fortunately for him, I don’t fall into that category. At least, not anymore. This twenty-year-old preacher’s kid–a.k.a. “PK”–is four years beyond that. And counting.
So tired of counting–
And I’m tired of this stupid little voice in my head that has been gathering volume ever since I was the recipient of a black eye and found myself homeless three months ago. Fortunately, a drinking buddy took me in. Unfortunately, she’s more of a mess than I, which is how she ended up in an ambulance after I found her on the bathroom floor this morning. The good news is that she’ll be all right–at least until she begs, borrows, or steals enough money to finance her habit. The bad news is that it shook me. Good thing I don’t do drugs.
What do you call the alcohol swimming through your veins?
“It’s legal,” I slur, conveniently overlooking that I’m still considered a minor. “Yep, legal.”
Contestant Number One pulls back. “What?”
I’d be embarrassed if I weren’t so numb. I smile–at least, I think that’s what I’m doing with my mouth–and drop my forehead to the shoulder of his sweat-soaked T-shirt. Ew! Wish my sense of smell were as numb as the rest of me. He chuckles, slides a rough hand down my back, and presses me nearer, though I wouldn’t have thought it possible. He thinks it’s a done deal.
Doesn’t have to be. You could slip out. Ditch him and his friends. Start fresh again tomorrow, good intentions and all.
Right. Like I did today, after the ambulance lights disappeared from view?
Fingers graze my wrist, trail upward, linger over the crown of thorns tattoo encircling my upper arm, slide around the back of my neck, then thrust up through my cropped, pink-tinted hair. Getting a grip on it, Contestant Number One pulls my head back, and our nicotine- and alcohol-scented breath mingle as I try to focus on his face.
What do they say about ugly girls getting progressively better looking with each drink a guy downs? Well, it goes both ways. Sometime during the two hours since I strutted into the biker bar, this guy has gone from one step above Gomer Pyle to only a dozen steps below Antonio Banderas. See, sometimes it’s good to be numb. And I wish I were more so when his mouth descends.
Oh, God, here I go again. And I do mean God as in “the Big Guy,” even though it seems like years since I’ve spoken to or thought about Him without pairing His name with a curse. I don’t want to be here. Don’t want to do this. I want to…to…
“Oh, my girl! It is you!” squawks a voice whose distinctive Katharine Hepburn warble identifies her despite my smog-laden brain. “What are you doing?!”
Barely escaping a meeting of the mouths, I look over my shoulder into the wrinkled, dark-skinned face of my namesake, Harriet Evans. Though it has been two years since I’ve seen her, she appears the same. As does her companion standing shoulder to shoulder with her–Pam Worth, whose wigs are legendary at my father’s church. Against the backdrop of bikers, beer bottles, and bars that run the length of two walls, the little old women are so out of place that there exists the possibility this is a dream. Meaning, I may not have to start fresh again tomorrow…
Harriet puts her fists on her hips. “You’re drunk, Harriet Josephine Bisset!”
She sure seems real, especially those fiery eyes of hers. I shake my head. “What are you doing here?”
“Not what you’re doing. My car died just down the road. And here I come in to use the phone, and what do I find? You! Actin’ like and lookin’ like”–she waves a hand down me–“a floozy.”
“Hey! Who are these old biddies?” demands Contestant Number One.
Biddies? It might’ve been a while since I’ve seen Harriet or Pam, and my brain may be temporarily defunct, but they aren’t going to take that sitting down…er, standing up.
“Biddies?” Harriet stamps her foot, and Pam follows suit. “You, Cro-Magnon, need a lesson in how to speak to your elders. Now take your filthy hands off that young lady.”
“Young lady?!” He jerks me closer. “You had it right the first time–floozy.” With that, he puts his mouth to the crook of my neck, and I think I’m going to be sick. Yep. I am. Right across the back of his sweaty T-shirt.
Though normally I’d be horrified–at least, as horrified as one can be in my state–when he lurches back and spits curses that ought to rain hellfire down on him, I laugh against the back of the hand I wipe across my mouth.
“Humph!” Harriet takes my arm. “Can’t think of a more fitting punishment.”
As Pam takes my other arm and they lead me across the bar, I become aware of the attention we’ve attracted. Everyone’s watching– from the bartenders to the biker guys and gals to Contestant Number One’s friends, whose faces no longer reflect drunken merriment.
This could be bad.
“Harriet. Pam.” I swallow bile. “You should go.”
“Not without you.” Harriet tugs me toward the door. “Come on, girl.”
Outside, the chill night air hits like a bucket of ice water, and I gasp.
“Where’s your car?” Harriet asks.
“I don’t”–burp–“have a car. Friend dropped me off.”
“A friend, hmm?” She shakes her head. “You got a cell phone?”
Stomach threatening to erupt again, I pry the phone from my back pocket and thrust it at her. No sooner do our hands clear than it happens again, and I’m on my knees in the dirt-paved parking lot.
While Pam pats my back, I hear Harriet’s voice but have no idea who she’s talking to. Not that I care. Then we’re waiting–for what, I don’t know. And, again, I don’t care. I just want my stomach to stop heaving and my throat to stop burning. I want to feel normal again.
When was the last time you experienced normal?
Behind us I hear the whine of rusted hinges as the door bursts open. Then men’s voices, among them Contestant Number One’s. Harriet’s. Then Pam’s. Not a nice exchange, and fear binds me as I focus past Pam to where little Harriet faces a bare-chested Contestant Number One and what would have been Contestant Number Two if not for the interruption on the dance floor.
“You get back in there!” Harriet jabs a finger toward the bar behind them. “Leave her alone, you hear?”
“I bought her three drinks.” Contestant Number One snarls. “I deserve something for my money. And my ruined shirt.”
“A paddlin’s all you deserve.”
“Oh yeah?” He takes a step toward her. “You wanna try, old biddy?”
I struggle to my feet. “Harriet! It’s okay. You and Pam get out of here. I’ll–”
“You’ll do nothin’!” Harriet throws me a look.
Pam grips my arm and, with her other hand, starts fishing in her purse. “Don’t you worry, Harri.” She holds up a black object and presses a button that causes a bolt of blue to arc and crackle between two metal pins. “We old biddies can take care of ourselves.”
No, they can’t. They have no idea–
Tires squeal behind us as they churn up dirt and crunch to a halt. A car door opens and slams, then I hear a voice I haven’t heard in years. “Back off !”
Heart struggling to find its beat, I peer over my shoulder, but Tyler doesn’t look at me, his eyes on the two men who’ve pushed past Harriet to advance on him.
“You her boyfriend?” Contestant Number Two asks.
“Her brother,” Tyler says. “Now if you don’t want trouble, I suggest you go cuddle up with another beer.”
“Beer ain’t what I had in mind.” Number One leers at me in passing and makes a rude gesture that no woman ought to be subjected to, especially in front of her brother.
As Pam screeches and swings her purse at his backside, a growl rips from Tyler. A
moment later, his fist connects with Number One’s jaw and sends the man stumbling back. Number Two lunges forward, landing a blow to Tyler’s gut as I cry out and strain to break Pam’s hold.
“Stop it, Harri!” She jerks me back. “Tyler can take him.”
And he does, though not without sustaining injuries of his own that make me turn my face away.
“There, now,” Pam says. “It’s over.”
At least until Number One gets in on it again. And as the two men throw punches, Number Two struggles to his feet.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Harriet looks to Pam. “Toss me that stun thing of yours.”
She tosses it, Harriet jabs, and the man jerks and drops. A moment later, Number One’s on his back again, and Tyler’s dragging me to his car with Pam and Harriet following.
“She’ll be back! You can take ’em outta the bar, but you can’t take the bar outta them. It’s in their blood.”
As Tyler pushes me into the backseat, we come face to bloody face, and I see the question in his eyes. Will I come back? Is it in my blood?
I close my eyes, and when Harriet settles in beside me and presses my head into her lap, I begin to blubber. “I want to go home, Harriet.”
A trembling hand smoothes back my hair. “Of course you do, my girl. ’Course you do.”
Reading Group Guide
1. Harri was a rebellious preacher’s kid who crossed over to the “prodigal” side. What are your experiences with PKs? Do you think expectations are too high for them?
2. Splitting Harriet is set during a time of tremendous change at First Grace Church–change that makes Harri and some of the older members feel threatened. What changes have you experienced in your church that made you feel threatened or uncomfortable?
3. What are your feelings about the trend toward contemporary forms of worship? Does it keep members engaged and present a greater opportunity to reach the unsaved? Or does it shift the focus away from God and toward entertainment?
4. Fearful of being hurt as she was as a teenager, Harri avoids meaningful friendships with women her own age. How are your relationships with women affected by your early experiences?
5. Harri tends to “play it safe.” When have you “played it safe”? How do you think your life would be different had you taken a risk instead?
6. Harri reads the Bible daily, translation after translation. However, her actions and fears contradict the depth of her knowledge of God’s Word. What do you do to guard against a “surface” reading of the Bible? What helps you to internalize and apply Scripture to your life?
7. Though attracted to Maddox, Harri is put off by his appearance for fear he will be a bad influence. Do you tend to stereotype people? Have you ever been stereotyped?
8. At the height of Harri’s rebellion, her brother suffered fallout from association when his girlfriend broke off their engagement. Have you ever been found guilty by association? How did it affect you?
9. Harri has a difficult time accepting the fullness of God’s forgiveness. What struggles have you faced in accepting God’s forgiveness?
10. Though Harri longs for the safe, predictable future she envisions once she buys the café, she sacrifices her dream for her friends. What dreams have you had to sacrifice? Any regrets?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book started off with a drunken PK throwing up in a bar. Not your typical opening for a Christian fiction book. Normally when you read about churches who face potential splits due to a younger pastor trying to change things, the ones against change are always older members. So it was a twist to have the lead protester be a 27 year old. Writing books about churches trying to modernize can be a touchy subject. The reader might not agree with the way the author is trying to make her main character side. Harriet seemed though only to want to stay with the older traditional church because it was safe and wouldn't tempt her back to her old ways. Never mind that her faith wasn't actually growing. I liked how she was portrayed as reading a Bible a year but never fully grasped what she was actually reading. I understand that she was scared of slipping back to being a rebel but at the same time she was hurting herself. I love Maddox's character because he was a wonderful portrayal of a Christian who is fully committed yet is ok with being outside of the box. The protesters' attempts to stop the church from changing drove me nuts at first especially a certain organ player. But when you read about why they're against the change, it makes you feel more sympathetically for them. I appreciated the mentions that we shouldn't put Pastor's Kids on a higher pedestal. It's hard for them to grow up in an atmosphere where everyone judges them for what they do and then criticize their parents for the way they act. I loved all the new ideas Maddox brought to the church, especially the Sabrina movie night - Audrey Hepburn with Harrison Ford would be a perfect combo! I also love all the Jelly Bellys in this book! Being a huge Jelly Belly fan myself, I envied Harriet and her big tub. And you know, I love mango so I'll take all the ones she doesn't want! I know I keep declaring books 'best of the year' but this one definately deserves to be at the top of the list. It's a fun, fast, witty read with engaging characters, hilarious moments, and been there down that situations. Perfect chick lit read to enjoy during these cold winter months.
Harriet is a fun main character with her funny quirks, her Jelly Belly candy addiction, and her obsession over her favorite TV show. Her personality and fears are so real, and over the course of the story, you can really see her grow. Harriet is trying to make up for her sins to the church she abandoned by taking care of the elderly within it. However, Maddox McCray, the new church consultant, roars into town on a Harley Davidson and gets her bad girl blood boiling with both his edgy style and the changes he wants to make to her church. This is the first that I have read by Tamara, and I plan to read more books by her, my next one on my list by her will be 'Perfecting Kate'. I really enjoyed the humor and reality of this book and I give it five stars.
I had an opportunity to read a non-typical book for me. Splitting Harriet is written by Tamara Leigh, I recently read "Perfecting Kate" and that was good. This book stared off with a drunken preachers kid throwing up in a bar, which is completely not what I expected. As I began to read this book, it was very intentional the point the author was trying to get to the reader through Harriet. Harriet attended a traditional church because it wasn't challenging her beliefs and transforming her faith, but allowing her to feel secure. Isn't this true of us? Maybe we aren't being transformed, but are stale mate and cozy where we are at? The author makes a point in saying we read the Bible in a year, yet have no idea what were reading! Love that she uses Harriet to tell a story. Then Maddox Mc Cray comes into the picture and attempts to bring change to church. He has great ideas and although intimidating on the outside by his hair and tattoos, his heart is in the right spot. This is a light hearted
Very good book!
I picked up this book in a rush for a fix without reading into who the author was or what the book was actually about. When reading the back I figured it a story of a once-rebel-now-reformed-girl-gone-bad. I'm a fan of fiction and romance of the "things that go bump in the night" variety, not at all into novels of the religious sort. I was actually reluctant to read it after my discovery, but curiosity prevailed. It's actually not a bad book. Once I learned to get past the scriptures and not giggle at the thought of prayer (I attended a Lutheran grade school and it's sunday sermons and after graduation I walked away), I read the book within a day and discovered I felt a little more open. Not saying I'll return to a church or religion anytime soon, but if I decide to I think this book might be in the back of my mind.
SPLITTING HARRIET is a very entertaining, modern day Prodigal 'Daughter' tale of Harriet, a woman bound and determined NOT to return to her rebellious ways. She is so afraid of becoming weak that she has closed herself (and her heart) to life (and love) . . . until she meets someone who has faced his own addictions and knows all too well the pain that a trip down the wild side can leave in its wake. The result is a blossoming love story that truly begins when Harriet realizes that she must first forgive herself and then trust herself before she can really love herself . . . or anyone else! Another great read from Tamara Leigh!
Harriet Josephine Bisset was a rebellious PK 'Preacher's Kid' and now struggles to find forgiveness for her scandalous past. The cast of characters who parade through her present life provide the seasoning for Harri's stew. Not the least of which are two potential suitors vying for her attention, two grumpy cats and a neighborhood of retirees who watch over her as if she were a member of their own families. Tamara Leigh provides a generous dose of romance, career challenges and familial friction for her protagonist to navigate throughout the tale. It's almost too much for twenty-seven year old Harri, who is floundering to find her true self. In the end, however, it's the real, if not predictable, Harri - a motorcycle riding, high-flying, risk taker - who emerges victor in her schizophrenic tussle for peace of mind. If that sounds dangerous for a Christian fiction work, give Splitting Harriet a spin around the block. You will be reminded that forgiveness is by grace, servanthood can come from weakness and, when it comes to God, our plans are subject to change - for the better.
'Splitting Harriet' by Tamara Leigh was an absolute joy. It was funny when it needed to be, yet brought up some serious issues in the church. You find the issues mostly in the smaller churches, i think, but they are still very real. The issues with the teens were some of the most disturbing in my opinion. The most disturbing part has to be the fact that the issues are so very real. Actually, it took me by surprise to realize how real it is, and how much it affected me. I loved the study guide at the end. Almost like a Bible study tool. I really enjoyed all the characters. I felt the primary characters were strong and well written. The secondary characters 'which i love secondaries' were a real delight. I think there is a bit of Harriet in many of us. Getting to that place where we 'actually' accept the forgiveness so freely given is a struggle at times. I loved Maddox and his patience with Harriet as she struggled with things better left in the past. God is indeed great! Thankfully for us all, He is forgiving. It is wonderful to be part of His plan. We are forgiven and it is just as important to forgive ourselves. The psalmist said it well about God casting our sins from the East to the West. If you ever wondered how far that might be... 'from one scarred hand to the other...' East to West by Casting Crowns
Splitting Harriet not only has a catchy title, but it really fits the story. I am always impressed when an author comes up with a title that truly represents the book. And the cover captures the meat of the story as well. This is one awesome chick lit novel that has all of the ingredients you want to see in a Christian book. Romantic tension, first person internal dialog that flows naturally, tough decisions, and spiritual growth. Her fears were realistic given her past, but she needed to learn to trust in order to grow. Watching Harriet grow in the Lord was a beautiful thing to experience as I read this novel. I loved Harri's personality, her quirks, her issues with cats, her imperfect past, her striving to do the right thing, and fearing that the 'old man' would return if she gave in to her passions. She was a fabulous and lovable character. I'm sad the story had to end. I read the book in less than three days, so you know it was awesome. The humor was LOL funny, especially when she started noticing the hero's flaws more when she was irritated with him. Example: Why did his nose suddenly seem longer? And Harri was never mean in her thoughts towards others. Honest, yes. But never mean. Even her own negative thoughts about herself were well done. Snappy, but not snippy. Great internal dialog. Harri is a lot like me. She wants to do the right thing, but sometimes selfishness blocks her progress. She's human after all. Wait, she's a fictional character. But she seemed so real! I highly recommend Splitting Harriet. Nothing forced or contrived in this story. NOT a thing!
Harriet Bisset is a reformed rebel. The only thing worse than being a rebel is being one when you were a preacher's kid. While she knows (in her head) she's forgiven, she's been unable to truly accept it and is living a tightly constructed life eight years later. The only problem is that life is getting ready to change. The church her dad founded has hired a church consultant, and he's shaking things up. And Harriet, when she's honest with herself. Harriet is a character who is trying so hard to do all the right things in her own strength. She lives with the reality of the depths she fell to eight years earlier, and is determined not to get one millimeter close to that line again. The problem is she wants to. Who can't relate to that?!?! The knowing where we should be, but the longing to explore while crippled by fear that if we start, we won't be able to stop! Tamara Leigh does a masterful job of walking her character through the needed evolution without becoming preachy. And the book is made more powerful for it. Now don't get me wrong, she works in a church and her life revolves around God. But she's fully human with quirks and foilables I loved.
As the daughter of a minister in Franklin, Tennessee, Harriet Bisset was expected to behave with utmost decorum. Instead as a teen she was the poster child for open rebellion. Now twenty-seven years old, the former running wild as a child displays prim and proper behavior even working part-time as the women's ministry director at her father¿s church First Grace. She also earns money as a waitress at Gloria's Morning Café, which she hopes to one day own. Her church hires reformed bad boy Maddox McCray to help bring new members to the congregation. As he brings in innovative ideas like music and computers, Harriet worries about the impact his changes will make on her. Worse he pushes her buttons as he wants more of the bad girl persona that he senses underneath her ¿image¿. He is attracted to the woman who is addicted to jelly belly and detests the minister¿s daughter running from a jelly belly. --- This interesting chick lit inspirational romance argues that the way to bring young people into the Church is through modern technology like computer access and music this is not a new assertion, but makes a strong case that contemporary marketing is needed before more of the next generation seeks a different Word in the electronics. Harriet is terrific as she feels split between her rebellious youth that Maddox encourages and her prime and proper adult behavior that her dad supports. SPLITTING HARRIET between the men in her life leads to a humorous with a serious metaphoric geometric leap in her addiction to jelly beans. With a deep look at this young woman caught between traditionalism and modernization, Tamara Leigh provides an enjoyable tale of course her first name doesn¿t hurt her rating. --- Harriet Klausner