The Splendor of Ordinary Days

The Splendor of Ordinary Days

by Jeff High

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Overview

Readers of Jan Karon’s Mitford series and Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series will fall in love with Jeff High’s funny, heartfelt Watervalley series.

The pastoral charm of small-town Watervalley, Tennesse, can be deceptive, as young Dr. Luke Bradford discovers when he’s caught in the fallout of a decades-old conflict…


After a rocky start as Watervalley’s only doctor, Luke Bradford has decided to stay in town, honoring the three-year commitment he made to pay off his medical school debts. But even as his friendships with the quirky townsfolk deepen, and he pursues a romance with lovely schoolteacher Christine Chambers, several military veterans’ emotional wounds trigger anger and unrest in Watervalley.

At the center of the clash is the curmudgeonly publisher of the local newspaper, Luther Whitmore. Luther grew up in Watervalley, but he returned from combat in Vietnam a changed man. He fenced in beautiful Moon Lake, posting “Keep Out” notices at the beloved spot, and provokes the townspeople with his incendiary newspaper.  
 
As Luke struggles to understand Luther’s past, and restore harmony in Watervalley, an unforeseen crisis shatters a relationship he values dearly. Suddenly Luke must answer life’s toughest questions about service, courage, love, and sacrifice.

CONVERSATION GUIDE INCLUDED

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698187825
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/06/2015
Series: A Novel of Watervalley , #3
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 202,619
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

After growing up on a farm in rural Tennessee, Jeff High attained degrees in literature and nursing. He is the three-time winner, in fiction and poetry, of an annual writing contest held by Vanderbilt Medical Center. He lived in Nashville for many years, and throughout the country as a travel nurse, before returning to his original hometown, near where he now works as an operating room RN in open-heart surgery. He is the author of the Watervalley novels, including More Things in Heaven and Earth and Each Shining Hour.

Read an Excerpt

PRELUDE

Watervalley, Tennessee. July 5, 1968

The ring of the bell was hard and furious, piercing the night and shattering the quiet depths of the small hours. It rang with a shrill quality of urgency and menace, hammering savagely, relentlessly, permeating the stagnant, suffocating air of the empty streets and shadowed lawns. The clanging brutally woke him from the oblivion of sleep. He leapt from his bed and ran to the window, anticipating an orange glow from the nearby downtown, but there was none. The fire was somewhere in the countryside.

He dressed quickly and ran downstairs. The kitchen light was on, his mother waiting. She stood by with folded arms and a pale, ghostly face of tacit worry. As he rushed to the front door, her timid voice followed him with the familiar words of caution. He stopped, walked back to her, and kissed her on the cheek. “It’s your big day. I’ll come back safe.”

The blistering, brassy tongue of the bell continued as he sprinted the three blocks to the fire hall. One by one, the houses along the street were lighting up. Out from the dark vault of night, the town was coming alive.

At the firehouse, the pump truck was already out on the pavement, poised to charge forward. It was a spectacle of bulk and power, a rolling fortress of steel and rails and magnificent lights. The great engine was idling, forcing the warm night air to shudder and vibrate. Men were running, shouting, rushing to grab their gear, bumping chaotically against one another in a furious effort to slide into coats and boots. And above the roar and confusion was the thunderous voice of the fire chief. Standing on the rear mount bumper of the truck, he was yelling for them to come, now, now, now.

Eighteen and nimble, he was the youngest in the volunteer service. He moved among them effortlessly, geared up quickly, and was one of the first to mount the ride bumper on the side of the truck. He stepped on and grabbed the rail. As the others arrived, they regarded him with astonishment, questioning him.

“What are you doing here? Don’t you leave in the morning?”

Sleep didn’t matter to him. It would be a long bus ride to Fort Polk. He could rest on the way. Vietnam would still be there.

­Half-­suited men were still clumsily chasing the truck as it began to pull away, launching itself with the slow ebbing wail of the long siren. The truck accelerated quickly. The ride was wild, noisy, insane. He held the rail firmly, his heart pounding.

Soon they left behind the sterile streetlights of downtown and were bounding headlong into the black and desolate countryside. Men were shouting, trying to be heard above the deafening blow of the wind and the siren.

“Where is it?”

Another man answered above the din. “Out Gallivant’s Crossing. Some farmer called it in.”

The words shook him. This was an odd, sobering coincidence. He had returned from Gallivant’s Crossing only a few hours earlier. He tightened his grip against the reckless and exhilarating lunges of the turns. They rode on, the truck pitching and heaving, slinging them in unison.

Someone shouted into the howling noise. “Is it a house?”

An answer came from someone down the line. “Not sure.”

They turned onto Gallivant’s Crossing and drove for several miles into the rolling hills and thick woods where only a few isolated farms dotted the vast black landscape. There the world slept, illuminated by a solitary barnyard light that cast its frail luster into the shadows. These ­far-­flung islands of life seemed soundless, timeless, blissfully removed from the surge and clamor of the wailing truck. They roared onward, into the uncertain darkness.

He knew this road. And with each mile, each hill, each turn, his heart began to sink slowly within him, flooding him with dread.

Surely not there, he thought to himself. Surely not the cottage.

The truck slowed, its driver in doubt of the fire’s location. They topped the last hill before Mercy Creek Road, and the glow in the near distance was easily discerned. The truck made the tight turn down the narrow chert road and advanced with what speed it could toward the blaze. Trees crowded the sides of the lane, their branches brushing against the men.

One of them shouted out, “This isn’t right, boys. We’re on the fringe of Mennonite country. What are we doing here?”

A cry came back. “Putting out a fire, you idiot.”

“You watch, genius. They won’t let us get close.”

The truck emerged from the trees as the lane cleared on the left to a small flat meadow tucked neatly between nearby hills. The massive engine turned onto the long drive and stopped. One hundred yards ahead, lighting up the night sky, was a small frame house, burning furiously. They could see dozens of shouting men. His thoughts raced. Why had the truck stopped?

The men began to step off and gather in small groups, staring at the distant blaze. The fire chief walked leisurely down the drive. Two men in ­broad-­brim hats came to meet him. After a short discussion, the chief walked back.

“False alarm, boys. They’ve got a bucket brigade going from a pond out back. They’re just going to let the fire burn itself out and water down the perimeter to keep it from getting into the field.”

“Anybody hurt?”

“Nah. Apparently the house was empty. They only use it for storage.”

The chief turned and stared at the fire for a moment. “We’ll stay for a bit . . . just stand by at the ready in case it gets out of hand.” He paused and shook his head. “You know these Mennonite boys. They don’t like outsiders getting involved, even if it’s for their own good.”

He stared at the chief and stood silently, his nauseating panic slowly replaced by a sullen, bitter resentment. He knew all about this abandoned house, but he said nothing. He only watched. He knew who had started the fire, and he knew why.

And he wasn’t the only one.

For decades, they would keep their silence, blinded by their anger.

CHAPTER 1

Memorial Day, Watervalley, Tennessee

As a doctor, I tend not to be superstitious.

I don’t believe in ghosts, or that eating an apple a day will keep you well, or that a rabbit’s foot will bring good luck, unless you’re a rabbit.

However, numbers might be the exception. I’ve come to think of certain numbers as lucky, others not. For me, six is an unlucky number, seven can go either way, and the luckiest number of all is three.

But that notion changed on Memorial Day. During my frantic rush to the softball field to save Toy McAnders’s life, I painfully recalled my med school professor’s lecture about the Rule of Threes. This was the lecture about death.

On average, the human body can live for three weeks without food, three days without water, and three hours after subthermal exposure. These lousy situations share one small positive. Typically, they don’t involve panic. The mind has time: time to process, to plan, to hope.

Lack of oxygen is a different matter. The “game over” bell on an ­oxygen-­deprived body is about three minutes. It terrifies us. We panic. It’s in our DNA.

And panic is contagious. Watching someone desperately gasp for breath creates a sympathetic physical response. It’s automatic. . . . Heart rate and respiration accelerate, pupils dilate, skin perspires, and panicked people tend to talk in ­high-­pitched gibberish. Understanding them is like trying to have a conversation with Flipper. Unfortunately, being a doctor doesn’t make you immune.

So as I was heading out the door on that Memorial Day afternoon, I was thinking about barbecued ribs and fireworks and the beautiful smile awaiting my arrival. The ring of my cell phone changed everything.

“Dr. Bradford! Oh, thank God! He can’t breathe! How soon can you get here?”

Startled, I blurted my response. “Hello, hello, who is this?”

“It’s Sarah, Sarah McAnders. I . . . Help us. Can you come! He can’t breathe!”

“Sarah! Slow down. Who can’t . . . Where are you?”

“At the softball park. He’s not breathing, Dr. Bradford. He’s choking! Oh my God! What do we do?”

I began to run toward my car.

“Who are we talking about? Who’s choking? Is it Sam?” Sarah was the young mother of a ­one-­year-­old son.

“No, no. It’s Toy! The softball . . . His throat . . . It hit his throat! Where are you?”

I was trying to keep calm, stay focused, but a dozen thoughts were fumbling through my head and the blasted car wouldn’t start. I looked down and realized I was trying to use my house key in the ignition. Like I said, panic is contagious.

“Sarah, how long ago did it happen?”

“Just now! I mean, l don’t know. Maybe a minute ago!”

If this was correct, it was the only spark of good news. Toy was her husband, a strong athletic man in his ­mid-­twenties. I looked at my watch. The softball park was five minutes away. My hope was that Toy’s windpipe wasn’t completely closed. That would buy me time.

“Sarah, I’m on my way. I’m going to hang up and call the EMTs. I’ll get there as fast as I can. Do you understand?”

“Yes! Yes! I think so. Please hurry!”

I squealed onto Fleming Street.

A quick phone call got the EMTs at the fire station moving. They would be only a minute behind me. This was the hazard of being the sole physician in a remote Tennessee town. When emergencies occurred, there was no bench of reserve players. With my staff nurse out of town, the EMTs and I were it.

Fortunately, the softball park was a direct shot out Shiloh Road, set apart from the downtown, away from either one of Watervalley’s two traffic lights. I put my emergency flashers on and pressed hard on the gas pedal. I needed to calm myself, to think clearly. I ran various scenarios through my head, trying to anticipate what I would do upon my arrival. I checked my watch. A minute and a half had passed.

The air passage to the lungs, the larynx, is made of flexible rings and typically bounces back . . . unless the impact crushes it along with the hyoid bone, better known as the Adam’s apple. In that case, there are hemorrhaging and swelling that force the airway closed. But swelling takes time, and time was what I, and Toy McAnders, needed.

The damnable Rule of Threes was hounding me.

There was little traffic. I managed to pass one or two cars. Thankfully, a few pulled over to let me by, recognizing my Corolla with its flashing lights. Again I checked my watch. Two and a half minutes had passed. I might just make it.

Then, everything stopped.

After rounding a curve less than a half mile from the ballpark, I had to slam on the brakes to keep from ­rear-­ending the car in front of me. Stretched in a long line ahead was a row of vehicles at a complete standstill.

It was unthinkable. Traffic jams simply didn’t happen in Watervalley, and yet at this ­ill-­timed moment, that was what lay before me. The road ahead curved with woods on either side, limiting my vision. This made no sense. There were no police sirens, and dispatch at the fire station hadn’t mentioned anything.

I pulled the Corolla into the vacant oncoming lane. After a hundred yards, I had rounded the curve far enough to see the problem. Ahead was a flatbed truck stopped in the middle of the road. Strewn everywhere were slatted wooden crates, each the size of a large suitcase. Some were flipped sideways, some upended, some busted. All were filled with chickens. Stacked and strapped onto the truck bed, the crates had apparently come undone and spilled over the road and shoulder, completely blocking traffic.

Volunteers were casually helping the farmer reload the crates. I laid on my horn as I approached. From around the corner of the truck, heads appeared with irritated faces at the impatient honking. A couple of men recognized me and began to walk toward my approaching car.

“What’s going on, Doc?”

“You gotta let me through, fellows. There’s an emergency at the ballpark.”

They exchanged glances and immediately ran back toward the others.

“Make a hole, boys! Doc needs to get by!”

Time came to a standstill. I tapped my finger rapidly on the steering wheel, and in those dead seconds of waiting, I started to feel that ­heavy-­throated, sickening apprehension that everything was going south. Panic was overtaking me, screaming into my consciousness. Too much time! Too much time!

By now the EMT van was behind me. Six minutes had passed since Sarah’s call, twice the threshold of the Rule of Threes. I was sweating, short of breath, consumed with a nauseating reality: Toy McAnders was probably dead.

I finally passed through, accelerated down the ballpark entrance, and pulled directly onto the field, where a large crowd circled the pitcher’s mound. The EMT van followed. I slammed on my brakes, burning long ruts in the grass. In one fluid motion I grabbed my physician’s bag and was out the car door, running headlong toward the center of the crowd. Instinctively people moved aside, availing a large opening. I halted in midstep three feet away from Toy, stunned at the sight before me.

Toy McAnders was seated on the ground against a stack of athletic bags. Protruding from the small of his throat were two large drinking straws. Sarah was standing beside him, a hand covering her mouth. A woman I had never met was on her knees next to Toy, calmly giving him instructions. Blood covered the front of his shirt, but he was alive.

The woman was intermittently dabbing a cloth around the tracheal opening made in Toy’s neck, trying to check the bleeding. The setup was gruesome and unnatural looking. He had a weak consciousness and was struggling to breathe. But he was alive.

I dropped to a knee on Toy’s opposite side.

“I’m Dr. Bradford.”

The woman, who looked to be in her ­mid – to late thirties, nodded and continued to address Toy’s mild bleeding as she spoke.

“This fellow looked away after a pitch, and the softball caught him square in the throat. Smacked him pretty hard. At the ­four-­minute mark, he lost consciousness. I made an incision over the suprasternal notch and a lateral incision into the trachea, enough to get the two straws inserted. From what I can tell, heart rate is about one twenty, jugular pressure seems good, respirations are around thirty. It looks bad, but I estimate only about thirty milliliters of blood loss. I had to use my pocketknife, so he’ll need an antibiotic. He lost consciousness for about ninety seconds, long enough for me to insert the straws.”

She wore jeans and a T-shirt. She was small in size but athletic looking with brownish blond hair cropped in a pageboy. She had methodically given me a thorough medical ­report—­clearly something she had done before.

By now the EMTs, Clarence and Leonard, were beside me with the gurney. We quickly lifted Toy onto it and into the van, where we could fully monitor him for transport to Regional Hospital in the next county.

Once Toy was loaded, I turned to the woman, extending my hand. “We haven’t met.”

“Karen.”

She didn’t offer a last name. “Nice work, Karen. You probably saved his life.”

She pursed her lips and nodded.

Clarence called out to let me know they were ready to go. I turned and spoke briefly to him. When I turned back to Karen, she had been absorbed into the crowd.

I tossed my car key to a fellow I knew and asked him to move the Corolla to the parking lot. “Leave the key in the ignition,” I said. “If I’m lucky, someone will steal it.” I hustled to the ambulance, and we took off.

During the ride, Sarah McAnders explained what had happened. After Toy’s collapse, amidst all the panic and shouting, the mysterious Karen had appeared from the crowd and spoken calmly.

“Ma’am. If you’ll let me, I can save him.”

At the time, I didn’t know anything about Karen. None of the EMTs knew of her either. But something in the way she carried herself: something about her orderly manner in the face of such a traumatic event, gave me a clue.

CHAPTER 2

The Clinic

Nobody liked Luther Whitmore, including me. He didn’t have anything nice to say to, or about, anybody. He’d as soon spit on them.

Nevertheless, during a medical exam, I always try to look past the hard exterior that people sometimes exhibit. With me, they have to be honest, open, vulnerable . . . and it scares them.

So every time Luther visited me at the clinic, I approached him with this simple, accommodating ­mind-­set. I would patiently hear him out. I would listen, and assess, and look: into his ears, into his eyes, and into his soul. And I always came to the same conclusion. He was a mean jackass . . . no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Nope, I didn’t like him.

He was also the owner and editor of the local newspaper.

Luther came to the clinic on the Tuesday afternoon following Memorial Day. Admittedly, I didn’t want to be there. Outside, it was a cosmic, perfect day, and I was yearning to be part of it. The valley and surrounding hills were displaying the last of a glorious spring. Everywhere the landscape was painted in rich, thick hues of green, the flowers were at their pinnacle, and a sweet, intoxicating breeze floated in the air.

Throughout the day, I had stolen moments to step out the clinic’s back door and absorb what I could of this splendid existence. I couldn’t get enough of it. But the clinic staff giggled at me behind my back. They knew the real reason for my exalted state. I was in love, floating euphorically, and eager to be with her at day’s end.

First, however, I had to deal with Luther.

I had been told that in his youth, Luther was a strong, powerful athlete. Now, he was a tall specter of a man with a large, bald head, prominent nose, and pointed chin. His face was invariably framed in a sour sneer, accentuated by bushy eyebrows that hung gloomily over the deep sockets of his eyes. He gazed upon the world like a vulture, hungry for the next victim of his critical tongue. Luther’s only virtue was his penchant for truthful, unbiased reporting. Then again, Watervalley was not a hotbed of scandal, given that the majority of the police reports involved parking violations.

So, I took a deep breath, rose from my office chair, and proceeded across the hall to exam room one, which now could be appropriately thought of as the lair of the dragon.

“Hello, Doctor. ’Bout damn time.”

And so it began.

“Nice salutation, Luther. And just when I thought you couldn’t get any cuddlier.”

There was a weak knock on the door followed by the timid entrance of Nancy Orman, the clinic’s kind and corpulent office manager.

“Sorry, Dr. Bradford, sorry. I just need to get this cart out of here.” She proceeded to grab the small supply bin used to stock the exam rooms. I stepped aside as she snatched it and backed out the door. All of this fell under Luther’s leering scrutiny.

“Humph. A woman that big ought to make a beeping sound when she backs up.”

I rewarded him with stiff silence as I perused his chart. Luther got the message.

He sat on the exam table, looking straight ahead, regarding me out of the corner of his eye. When he spoke, his curdled tone smacked more of inquisition than inquiry.

“You still got the gate key to the lake, Doc?”

He was referring to Moon Lake, a small slice of heaven that sat atop a treeless hill in the northern part of the county. The property had belonged to Luther’s family for generations. But when Luther had inherited it forty years ago, he’d had it fenced, padlocked, and posted with no-trespassing signs. Why, no one knew. It was a grand and curious mystery. Even though I shared the burning curiosity about why Luther had so spitefully closed off Moon Lake, I had held on to my inquiries for a simple reason. I enjoyed a special status with respect to Watervalley’s most enchanted spot. I had a key.

Several months back, in a rare act of kindness after I had helped cure him of hemorrhoids, Luther had lent me the key. Something in this exchange seemed symbolically in keeping with his personality.

“I do have the key. You want it back?”

“Nah, keep it. Just don’t let anybody in there to fish. You’re too much on the wussy side to be much of a fisherman yourself. Doubt you could do much damage on that account.”

“Yeah, sure. Anyway, I, uh, I appreciate your letting me have it. It’s a nice place to visit from time to time.”

“Well, if you want to turn that gratitude into something tangible, you could have the place bush hogged. It’s getting pretty overgrown.”

I continued studying his chart, speaking vacantly. “Bush hogging is not exactly in my wheelhouse, Luther.”

He rubbed his chin, still regarding me with a tired disdain. “Yeah, I figured. Eh, don’t worry about it. Just a thought.”

“So, Luther, are you still smoking?”

“I’m down to two packs a day.”

“And how’s your alcohol consumption?”

“Not more than a fifth a night.”

“Hmm. I see. And last time you were here, I gave you a ­low-­cholesterol-­diet plan. How have you been doing with that?”

“I tried it for a couple of days and decided to hell with it.”

“Nice.”

“Hey, look. I still don’t drink coffee. There ought to be some points for that. All coffee does is make people do stupid things faster and with more energy.”

“Tell me, Luther. Do you lie awake at night just waiting for a heart attack to happen?”

He glared at me with poorly masked contempt. “Ah, get off my back, Doc. You and I both know that except for my cholesterol, my annual physical and blood work last year weren’t that bad. Passed my stress test, had a clean colonoscopy, and no prostate issues. I’m fit as a damn fiddle.”

The worst part of Luther’s venomous response was that he was right. Simply put, Luther had excellent genes. If med school had taught me anything, it was that poor genes were almost impossible to fix and great genes were hard to mess up. Lifestyle is a huge factor in good health, but genetics is the trump card. Despite his deplorable habits, Luther’s DNA had made him ridiculously bulletproof. He even had good teeth. And, true to form, he was pretty arrogant about all of it.

I exhaled and offered him a thin smile. For the life of me, I didn’t get Luther. I couldn’t understand his rotten nature. Continued coaching would be pointless.

“I heard you and the Chambers girl are dating?”

My answer was clipped. “That would be correct.”

“Well, good for you. She’s kind of a looker. Women are enough of a pain in the ass. They shouldn’t be ugly on top of that. The ones that are should just stay home.”

“Sounds like the making of a great editorial.”

Luther grunted in response. My mind went immediately to his ex-wife, Claire. They had no children and had recently divorced. She was another odd chapter in Luther’s story.

Claire was from California. They met and married when he lived there for a couple of years after serving in Vietnam. Claire was actually a lovely, engaging soul. Given Luther’s hard personality, people wondered what in the world Claire could have been thinking when she married him and why it took her forty years to divorce him. Most folks concluded that instead of California, they had met on a deserted island with no hope of rescue. That would explain Claire’s impulsive decision. Either that, or she had a mother she wanted to get back at.

Luther spoke with an air of barely concealed contempt. “By the way, what was the Mennonite fellow doing here?”

He was referring to a patient I had treated earlier. Luther had likely seen the man departing. A modestly sized Mennonite community bordered the northern part of the county.

“Luther, I think that comes under the ‘none of your business’ category.”

“Humph, seems a little out of place. Maybe the ­black-­hat boys should just pray a little harder.”

“I see. And you know this from experience?”

Luther turned to me with a lecherous grin, quoting scripture. “‘If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians.’”

“You know, Luther, somehow when you quote Exodus, it doesn’t have the same appeal as when my pastor does.” I had been quick to respond, but even I had to admit that considering he was such a jerk, Luther’s knowledge of scripture was impressive. I refocused the conversation.

“So, what brings you here today?”

“My eyes. I seem to be losing vision in the center.”

Finally, here was one thing about Luther that I did understand. Loss of central vision is the hallmark of macular degeneration, a disease that causes blindness in the middle of the visual field, leaving only peripheral vision. This would explain Luther’s constant glancing from the side and perhaps even the ­higher-­than-­normal acidity in his remarks.

I did a thorough eye exam, including a test called the Amsler Grid. My suspicions proved correct. Luther had early onset of the disease. I prescribed some medications and recommended a strict follow-up schedule. In spite of Luther’s noncompliance on all of my other medical recommendations, I gathered he would be diligent with this plan of care. Luther wasn’t dumb or lazy. He was just mean.

And so it was I witnessed the first chink in the armor of Luther Whitmore’s seemingly infallible genetics. Age and disease were a great leveler of the arrogant, and perhaps in the months ahead, I would be seeing a humbler, kinder version of Luther.

Then again, I doubted it.

In either case, actually liking him would remain a monumental task.

As he departed, I was thinking how pleasant it would be if Luther was abducted by aliens. Who ­knew—­maybe he already had been. That would explain a lot.

It was nearing five, and I was expecting Christine, my beloved and beautiful girlfriend, to arrive at any minute. She had called earlier to tell me she had some exciting news and would drop by after work.

I returned to my office to gather my things, including a medical journal with an article I wanted to read. It was somewhere in the stack of magazines I’d tossed on the floor behind my desk. I was bent down on one knee looking for it when there was a simultaneous knock and opening of my office door, the typical entry of Nancy Orman.

“You have a visitor, Doctor.”

I continued thumbing through the journals, thinking it odd that she would announce Christine. “Sure, send her in. I’m expecting her.”

I was engrossed in looking for that blasted article, still on my knees behind my desk, when I heard the door open again. I spoke without looking up. “Hey, beautiful. Want to go grab some dinner?”

Christine didn’t immediately respond, and there was nothing but stale silence in the room. So, I turned and peered over my desk.

Gazing down at me with a rather confused expression was Karen, the woman I had met at the ballpark the previous day. “Well, thanks for the offer, but I’ve already got a date with the Laundromat.”

CHAPTER 3

A New Doctor

I stood immediately, hastily endeavoring to recover some portion of my dignity. “Oh, hi. Well, this is awkward. Sorry. I was expecting someone else.”

She offered a cautious smile. “Yeah, I think I had that one figured out. Hope I’m not interrupting anything important?”

“No, not at all. I was just finishing for the day. I, um . . . I don’t think I caught your full name yesterday.”

“It’s Davidson. Karen Davidson.” She extended her hand in a crisp, exacting manner, and we shook firmly. She was attired in weathered but ­well-­creased khaki pants and a rather frilly white blouse. The two items didn’t quite go together . . . as if she had started to play dress up and had then given up on the idea.

“I came by to introduce myself. Actually, it’s Dr. Karen Davidson. I’m a veterinarian. I’ve bought out what was left of Dr. Ingram’s practice. I’m going to be here ­full-­time.”

“Well, congratulations and welcome to Watervalley.” Charlie Ingram was Watervalley’s only veterinarian, but he lived in the neighboring county and held hours in a satellite office here only one day a week.

Karen nodded, her lips still pressed in a slightly nervous smile. “Thanks.”

“That was an incredible thing you did at the ballpark. I don’t believe I got a chance to thank you.”

“Oh, I just did, you know, what I thought I had to do.”

“I know Sarah McAnders wanted to get your name. She called some friends at the park during the ambulance ride, but no one could find you.”

Karen looked down sheepishly. “I left right afterward. It just, I don’t know. It just felt sort of odd when it was over, like everyone was staring at me.”

“I’m sure they were. What you did was rather heroic. . . . Pretty big news for a place like Watervalley. Matter of fact, you just missed Luther Whitmore, editor of the local newspaper. I bet he’d like to interview you.”

A cringe twisted her face as she inhaled through clenched teeth, making a slight hissing sound. “Are you talking about the fellow in the black suit I just saw in the parking lot?”

“Sounds right.”

“Gee, I thought he was a mortician. Just as well I missed him. Anyway, I don’t much care for the spotlight.”

“Yeah, that was Luther, all right. He’s not exactly Mr. Sunshine. But I’m sure the paper will want to do a write-up about having a new vet in town. I don’t think you will be able to avoid the spotlight completely.”

She nodded. “I’m okay with that. How’s the fellow from the ballpark doing?”

“Toy McAnders. He’s good. We took him to Regional Hospital. He’ll come home tomorrow.”

I studied her for a moment and decided to pry further. “So, how long have you been in town?”

“I actually just arrived yesterday morning. I’m staying over at the B and B till my stuff arrives.” She fell silent, seemingly unsure of what to say next. I spoke again in an accommodating voice.

“I have to admit, Karen, I’m a little curious. I’m guessing vet school didn’t teach you how to do an emergency cricothy­rotomy?”

She shrugged. “Hardly. I was in the military for fifteen years. Army medic. I went to veterinary school after I got out. I graduated this spring.”

“Well, that explains a lot.” This news came as no big surprise. With her ramrod posture, crisp speech, and reserved manner, everything about Karen Davidson reflected the enamel of military service. I gauged her to be in her late thirties and, while she was a pleasant, modestly attractive woman, her short haircut and minimal, if any, makeup telegraphed that she was either uninterested or unpracticed in accentuating her feminine side. She was polite and plain and seemed content to remain so.

“Well, I have a ­lethargic ­but ­lovable male golden retriever who will be excited to know that you’ve arrived in town.”

“What’s his name?” There was a notable lift in her voice.

“Rhett. He’s an adopted stray. But he’s turned out to be quite a character.”

“They’re great hunting dogs, you know.”

“I’m sure that’s true for the breed in general, but I’m not so sure Rhett could get vicious with a bird or a rabbit. He’d probably just ­trash-­talk it a little and let it go at that.”

“Well,” she said warmly, “I look forward to meeting him.”

“So, I take it you’ve introduced yourself around town some. Have you been by the Farmers’ Co-op?”

“Yeah, I, um, I went by there earlier today and met a few of the guys. They were, well, polite.”

The trepidation in her answer was obvious. “I take it you have some reservations about how that went?”

She paused and scrutinized me for a moment, as if weighing what level of confidence she wanted to engage with me. “It was okay. I think they weren’t sure what to make of a woman my size taking on ­half-­ton cows and pulling calves. Nobody said anything, but I could read it in their eyes.”

“They can be a little ­tight-­lipped at first, but they’re good people. Just give it some time.”

Karen smiled faintly. “I hope so. The cat and dog business will probably pay the light bill, but it will take a fair amount of ­large-­animal practice to cover rent and food. Eating may be optional for a while.”

I liked Karen Davidson instantly, but she was an odd mix. Her skillful handling of the crisis the previous day attested to a ­self-­confidence that didn’t seem to translate to social settings. Nevertheless, she had an easy sense of humor, and I detected an inborn toughness. Her awkward mannerisms only added to her distinctive, albeit peculiar, charm. I was about to speak again, when there was a knock at the door. It was Christine.

“Hi, am I interrupting? I can wait in the lobby.”

“No, not at all. Come on in. I want you to meet someone.”

A tall and athletic brunette, Christine Chambers had grown up in Watervalley, gone to college in Atlanta, and stayed there to teach in a private school for the last several years. She had returned to town the previous July, near the same time of my arrival. We had been dating since December, and what had started as a tenuous relationship had blossomed into a ­full-­blown romance. I loved her, profoundly. She was intelligent, independent, and strikingly beautiful.

Neatly dressed in a summer top and white shorts, she smiled at me adoringly.

“Karen, this is Christine Chambers. Christine, this is Dr. Karen Davidson. She’s a veterinarian and is setting up a ­full-­time practice in town.”

Christine’s engaging response was warm and natural. “Oh, that’s wonderful. It’s so good to meet you.”

Karen, however, responded awkwardly with only a swallowed “Hi.”

She seemed off balance, saying nothing further and simply standing as if at attention, intently assessing Christine, who was a good five inches taller. When Karen spoke again, there was a childlike innocence to her unfiltered declaration. “Wow! You really are beautiful.”

Christine shot a puzzled glance in my direction. “Well, thank you. It’s very sweet of you to say so.”

Karen now realized the inappropriate bluntness of her statement. “Oh, I’m sorry. That probably seemed out of place. I was just going on what Luke said earlier.”

Christine smiled graciously before slowly rotating her head in my direction. “Okay, seriously. You can find nothing better to talk about?”

I started to raise my hands in a gesture of explanation, but Karen spoke first.

“No, no. He didn’t say anything about you being beautiful. Actually, he called me beautiful, but he thought he was talking to you.”

This didn’t help.

Christine folded her arms, clearly trying to make sense of Karen’s words. But nothing was fitting. Finally she laughed out loud.

“Okay. Good . . . I think.”

Karen regarded me with a mortified face of apology. The misunderstanding was all quite laughable, and I offered her an obliging smile and a shrug of dismissal. But that did little to ease her embarrassment.

She took a deep breath. “Well, I think I’ve done enough damage here for one visit, so I’m going to head along. I need to find a Laundromat and maybe a little bit of my dignity. Luke, good to meet you.” She regarded Christine sheepishly. “Christine, good to make your acquaintance. I hope to see you again soon.”

Christine smiled sweetly. “Good to meet you as well. Welcome to Watervalley.”

It looked for a moment like Karen might snap to attention before exiting, but she caught herself and walked briskly out the door, apparently eager to make a hasty retreat.

I turned to Christine, prepared to explain in detail what had transpired before her arrival, but before I could say a word, she grabbed my shoulders and planted a delightful kiss on me. She spoke with affectionate resignation. “Bradford, just . . . don’t even try.”

“Try what?”

“To explain.”

“You don’t want to hear the details?”

“Seriously, it’s okay. Apparently you and Karen both have that socially inept doctor gene, so weird conversations are just bound to happen. I understand. I really do.”

“Okay, I have a question. Why is it I get the third degree anytime that pharmaceutical rep, Michelle Herzenberg, visits me, yet you give this misunderstanding with Karen a pass?”

“What, the blond Swedish meatball? You can’t be serious, Bradford.”

“Karen is blond,” I added defiantly.

“And a lovely person and apparently quite intelligent . . . although she could use a little coaching on her wardrobe.”

“So, what’s the difference?”

“Herzenberg does everything she can to come off as a woman of easy virtue.”

“Should I be looking for a woman of difficult virtue?”

“Not funny, Bradford.”

“Let’s go back to the socially inept doctor gene comment. You know, if I thought about that statement long enough, I might take serious offense.”

She mused over my words for a moment and then playfully began to straighten the collar of my lab coat. “Mmm, you could. But I bet you won’t.”

“And why is that?”

“Because there are better things you could be doing than complaining.”

I frowned, making a low noise of disapproval.

She lifted an eyebrow and smiled impishly. “Give it up, Bradford. You’re not fooling anybody.”

I responded in mock indignation. “That’s not true. I’m almost fooling myself.”

She draped her hands around my neck. “Anyway, Karen seems nice, although . . . is it just me, or did she seem a little on the tomboy side?”

“Yeah, she’s definitely ­that—­ex-military, a medic, no less.”

“Really?”

“Yep. She’s the woman who saved Toy McAnders yesterday.”

“Oh wow. Is that right?”

“Seems odd, doesn’t it. Yesterday she saved Toy’s life, as cool as a cucumber, and today she gets flustered making introductions and small talk.”

“I guess she’s more comfortable with animals. I can relate.”

I was searching for a clever comeback to her obvious dig, but my mind was in a flutter. Christine did that to me. I shook my head and hummed her name softly. “Christine, Christine, Christine . . .”

Suddenly, she stiffened and regarded me with surprise, as if my calling her name was magical to her ears. “Am I missing something here?” I asked.

She seemed delighted, but offered only a dismissive smile. “No. No, it’s nothing.” She looked down, but her face was still radiant, animated, faintly amused.

“Anyway,” I continued, “when we talked earlier today, you said you had come across something really big.”

Her eyes twinkled with excitement. “Yes! It was something I found while helping Mom clear stuff out of our attic for the community charity yard sale.”

“What was it?”

“Guess.”

“You finally found Waldo.”

“Funny. Get serious.”

“Well, give me a hint.”

“It’s something from the past, very intimate and personal.”

“I don’t know. Sounds like a training bra.”

“Bradford, you need to rethink your definition of ‘get serious.’ Last chance. Make it count.”

“All right. Let me think. Youuuu found . . . a box of VHS tapes, including all nine seasons of The X-Files.”

“Okay, that was pretty random, and no.”

“So, what was the big discovery?”

Christine paused. Delighted, she searched my face for a moment, as if dreamily pondering some great secret. Her eyes grew soft, and there was an elated, almost triumphant quality to her voice. “I, Luke Bradford, found my old journal.”

I smiled kindly, doing my best to hide that I had no idea why this was such a big deal.

EXCERPT FROM THE JOURNAL OF CHRISTINE CHAMBERS

My Journal, May 17, 1998

Dear Mr. Wonderful:

I dreamed of you today.

Your voice floated on the wind from beyond the hills. It drifted down the high slope of Akin’s Ridge and found me on the rolling sweep of green on Bracken’s Knoll.

I was there, in my favorite place . . . sitting in the soft clover beyond the crest, out of sight. The bees were there, too . . . buzzing, circling, busying themselves with spring. I sat with my arms around my knees, wondering, listening. But I wasn’t listening for you. I wanted to hear the music of the falling water; the sweet, soothing sound it makes echoing up the slow rise from Snow Creek.

I closed my eyes and could hear the birds chattering. The breeze carried their notes across the tops of the grass. I shut my eyes even harder and waited, listening for the soft, delicate purr of the water and wanting the sound to wash over me like it always had.

Instead, I heard you, pushing your words over the distant fortress of tall trees, intruding upon my secret world.

You were calling my name.

The bees heard you too. They stopped their endless buzzing and lingered, sleepily hanging on the small white crowns of clover. The birds in the trees quieted and cooed distantly, shying away from their constant piping. Everything in my world was waiting, watching . . . and changing.

I told you to stop it. I didn’t want to hear you right now. . . . Wasn’t ready to hear you. . . . Wasn’t prepared for my world to change. I wanted to hear the hum of the bees, the songs of the birds, the endless pouring of the water. I wanted to feel the fresh, clean warmth of the sunlight, to be lost in the sweet, fragrant smell of the clover. I wanted everything to be like it had always been.

Then I heard your voice again . . . and it was beautiful. It fell softly like a lullaby. There was magic in it of things unfelt, things unimagined, things yet to come that were tender and sweet and delightful, and I began to dream of you. It was wonderful . . . so that’s the name I will give you.

I knew then and there, sitting in the clover of Bracken’s Knoll, that someday I would hear your voice and I would know you. Someday I would see you, maybe in a crowd or standing in a doorway. And you would be the one who whispered my name, the one I heard, the one I would always love.

Who are you, Mr. Wonderful? What will you look like? Where will we meet? I listened, but you wouldn’t say. You only called my name, telling me you were there.

And so I dreamed of you for the first time.

I dreamed of you today.

The sun grew hot, making me thirsty. But I didn’t cup my hand and drink out of Snow Creek like I used to do when I was younger. I’m changing. Everything about me is changing. I’m older now and know better. Next month I’ll be thirteen. So, I waited.

I will wait for you too, Mr. Wonderful. I will wait.

Twilight came and I started for home. But as I made my way across the open fields, I could still hear you, your voice, sweetly, magically calling my name . . . “Christine, Christine, Christine.”

CAC

CHAPTER 4

Memories and Memoirs

“Can I make a confession?” I asked Christine.

“Sure.”

“I’m glad you’re happy to have found your old journal, but I’m not getting the significance.”

Christine continued to regard me incandescently, with an odd mixture of fondness and curiosity, but her thoughts seemed miles away.

“Okay, Chambers, why all of a sudden have you invoked the cone of silence?”

My question brought her back. She sat in one of the wingback chairs, still absorbed with a tender, ruminating smile. “I was just thinking about something. It was fun to find my old journal and read what I wrote in my early teens.”

I slouched in my chair, gazing idly at the ceiling. “Hmm. Let me guess. Probably a lot of stuff about hating braces and boys ­being dumb.”

“Well, I never wore braces, so you’re ­half-­right.”

“And when do I get to read this ­tell-­all of your enchanted youth?”

“Bradford, you are not getting anywhere near my journal.”

“Ouch, definitely hit a nerve there. Now I really want to read it.”

“No chance, Buckhead boy.”

“Hey, speaking of which, I have to run down to Atlanta sometime. All of my family furniture is in storage, and I want to get a few pieces moved up here.”

I was an only child. When I was twelve, my parents died in an auto accident, after which I lived with Aunt Grace in her stately Buckhead home until she too died, the summer before I started med school. After I graduated, I signed a ­three-­year contract with Watervalley. In return for my services as the sole doctor, the town would pay off my med school debts. I was also provided with a furnished house only a few blocks from the clinic. But some of the furnishings were rather dated, and I had a huge inventory of heirloom furniture in storage, left from my parents’ estate and Aunt Grace’s house.

“While I’m there,” I said, “I’ll try to locate my old journal. If I find it, we can swap.”

Christine appeared unenthused. “I seriously doubt that would be a fair trade. What did you write about?”

“Hmm, mostly sports and girls.” I paused briefly and added, “And girls who were good sports.”

“Shocker.”

“So, did you and your mom find many things for the yard sale?” Every year around the Fourth of July, several of the churches and civic clubs in Watervalley sponsored a huge charity yard sale to help out some benevolent organization.

“Yes. A ton of things. I don’t think anyone has been up there in the five years since Daddy died. Lamps, an old sewing machine, tennis racquets, camping gear, and a bunch of my grandmother Cavanaugh’s vases and china that were packed away back in the sixties.”

“And an old journal.”

“And an old journal.”

“I have to admit,” I said, “you’ve made me curious.” I leaned forward, propping my elbows on my desk. “Okay, Christine Ann Chambers, time to confess. What deep, dark mysteries are hidden in those pages?”

Folding her arms, Christine eased back in her chair, wearing a flirtatious expression of stealth and amusement, her eyes full of secret warmth. “Not happening, Bradford.”

“Oh, I see. So that’s how it is, huh? Well, no matter.” I slumped back into my chair. “Actually, besides my journal, there are three pretty important things I want to find in the Atlanta storage.”

“Oh?”

“Yep. There’s a box of old family photo albums and some of my mom’s jewelry that I want to bring back with me.”

Christine nodded thoughtfully. “Your mother’s jewelry . . . hmm.” She unfolded her arms and tucked a strand of her long brown hair behind her ear. Given the intensity of our relationship, I was sure she was curious about the mention of my mother’s jewelry, but she was tactful enough not to ask. Her voice was tender and accommodating.

“Well, that all sounds very sweet. I’m sure it would be nice to have some family photos and some things of your mom’s around you.”

I stared at the bookshelves that lined the walls of my stately office, formerly the library of the antebellum home turned community clinic.

Christine’s words conjured my best memory, my mother. Evelyn Bradford was a slim, tall, elegant woman with sandy hair and sky blue eyes, traits that I had ­inherited—­except perhaps for the elegant part. I remember Aunt Grace, my dad’s sister, once telling me that my mother had the prettiest legs she had ever seen. My mother was an only child and had come from a modestly wealthy family in Atlanta. Yet when my father, a doctor like myself, had set up practice in a rural Georgia community, she had willingly embraced ­small-­town life.

In all my memories of her, whether sitting at a Little League game, going out for an evening, or working in her flower beds, she always wore a pearl necklace. As gracious and approachable as she was, there was something in my mother’s private definition of herself that wanted to hold on to the aura of her Buckhead upbringing, a keepsake of her roots. I wanted to find those pearls.

I did, in fact, have definitive plans for some of my mother’s jewelry. But I was far from ready to divulge any particulars. The musical sound of Christine’s voice pulled me from my momentary trance.

“Luke, what is the third thing you’re hoping to find?”

“Excuse me, the what?”

“The third thing. You said that besides your journal, there are three things you will be looking for in storage.”

“Oh yes.” I nodded and smiled softly. “There’s something very special, something very dear to me from my younger days that I want to give you.”

Christine leaned forward in her chair. Her entire body language seemed to be melting toward me in an expression of yielding endearment. She spoke in a pleased, excited voice. “Oh, and what would that be?”

“My old Beavis and ­Butt-­Head T-shirt.”

The pencil she sent flying only barely missed me.

CHAPTER 5

The Sisters

There was still plenty of warmth and daylight to be enjoyed when shortly after five we walked out to my car. Since Christine was a schoolteacher and off for summer break, we had a delightful flexibility in scheduling our time together, which of late had become a daily expectation. We laughed at ourselves about this new reality. I was thirty and Christine was in her late twenties . . . both of us old enough to have developed very independent lives. Yet our hunger for each other’s company had become part of every day.

“Listen,” I said, “I’ve got a house call to make in about an hour. You want to grab a bite to eat before I go?”

“Sure? Is the house call anything serious?”

“Nah, just following up on something. It’s out past Gallivant’s Crossing in the Mennonite community. Let’s drop by the bakery. Estelle may have some wraps left over from lunch.”

Christine climbed into the passenger side of my convertible, a 1960 ­Austin-­Healey. I could never have afforded such an expensive second car had it not been willed to me by one of my patients who passed away. Watervalley’s local mechanic, Chick McKissick, had beautifully restored the classic roadster.

I drove the few short blocks to the downtown square and the newly opened Sweetlife Bakery. Connie Thompson, my saintly, stern, and unexpectedly wealthy housekeeper, and her flamboyant sister, Estelle Pillow, were the owners.

Despite her sixty years, Connie was a lively, robust black woman with a brilliant mind, a no-nonsense demeanor, and a heart of gold. Soon after my arrival the previous year, she had agreed to keep house and cook to help me make a smooth transition as the new town doctor. After a rocky start, she had become a beloved friend. Now she came to help out only once or twice a week, but we still enjoyed an endearing relationship.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for the Novels of Watervalley:

“[Jeff High’s] love of his native Tennessee and the human race shines from very page.”—Patrick Taylor, MD, New York Times bestselling author of the Irish Country novels

"Kept me reading far into the night hours!”—Ann B. Ross, New York Times bestselling author of the Miss Julia Series

“Heart-warming, refreshing, and often amusing.”—Karen White, New York Times bestselling author of A Long Time Gone

“I fell in love with Watervalley and its citizens.”—Southern Literary Review

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The Splendor of Ordinary Days: A Novel of Watervalley 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
DoranneLongPTMS More than 1 year ago
I am so pleased to be reading Jeff High's wonderful Watervalley series. I love his characters, the stories, and his writing style; at the end of each chapter he leaves a tantalizing sentence, which commands us to read on. Like reading Jan Karon's The Mitford Series; these books refresh to my soul!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this novel; it kept me entertained from the beginning to the end. The author’s humor kept me giggling throughout the pages, and example, he attends a three hour Mennonite wedding and states, “ They aged right before my eyes.” While we see hurts on the surface, there seems to be deeper meaning to all of them. While the book is full of surprises that you won’t see coming, and happenings that were impossible, or were they, there is deeper meaning, and they all seem to be connected, but how? There are some characters here that the author has made me love, and would love in my life, and there are others that are even hard to like, but as we continue in the story, people are not always as they appear. I love the setting for this story, and the major theme is dear to my heart, Veterans, and love how these town rallies. Come along for a really enjoyable time and good humor, you won’t want to leave. I received this book through Litfuse Publicity Book Tours and was not required to give a positive review.
19269684 More than 1 year ago
(I received this book for an honest review from Litfuse Publicity) So excited to be a part of another book tour; this one belonging to Jeff High and his book The Splendor of Ordinary Days. This book is amazing, with it's puzzle-like book cover (and you know how much I'm a sucker for covers!), colorful characters and strong storyline! The story's mostly about Luke Bradford, the implanted, town doctor, but every character carries arresting quality to the town of Watervalley, TN. It's an up-to-date version of Mayberry, with each person displaying that 'thing' that makes them unique, vibrant and unbelievably enjoyable! The town is makes a book like this, and Jeff High so successful. Normally, I'm one of those gals where, if there's not a lot of action, I'm lost in the book. The Splendor of Ordinary Days doesn't do that to you. I found myself engrossed in each flourishing or debilitating quality- even Rhett, the dog! The development is so on point, you can't do anything but love them all, even crass and obstinate Luthor. For the rest of this review: http://tinyurl.com/ppqow5w
CaraPutman More than 1 year ago
This week I've read a book that is a sheer delight. The Splendor of Ordinary Days is like a stroll through small town life through the eyes of the local doctor Luke Bradford. There's something special about this place where ordinary activities fill the days... and the young doctor recognizes it with an eye that gives a literary spin to it all. There's joy in the routine. There's peace in the normal. And there are enough disruptions to keep the days interesting. I love the relationships that lace The Splendor of Ordinary Days. There's a real caring among those who live in this town, even as there are disruptions. It has a Mitford feel to it -- yet is totally different. In a time where life is complicated, rushed, and hurried, this book paints a picture of community that fills the soul -- at least mine. I loved it, and will be looking for other books from this author. Sidenote: while The Splendor of Ordinary Days is not the first book set in Watervalley, I certainly didn't need to read the others first to succomb to the charm of this book. But I will be going back to read the earlier stories.
T-TW More than 1 year ago
Jeff High scores again with the third book of his Watervalley series. The Splendor of Ordinary Days continues the story of Dr. Luke Bradford and the denizens of the small town of Watervalley. This time High centers his story around the effects of war on our veterans, the high cost of love, and the acceptance of the local Amish community. Luke meets Karen Davidson, a veteran and the town’s new vet, when she saves a man’s life at the ballpark. She’ll help him with a young veteran suffering from PTSD while Luke helps her gain the cooperation of Watervalley ‘s farmers. Luther, the town’s cantankerous newspaperman and Vietnam veteran, has a secret. One that Luke feels is the root to Luther’s bitterness and irascible ways. While love is in the air around Watervalley, it doesn't always run smoothly. Luke and Christine find that just when things seem to be coming together love is tested by the painful realities of life. Splendor explores the mystical magic of Southern life and how the past shapes the paths we walk. Jeff High is a wordsmith who is continually fine tuning his characters as he grows his craft. Each word he writes draws the reader into the despair and joy of life leaving them with optimism that even ordinary days are worth living. I highly recommend that readers immerse themselves in The Splendor of Ordinary Days, Watervalley style.
LovenGod More than 1 year ago
are huge issues for you, then don't read this book. If not issues, then by all means read it, it is truly enjoyable. The imagery of this book is beautiful, the quirky characters make it funny, and the true life situations made it sad. So all rolled up in one is a book that will make you laugh and cry, and wish to visit Watervalley, Tennessee. My favorite part is the singing, that is all I will say about that, because I don't do spoilers. I enjoyed this book, was a bit put off by the fact that I didn't notice it wasn't a CBA book, but I still give it 4 stars for the wonderful story. I want to mention that alcohol consumption and drunkenness is mentioned in this story, but I really didn't have an issue, as they were parts of the true life situations, that I found to be very sad. I have never read Jeff High's books before. I will be looking for them again. This book was provided for review purposes only, no payment was received for this review.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Luke Bradford, in this third Watervalley novel, has become more attached to the rustic beauty and pleasant, interesting people of Watervalley, Tennessee. Part of it is the satisfaction he experiences with his medical practice and the stronger part is definitely his budding romance with Christine Chambers. However, there’s always something brewing in the town that starts out small and grows with distressing power and the latest quandary is what keeps Luke from giving his whole heart to the town and the decision to permanently stay. The latest conflict involves a phone call one night that there’s a fire close to the Mennonite community nearby. Once the first responders arrive, they stop as they realize they will not be needed, for the Mennonite have their own fire brigade and reject any outside involvement. The only man who has plenty of experience with the Mennonites is Luther Whitmore but what that is seems completely unknown to the townspeople. When Luther, editor of the town newspaper, pens an irate editorial in the paper, though posed as a news story, the residents fail to see a connection and instead start conversations that put veterans to the forefront. The town is proud of all the men who died in past wars over the last hundred years and so everyone accepts Luther’s irate words as gospel truth. The secrets around this problem will gradually be revealed, as well as an effort to honor military veterans in the town with a memorial. Luke, however, has an uncanny ability to warm up conversations and several characters in the book wind up eventually sharing their military and secular secrets, in this novel yielding forgiveness, repentance and healing that can only benefit Watervalley. Luke and Christine will battle their own personal challenge, the first to test their deep love and personalities. The Splendor of Ordinary Days… is a wonderful read with muted conflicts but high energy when it comes to being protective and caring toward each resident of the valley. The descriptions of animals and setting, as well, are gently presented and make the reader feel he or she is also a resident, fully satisfied and loving one’s surroundings and neighbors. Nicely crafted, Jeff High, again! Recommended to all and the earlier novels in this series as well!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved all three books. Hope there are more.