“The summer before I turned ten was idyllic—until August 3, 1970. It perfectly describes a time when I thought the world was safe and good things lasted forever..."
Christy Award Winner!
Nine-year-old Abby McAndrews has just experienced her greatest loss, and in its wake, her family is unraveling with guilt, grief, and anger. Her father, Reverend McAndrews, cannot return to the pulpit because he has more questions than answers. Her older brother Matt’s actions speak louder than the words he needs to confess, as he acts out in dangerous ways. Her mother tries to hold her grieving family together, but when Abby’s dad refuses to move on, the family is at a crossroads.
Stars in the Grass, set in a small Midwestern town in 1970, is an uplifting novel that explores a family’s relationships and resiliency. Abby’s heartbreaking remembrances are balanced by humor and nostalgia as her family struggles with—and ultimately celebrates—life after loss.
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Ann Stewart and her husband, Will, raise two daughters and a flock of sheep on their Virginia farm where fireflies light up the sky on warm summer nights. Music, theater, teaching, and an MA in Film and Television, propel Ann’s creative storytelling.
Ann originated the series and wrote three of AMG’s Preparing My Heart books, and writes “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register, contributes to Mentoring Moments, and has written for Proverbs 31.
Read an Excerpt
Stars in the Grass
By Ann Marie Stewart
Barbour Publishing, IncCopyright © 2017 Ann Marie Stewart
All rights reserved.
We rushed upward into the night sky, lifted by an unseen force. The higher we climbed, the cooler the air, the fainter the smell of hot dogs and cotton candy, and the softer the music from the merry-go-round below. With my arms outstretched, I traced a wide curve, embracing a crescent of beach fires, twinkling lights, and dimming pink sunset. Birch Bay was black, nearly invisible, the people now dots on the landscape. I leaned against Dad's shoulder and stared up at the stars. Then we crested the top and plunged downward.
After a dizzying return up, the Ferris wheel slowed and then stopped, leaving us hanging in the sky.
"What happened?" I asked.
"They're letting people off at the bottom. The ride's over."
Now with each lurch we measured time; my stomach sagged in disappointment. I could see my brothers swinging below at ten o'clock. Kicking my legs up and down, I tried to make our carriage rock back and forth. Was it really over? Each time the wheel stopped, more riders dismounted. And then it was our turn, and the man unlocked our lap bar. As we left the amusement park, I turned to see the carriages filled and beginning another circle, like hands on a clock.
"Joel rode the Ferris wheel," I told my mom as we returned to our campfire.
"I rode with Matt," Joel burst out, looking up proudly. Joel's "wiff" instead of "with" always made me smile. But not Mom, who turned to Dad and gave him a scolding look.
"I'm fifteen, Mom," Matt reminded her, his arm around Joel.
"But he's only three," Mom answered.
"It's safe, Renee. There was a safety bar across his waist," Dad explained. "You worry too much."
I gazed back at the Ferris wheel spinning in the distance, a moving spiderweb in the sky. Mom dug into the grocery bag and pulled out marshmallows, Hershey's chocolate, and graham crackers.
After s'mores and storytelling, Joel fell asleep, cradled in Dad's arms at our campfire on the beach. We lay in a circle, our feet to the fire like spokes, our heads pillowed against beached driftwood, the sound of the waves lapping the shore. The air was warm and still, and I wished we could stay there forever. Washington felt so far from Ohio and yet so familiar beneath the same canopy of stars.
"Vega, Antares, Altair, Arcturus. And there's Polaris — the North Star," Dad said, outlining the dotted sky. "'He determines the number of the stars, he gives to all of them their names,'" Dad added gently, not in his minister voice. Poking the fire with his stick, Matt kicked up a hot flame. Sparks sputtered and crackled.
"Cygnus is the swan." Dad traced his fingers along a band of dots, connecting stars into shapes. I blurred my eyes, trying to see a swan, though it looked more like an umbrella. "And that is Pegasus, the winged horse." He drew what looked like a hairy spider. I could only find the Big Dipper.
The warmth from the fire made me blissfully drowsy and I closed my eyes. Mom played with my hair, running her fingers through it before letting it trickle downward, just how I liked it.
"Gossamer," she said softly.
"What's that?" Matt asked.
"Something delicate." Mom closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. "Sort of how this night feels."
"Gossamer ...," I whispered, trying it on for size.
* * *
The next day at Birch Bay, after digging for clams, building sand castles, and splashing in tide pools, we headed back to our car, strolling the remaining crescent of beach. Joel picked up a long piece of seaweed tethered to a rubbery ball and dragged it behind him, leaving a trail in the sand. He was slowing, the time for his afternoon nap long past. Now the tide was coming in and we were running out of beach, so we shifted to the narrow strip of sidewalk between the surf and the road, the tide pressing us on the right, cars inching along the road on our left. Whenever we strayed too close to the road, Mom gently nudged us back toward the beach.
"Go to Bossy Cow!" Joel whined.
"We're not there, Joel," Dad said. "We can't stop now. Just keep walking, buddy." The Bossy Cow, a diner at the tip of the crescent, served the best shakes. Thick, muddy chocolate milkshakes Joel could never finish.
We walked in slow motion, in no hurry to get anywhere, Joel's pace becoming ours. Even now I wish we had stopped. Like an unwound clock. Time never ticking forward.
"Bossy Cow?" Joel asked again.
"No Bossy Cow, but how about some boats?" I looked to Mom, hoping she'd agree with my suggestion.
"Oh, all right," she said, seeing Joel clap his hands in excitement. Joel and I had discovered the diamond-shaped caramels covered in white chocolate with an almond for a sail. We crossed the street to the Sea Shoppe to buy half a pound. Matt wanted to play in the game rooms, but Dad said it was time to get back to our campsite. I savored a boat, first licking off the white chocolate, then relishing and finally chewing the caramel.
"Carry me, Matt," Joel asked, dropping his r's but not his chocolate sailboat.
"C'mon, Joel, just a little farther." I pulled him along by his wrist, avoiding the sticky candy in his fist. "Mom, Joel's tired. He's too slow."
"Matt, please?" Joel begged, his polite "pwease" making his whining endearingly effective. "Mattie, Mattie."
"Hop on board, little buddy." Matt bent low so Joel could jump on his back. They looked like such a pair, Joel's head resting on Matt's shoulder, his arms around Matt's neck.
"He's going to fall asleep and let go," Mom warned as Joel's eyes closed.
Dad stepped forward. "I'd better carry him."
"Me and Matt." Joel yawned.
"C'mon, Dad, he wants me," Matt argued. "I won't let anything happen to him."
"Mattie, Mattie," Joel agreed sleepily.
But Dad pried him off Matt's back and stretched out his arms to lift Joel high in the air, Joel's back blocking the sun's rays. Dad's smile was warm and his eyes so tender. He lowered Joel as if he couldn't resist giving him a hug. Joel's legs wrapped around Dad and his arms circled his neck, his head nestled beneath Dad's chin.
I've heard that people block out traumatic moments, but I remember it all. The line of cars was moving slowly, like a processional, until a blue Chevy lurched free and swerved off the road. In the filmy haze of that afternoon, it almost looked like the car was heading straight toward us in slow motion.
My mother screamed and pushed me out of the way and I stumbled backward, but with enough time to see the car hit Dad, tossing Joel into the windshield and away. Then all I could see was the car.
I remember the Washington license plate and the broken windshield with spidery veins across the glass.
I remember the driver, a woman who jumped out of the blue car, screaming, "I'm so sorry. I just don't know what happened. I missed the brake. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry!"
I remember my mother screaming, "Where is he?" I remember people helping my dad up. I remember him walking, then wincing in pain as his leg buckled beneath him. He stood again and hobbled, searching for Joel.
I jumped up and ran for my dad.
"Abby!" Mom screamed as she crossed the line of cars now at a standstill. I caught up to Dad and followed him, gripping the back of his T-shirt. He staggered toward a group huddled around something on the road. Everybody was pushing Dad away until he yelled, "I'm a minister!" — his ticket to join the circle — and then they all just let him through.
Matt was already there with the group, his fists balled up against his sides. He was shaking his head.
"Let me through! Let me through!" I could hear my mother scream. I turned to see someone holding her back. There was something we weren't supposed to see. Something Matt had already seen.
Joel lay on his back. He looked asleep but so different from the way he slept on the beanbag chair in our family room at home. There was blood on the road. Was it Joel's? I knelt down as my dad touched Joel's damp forehead and whispered to him. I wanted Dad to make Joel open his eyes.
"He's bleeding," Mom moaned as she burst through. "Where's he bleeding? Where's he hurt?"
I studied the growing pool of blood and realized it was coming from Joel's ear. Matt stared as if straight through Joel to the pavement below.
"Somebody call an ambulance! He's bleeding!" Mom cried as she stood to plead with the growing audience. And then Mom saw the woman from the blue car. "You hit my son! It was you! You hit my son!"
Dad grabbed Mom's arm to keep her close, away from this woman who stood crying, clutching the hand of her little girl. Maybe it was the sight of the little girl holding her mother's leg, sobbing in fear. Mom turned and knelt back down.
"He needs a doctor," she whispered.
"Don't touch him!" Dad warned and Mom gasped. "Not yet," he said more gently. "Just don't move him right now." Dad put his hand on her shoulder.
Mom caressed Joel's arm and brushed the hair from his forehead. "Oh Joel," she said, crying. "It's all right. Mommy's here. It's going to be all right. Open your eyes, Joel." As she pulled her stained hand away, I saw the blood she couldn't feel.
The strap on Joel's overalls had slipped off his shoulder, and I pushed it back up. Then I remembered I wasn't supposed to touch him. Where was the ambulance? Dad took off his T-shirt and put it over Joel, as if he needed it on that warm summer day.
Right then I knew something was very wrong. "He'll be okay, won't he, Dad?" I asked.
"He's my son," Dad said to someone hovering over us. But not to me. Still, I was satisfied with the answer. Dad had always taken care of everything. "We have to do something," Dad said, his voice hazy, as if a cloud had suddenly covered the warmth of that day. He looked around at the growing congregation. "We have to get him to a hospital."
"He's not breathing, John. I don't think he's breathing!" Mom exclaimed as Dad bent over and listened.
"Is there a doctor?" Matt yelled and then ran through the growing crowd, even stopping at the cars stalled in the train of traffic. "We need a doctor! Are you a doctor?" Matt banged on car windows as he ran farther and farther away from us.
"Heal him, God," Dad said softly. I thought Dad should remind God that He had a Son, too. I really wanted to pray with him, but the only thing I could remember from Sunday school was the Twenty-Third Psalm, which began with "The Lord is my shepherd" and had that scary line about the valley of the shadow of death.
A fire truck, the sheriff, then finally an ambulance arrived in quick succession. A woman with red hair kept repeating, "He was in his dad's arms." One officer took her aside to question her while another officer talked to the woman from the blue car. The men from the white ambulance broke our circle and dispersed the crowd, then huddled over Joel, blocking our view. Not a minute later, one man stepped back and announced, "He's got to go now."
"I want to go with him," Dad said as a man in a uniform placed Joel on a cot in the back of the wagon.
"Don't leave me, Dad!" I cried, choking on the forgotten melting caramel.
"I've got to go," Dad said as he released my grip.
"I'm going, too," Mom cried.
"Your husband's been hit," one officer said, pointing to Dad, who stood with his weight on one leg. "He needs to go with your son, ma'am," the man explained. "You can ride in the sheriff's car with her." He pointed at me. Mom stood, slack-mouthed, as they helped Dad into the ambulance.
"Where's Matt?" I asked, suddenly feeling strangely alone. I looked across the faces and trail of cars. "Where's Matt?" I repeated more urgently. "Wait for Matt!" I screamed, but nobody was listening.
"Where are they taking him?" Mom asked, and then I realized we didn't know the way. We were strangers here. And where was Matt?
"St. Luke's," the officer said, "Bellingham." But where was that? They slammed shut the back of the ambulance.
As the siren screamed and the wheels turned, I saw Matt running to catch the ambulance, knowing he had been left behind.
And suddenly it was over and they were gone, leaving Mom and Matt and me standing there in the summer sun, by the side of the road, which was so very hot on our bare feet.CHAPTER 2
I've always wondered if Joel heard our prayers as we stood over him on that sidewalk.
When we arrived at the hospital, we ran into the emergency room looking for Dad. A nurse at the main desk took us to a waiting room, where we stood around until a doctor arrived. Mom studied his face and then slowly shook her head as she backed away from him.
"No, no, no!" she said, louder and louder, as if she could make it not true.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. McAndrews." And then the doctor turned to Matt and me. His eyes looked sad.
"No!" Mom cried out. "Don't say that. He was just here! He was fine! The car wasn't going that fast!" Her voice pleaded as she gasped for breath.
"His head struck the windshield and then the road," the doctor continued. "The brain injury was more than he could survive. He never suffered," he added, as if that would make us feel better.
Matt slipped out the door and I didn't know if I should go to him or stay with Mom. Mom sat down and began to sob so loudly I couldn't hear myself cry.
Joel is dead, Joel is dead, Joel is dead. I couldn't believe it. I started shivering, and I couldn't make myself stop. Was it my wet bathing suit or was the hospital so cold? I smelled like salt water. My hands tingled and I shook them back to life.
"Where's my husband?" Mom's voice was paper thin.
"They're treating his leg," the doctor answered.
Mom stood shakily and staggered. I rushed to steady her.
"Oh, Abby." She wrapped her arms around me. I held her and she held on to me, and I never wanted to let go of her again.
The doctor waited and then escorted Mom into the second room down the hallway. He talked with Mom and Dad in Joel's room while Matt and I sat outside the door on folding chairs. I could feel wet sand grind against smooth metal. When I took Matt's hand, he didn't pull away.
I watched the sterile black-and-white clock on the wall, the second hand circling and the minute hand shifting almost imperceptibly. I could anticipate each subtle movement. How long would they stay in there?
When the minute hand had moved more than seventy-two times and I had stopped counting, the door opened.
A doctor pushed a man in a wheelchair. It was my dad in a blue robe, but not really my dad because he didn't seem to notice us. I don't know what he was staring at. I started to say something, then closed my mouth.
"Dad," Matt said as he slid his hand from mine and stood. But Dad didn't turn. At last Matt put his hand on Dad's shoulder and Dad turned to look. That face is the one I don't want to remember. A rope of fear tightened across my chest. I could hold Mom's sadness, but Dad's grief was overwhelming. He seemed broken in a way I wasn't sure could be fixed. The clock behind Dad now read 4:27, and then the hands blurred with my tears as I watched them wheel Dad down the hall.
I wanted the day to be over. But then again, if the day was over, my brother was really dead. Today Joel had been alive. If only we could go backward, our afternoon would be morning and we'd wake up and Joel would say, "Get up and play with me, Bee!" and this would not be happening.
When we returned to the cabin, Mom rummaged through our suitcases, laying out Joel's clothing on the bed. The little suit from the wedding, another pair of overalls, a few shirts and shorts.
"I don't know," she said. "I just don't know."
Neither did I. What was she doing?
"They asked what we wanted him to wear ..." Her voice drifted off. I picked up the suit and threw it back in the suitcase. Definitely not that. Then Matt removed the shirt with the scratchy tag on the back. We were left with a T-shirt and Joel's blue overalls.
That night we went to bed with our clothes on. Now there were just four of us. This was our family. I closed my eyes and then quickly opened them, staring at the ceiling for so long my eyes felt dry. My stomach growled. We hadn't eaten since the candy, but I wasn't hungry. My mind would not stop. Oh, to sleep and never wake up.
"You're having a nightmare!" Matt whispered as he shook me awake later that night. "No!" I cried out in a strange voice, the memory of yesterday rushing back. I had fallen asleep? I actually fell asleep even though my little brother had just died? How could I have fallen asleep?
In the other room my mother wept, a soft, haunting moan, accompanied by the unfamiliar sound of my dad's low, muffled sob. Whenever my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see Matt on the cot nearby, his eyes wide open, staring straight ahead. Somehow I wanted it to be a shared secret that we were all awake. As if that could be a secret.
Excerpted from Stars in the Grass by Ann Marie Stewart. Copyright © 2017 Ann Marie Stewart. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
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
Great story and characters.
This book explores different persons transition through grief of losing a loved one. How do you move on when you lose someone you loved? It was moving and even hit on God’s presence when going through loss.
This well-written novel really provided great insight into grief and how totally personal and different it manifests itself in each person. I usually have very little patience with people who withdraw into themselves and selfishly ignore the needs of others, so hopefully this story will help me to overcome my judgmental nature and be more empathetic. The story was very honest about the crises of faith that assail most of us in the dark nights of our lives, and was encouraging about the resolution and God's presence and acceptance of us no matter what.
Loved this book. Very real characters. Heart breaking and uplifting.
Definitely not a "for pleasure" read. This was a wonderful book but very emotional. The story is told from the viewpoint of a 9 year old girl who loses her baby brother to an accident. It's basically about how life went for the family of 4 left behind for the year after the accident. 4 people who had totally different experiences and the effects it had on the other 3. Highly recommend it for the serious reader. The story takes place during the 70's so it's also a little bit of a trip into the past. Well written, well developed characters, clean. It did have some religious discussion, but not preachy, more of the "Is God real and if so how did this happen" sort of stuff.
Stars in the Grass is an incredible loving heart tugging book. Abby is met up with something I hope and pray y'all don't go through it, but it is an all too familiar thing that happen to people on a daily basis. Abby's family is falling to pieces but not falling apart. They are Christians, her father is the Reverend and he is hiding away from GOD by just dealing with things by running, disappearing during his runs, having a hard time spreading the Word of GOD - his heart is in pieces. Then there is Abby's Mom who is trying to do everything for everyone to keep everyone together while she knows everything is falling to pieces and so is she. Who is going to take care of her if she is taking care of everyone else )how about GOD - lean on GOD - that is what I would do ) Then there is Abby's brother Matt who feels broken hearted and has withdrawn totally. He has locked up it all and threw away the key (accept there is one person who has that key - JESUS - AMEN?) He acts out by making friends who really aren't good friends, smoking and drugs, he hides from the one person who needs him the most - Abby. Everyone has become someone else and hopefully they all can adapt to the new selves and turn to lean on GOD before they lose each other for the bad. This book touches the heart on so many levels and my eyes haven't cried so much in a while. You get so emotionally attached to the characters and that is due to the credit of the author. Will the family grow together again? Will they grow close to GOD again? I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I really liked this inspirational read. It's about a family that faces a tragedy. The family is on vacation and there is an accident and three-year-old Joel dies. The whole family is grieving but the book is told from nine-year-old Abby's perspective. It was an interesting read and I felt that the emotions and feelings of all the family was very realistic and well developed. I feel as though they could be my neighbors. I was happy that the family eventually grew stronger and moved on with life. Abby's dad was a pastor and he had real and understandable issues with God over Joel's death. I could understand his questions and feelings and they seem realistic. I especially liked the part where Abby discovered a tape recording of Joel's voice. It inspired me to order recordable picture frames for me and my husband so I will always have a recording of his voice. I will be looking for more books from this author. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
Stars in the Grass was a difficult book to read, emotionally. Not to say that it wasn't well written because it was; Anne Marie Stewart writes in such a way that you feel you are experiencing the situation first hand, not just reading about it. However, the story is painful - a family suffers a terrible tragedy that changes everyone. The remainder of the book follows their journeys through grief and mourning and attempting (rather poorly in many cases) to move on. Stars in the Grass made me consider the experience of a family grieving at different paces and in different ways, and still having to live with one another. What those relationships would be like after the event and how they would change is something I’d never really considered. Stars in the Grass often made me reflect on my own relationships and how I would feel if they changed in an instant. That said, the story was just sad and difficult. It reminded me of the Disney movie, Up. It's so tragic, right out of the gate, that you never really recover from it, despite the high points in the story later on. One thing I will commend the author for is her choice in narrator - nine-year-old Abby. Experiencing the loss through her eyes gave a gentle innocence and candor that helped me cope with the emotions of the story as it unfolded. Stars in the Grass was very well written but I recommend it with a warning. If you are going through a difficult season in your life, you may want to hold off. For fiction, this story touches you very deeply, and often, quite brutally. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
One idyllic summer ends in tragedy for the McAndrews family. Will they allow God to heal the painful places to make them whole again? Being the first ever book I’ve read by this author, I wasn’t familiar with her work. She quickly took me by surprise by how well-written this is! Told by the viewpoint of nine year old Abby, it was quite different but yet perfect for the feel of this novel. Her views of life are those from that awkward middle stage between no longer being a kid, but yet not quite a teenager either. She views life in that perfect age of innocence. Until that fateful day when everything changes and nothing is the same again. Seeing her family suffer under the weight of grief and guilt, she feels at a loss for what to do or feel herself. Watching the family seemingly unravel has a huge impact on how quickly she must grow up, as begrudging as she is to do it. There is a stage in their lives where there are more questions than answers for everyone. Even though they know Who the answer giver is, they are clouded by deep-seated grief and the inability to move forward. As ominous as this sounds, the author also portrays the healing gift of hope. Even if it is as small as the mustard seed at first, as I read further on, I began to see that seed slowly grow and flourish. This is not a book that sugar coats what it’s like to lose a loved one, or what each individual person will go through, or even how long it will take to overcome grief. This will tug at your heart, tearing it in two sometimes and making you want to reach out to put the pieces together for the McAndrews. I went through every imaginable emotion known to human kind, and from the beginning it drew me in like the fireflies they used to catch in the summer. I could hardly put this down, quickly devouring each page. This was never depressing, just a raw look at real life while giving glimpses of that hope in God. In the end, I think the family was stronger for having gone through the hard times…TOGETHER. They still had questions, but they were making huge strides on moving forward in His grace & mercy. Raw emotion, poignant, gritty real life, with hope poured over it all, I can’t recommend this enough. If you only read one book this year, make it “Stars in the Grass”! *I received a complimentary copy from Barbour Publishing. No review was required and all opinions expressed here are strictly my own.*
Stars in the Grass is a tender story of one family’s journey after a tremendous loss. Told by the nine year old daughter, Abby McAndrews, each member handles the tragedy with different emotions, actions, and faith in God. Abby’s curious mind, growing vocabulary, and sense of humor makes this book poignant, insightful, and moving. Abby’s dad, John is the minister of a Presbyterian church which adds to the dynamics of their upheaval as a family. The turmoil in their home is heightened by Abby’s brother’s secret escapades. “Dad frowned and exhaled slowly, the receiver in his hand. He was used to answering other people’s problems not phoning with the problem.” Doubt in God, anger, and grief fill their relationships with unexpected outcomes and may tear them apart. Will they find a way to pull together? What happens to a family whose loss is unimaginable? My heart ached for the McAndrews. Would they seek the God they thought they knew before tragedy hit? I hope you will chose to put Stars in the Grass on your “to be read” list. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review. I want to thank them for the opportunity to read this fine novel by Ann Marie Stewart!
Emotional and moving... Stars in the Grass By Ann Marie Stewart Abby McAndrews's world is perfect until one day. What should have been a happy time of making memories that would bring a smile for years to come becomes an event that could break not only her but her family forever. The summer of 1970 turns Abby's nine year old world upside down and she realizes all too clearly the fragility of life. This is a book that will touch the reader on an emotional level as Abby, her brother Matt, and her parents come to terms with the loss that they never expected and try to go from five to four. But the loss brings with it a lot of what-ifs. And a life of what-ifs brings feelings of guilt, anger, and fears. Stars in the Grass is the year that follows. As everyone deals with the loss differently Abby and Matt at time feel as if they have been lost to the dead - that they no longer matter and no one would hear them even if they knew had to express what they are feeling. This book will move you to tears, or at least make your eyes well as this family struggles. Though one could never say "I know what you are going through" one could at least be aware of the struggles and pain that one going through a similar situation might be experiencing. Highly recommend this book for those who want an emotional component to their reading. And it might be a good idea to have a few tissues nearby while reading. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Wow, what a story! I was sucked in from the beginning and didn't want to stop reading. The story is heartbreaking, funny, and sad, all at the same time, and is definitely worth the read. The story is about a family who experiences a tragedy; how and what they suffer, and wondering if they are going to survive as a family. I love the writing style, feeling like you were right there witnessing it all. The book was easy to read and seamless from chapter to chapter as the family stumbles along and tries to figure out how to move forward, wanting to but also too afraid. The story is told from the perspective of Abby, who is nine. She suffers and watches helplessly as her family is broken down and is seemingly going to be torn apart and destroyed by the pain. So many details are woven in and out of the story that you feel like you are Abby, things she knows, family traditions, and how she is lost. Each family member is working through the tragedy in their own way. Her father is a Pastor who can't preach, her mother is at first numb, but realizes she needs to go forward, her brother is angry and is headed for trouble. We watch it all through Abby's eyes. Even though this book sounds sad, it it not hopeless and it is not depressing, just a wonderful read. Throughout the book I was laughing and crying at the same time. Nine year olds are very honest and innocent. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
Set in a Midwestern town in the 1970s, this book portrays a captivating look at what life is like after loss. Grief looks different for each member of the family, and as nine-year-old Abby’s mother tries to move the family forward, her father remains immobilized by overwhelming sadness and sorrow. I especially enjoyed the voice of the narrator, nine-year-old Abby. Abby shows an honest and real portrayal of a young girl who has to deal with her own grief as well as watch her family slowly fall apart. The relationship with her brother Matt is touching and proves to be an anchor in the storm for them both. There are no easy answers in dealing with unexpected tragedy, but this novel shows the power of resiliency and moving through the sadness. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
When I received this book and saw the cover I was immediately swept back to my childhood on a lazy summer evening catching lightening bugs (I know it depends upon where you live whether you call them fireflies or lightening bugs.lol). The beautiful cover gives you a hint at the wonderful, but heart wrenching story inside. As the story opens I found the words and thoughts of 9 year old girl that resonated with my soul. Grief is a hard for anyone to deal with, but honestly when seen through the eyes of a child it is harder. The entire family goes through an incredible tragedy and each much find a way to deal with their turmoil. This is a story that can evoke both laughter and tears. I found myself thinking about the characters even as I closed the last page. It brings engaging characters that quickly weave their way into your heart with their real emotions. This story has elements of guilt, forgiveness, anger, faith and hope. I would recommend this book to anyone. ** I received this complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
The McAndrews family was enjoying their first family vacation. Life's simple pleasures and carefree time spent together were all that they needed. Then, the unthinkable happened and they endured a horrible tragedy and loss. The story is told through Abby's nine-year-old, perceptive, observant and compassionate voice. I loved the friendship that Abby and Rita shared. They weren't just playmates, but true best friends. They shared a perceptive, forgiving and accepting friendship. I enjoyed the character of Miss Patti. Even though she had quietly suffered a tremendous personal loss, she was able to reach out, love on and care for her hurting neighbors. Miss Patti reminded me of the value of "other moms" who are able to love "other children" as their own. This was a journey from a place of deep grief, guilt and sadness to a place of quiet rest, sweet comfort and re-discovered joy. This was about almost losing faith, but then finding it once again at the lighted end of a dark tunnel. Hope had snuck up on Abby and then spread to the rest of her family. Even though they were still hurting, there was room for hope. A wonderfully written, worthwhile and satisfying read. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
Set in a small Midwestern town in 1970, Stars in the Grass is permeated with an air of nostalgia. Abby McAndrews and her family are devastated by a tragedy, and as their story unfolds, each member wrestles with the heartache and grief in their own way. There were times when I found this narrative engaging and other times when I failed to connect with the characters and my interest waned. Despite my personal struggles, I have no doubt there are many who will enjoy this uniquely told tale of life, loss, and moving forward. I received a complimentary copy of this book. No review was required, and all thoughts expressed are my own.
Ann Marie Stewart tackles a difficult subject in this first-person account of a family tragedy. Her narrator, Abigail McAndrews, is 9 years old in 1970 when her three-year-old brother Joel is killed in a terrible accident while the family is vacationing. When they return to Ohio, the four remaining family members deal with the loss in widely different ways. Joel's father, the Reverend John McAndrews, minister at Bethel Springs First Presbyterian Church, goes on sabbatical--not just from his church but seemingly from his family and life as well. Mother, Renee, struggles to keep her family together while grieving. She resents her husband's ability to psychologically remove himself from their everyday lives and is worried about what will happen to them when they are no longer allowed to live in the parsonage. Matt, Joel's 15-year-old brother, rebels by missing school, abandoning his studies, and running around with friends that his sister suspects are bad for him. Mom and Dad, though, are too busy coping with the tragedy in their own ways to notice the change in their son. But perhaps the most intriguing character is Abigail. who alternates between guilt and grief. She sees her family members changing and feels helpless to change things. At times she wishes that Joel had never been born so that their suffering would not be happening, but that makes her feel even worse. She can't reconcile the father who used to run through the sprinkler and read Dr. Seuss with the man who now hides in the basement fixing clocks. She wants care and attention from her mother but realizes that her mother's loss may be the greatest of all. Abby wants to hold on to her relationship with her brother but is afraid that he'll make a mistake that could damage his future. Stars in the Grass is beautifully written. When I started reading it, I realized that the subject would be difficult but at the same time, I wanted to understand the journeys each family member takes in the horrible circumstances they face. Their relationships with God and with each other change dramatically and realistically as the novel progresses. I recommend this book very highly. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
Ann Stewart has well written a book that is thoughtful and compelling dealing with one of life's hardest moments . When life changes in the blink of an eye a family struggles to maintain control of their lives. A sensitive subject is handled with such compassion as Stewart works her way through detailing the different ways family members react to their new lives. "I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review." I highly recommend this book .
“And I remember that when the world seems most upside down, sometimes, if you look, you can see stars in the grass.” And so Ann Marie Stewart ends her novel, “Stars in the Grass.” This is a novel that cannot be read light-heartedly because it carries deep messages. It is a slow moving story, and yet it must be read slowly to absorb all the lessons contained. It is a story of a family falling apart and being put back together; of lost faith and faith found again; of tragic loss and of God’s healing power. Set in 1970, nine-year-old Abby McAndrews tells the story of how she, her brother, her mother, and her father take very different paths to cope with the horrendous loss of her baby brother. Mrs. Stewart develops the characters so effectively that you feel that you should be able to reach in and shake some sense into them or hold them when they cry. If you are looking for a light-hearted, beach-reading book, this is NOT the book for you. However, if you want to read a book that will leave you pondering and questioning, a book that will touch your heart-strings, then I would recommend this book to you. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
Stars in the Grass, a debut novel written by Ann Marie Stewart, is a very powerful, emotional story. The story is told by a nine year old girl who's little brother died after being hit by a car while the family was on vacation. It is very sad to follow Abby through the first year after Joel's death. It was sad that the adults in her life were so wrapped up in their grief that they were not able to help their children with theirs. But there are also some funny parts to the story. I thought is was funny how Abby reacted to being taken along when Matt was practicing driving in the corn field. And when Matt wanted her to go with him as he followed their father on a run, to see where he went. One of the parts in the book that stands out the most to me is that Pastors are people that we look to when we are in need of help dealing with personal struggles. We often don't see them having to deal with their own struggles. The author does an awesome job bringing that point across in this story. Abby is struggling with having to sleep in the room she shared with Joel. She is afraid of what people at school are going to say. Her fifteen old brother Matt is acting out and hanging with a bad group of friends who get into trouble. Matt has started smoking and drinking and is even questioned for the burning of a church members building. Her father, who was the pastor at Bethel Springs First Presbyterian Church is not able to move on. He goes for a run everyday and does not tell his family where he goes. He is no longer able to fulfill his duties as pastor and the church gives him times to work through the grief. But he only has interest in working in the basement on clocks. Abby's mother, Renee is struggling with her loss as well as John and Matt's problems. Several months after Joel's death, Renee starts working for her neighbor who does tax returns. Not being able to deal with the break down of her and John's relationship, she and Abby move in with the neighbor. I received a copy of this book from Barbour Publishing. I have chosen to write this honest review.
Stars in the Grass is the first book I have read by Ann Marie Stewart. A wonderful novel about love and loss and forgiveness. The story of little nine year old Abby and the thinking we most all have everything is good in the world and always will be. Abby world is turned upside down that year from a very tragic accident. Everything is always good for Christians and for pastors right wrong we all can break. Ann Marie writes this story very well at times I though it was parts of my own life. Mine to was a brother. There is no set time for grieving each of us has to go through it in our own way and time. I thought Ann Marie did very well with this topic. Life is very fragile we need to handle like a delicate treasure. Great story well written. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.
This book is a plus for me because it's told in 1st person and that would be 9 year old Abby. This book is very emotional and will have you crying in most places of the book as the family struggles through the death of a loved one. Abby and Matt took it the hardest especially Abby. I felt like they left her out of everything as each one tried to grieve on their own. I can relate to Abby in many ways. Grief strikes each person differently and grief has no time. Like Abbys dad says there is a place and time for everything and a time to heal and a time for growth. He also said that God didn't run away from him, He ran away from God. I think in some ways God was tryingto teach him a lesson becausehe uswd to bave all the answers. But, when tragedy happens he suddenly doesn't have all the answers and he doesnt know how to handle it all. Renee is stuck in between and isnt sure what to do next. It seems she has moved on but yet not moved on. It seems as if she's waiting on something. Time heals all wounds but sometimes it doesn't. There are 5 stages of grief but I've forgotten what they are and maybe this family did go through those five stages. I can relate to this book in many ways because I have lost loved ones too. I recommend this book very strongly. This story is in mid western Ohio town in the 1970's. I grew up in this time period and was an instant hit for me. I was 3 in 1970
This story steals your heart right from the beginning. I loved that it was told through the eyes of a young girl as this is the most innocent of perspectives. While the loss of a child is such a sad thing what is heartening in this story is how family and friends kept coming back baring their souls to help support the family and bring them back to faith. They shared their stories and losses and perspectives which required them to relive it. It rings so true that it is hard to review as a fictional story. While the story is a difficult one it is filled with lessons of love and the restoration of faith. A good read.
Stars in the Grass, a debut novel written by Ann Marie Stewart, was a challenging read, but only because the writing was so well done. The story centers around 9-year old Abby and her family as they deal with the aftermath of a family tragedy. Told through the eyes of Abby, we see how each person in the family reacts differently to this tragedy, and the reader is taken on an emotional roller coaster while reading this book. This book is raw and real, and I truly got the sense that I myself was experiencing what they were going through. Ann Marie Stewart has done a remarkable job writing a story that many can relate to~perhaps not the same tragedy, but the process of reassembling a life after a tragedy, a life that now looks very different. While I normally gravitate to easy~to~read and light~hearted books, once in a while I like to dive deeper into the human experience and read books that show their characters struggling with the same things we all struggle with, namely: our own thoughts, the reality and presence of God and why certain things still happen despite God being sovereign, how to find strength to endure at times. This book offers a realistic and beautiful portrait of the resiliency and tenacity of the human spirit, and the reality that even in the darkest of moments, God is still there, sometimes behind the scenes. I heartily recommend this wonderful story! **I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.