Watch Over Meby Christa Parrish
Deputy Benjamin Patil is the one to find the infant girl--hours old, abandoned in a field. When the mother ecan't be located, Ben and his wife, Abbi, seem like the perfect couple to serve as foster parents. But the baby's arrival opens old wounds for Abbi and shines a harsh light on how much Ben has changed since a devastating tour in Afghanistan. Their marriage teeters on the brink and now they must choose to either reclaim what they once had or lose each other forever.
"The book takes on some heavy issues. Parrish weighs in on things like love, marriage, family, the church, forgiveness, and redemption. Though it has many bleak moments, the story left me feeling hopeful about my very flawed self and the ability of God to redeem the most unlikely situation.
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Watch Over Me
By Christa Parrish
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2009 Christa Parrish
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe kids slumped against the hood of his squad vehicle, not clinging to each other but wanting to. Their shoulders and hand-stuffed pockets pressed together, brown dust pasted to the toes of their sneakers. Benjamin Patil knew why. Blood hid under the dust.
"You kicked the towel?" he asked them.
"I fell over it," the boy said. "I didn't know what it was."
"Are we in trouble?" the girl asked.
Kids. They were fifteen, sixteen maybe, and he thought of them as kids. He was only ten years their senior. Only.
When did he get so old?
"You're trespassing," Benjamin said, taking his camera from the car. He snapped some photos of the bloody towel, of the red flecks across the grass. He listened to the chirps of his camera, the rustling beneath his feet, the Say's phoebe and dickcissel fluttering and chattering around him. "Want to tell me what you're doing out here?"
The teenagers both shifted from one hip to the other.
"I didn't think so." He pulled on a rubber glove, shook open a transparent evidence bag, and grabbed the balled-up towel. It unrolled, and apulpy, grayish blob plopped to the ground.
"Oh, man. Is that a brain?" the boy asked.
"No," Benjamin said. "Get in the car, both of you."
He shoveled the towel and placenta into the evidence bag, dropped it through the open window of his nine-year-old Dodge Durango. Head down, he tracked the speckles of blood until they turned to drops, then splotches, leading him along a thin, heat-eaten stream. Something yellow was tucked in the slough grass on the near bank of a muddy pond. He strode forward, needle-and-thread awns snagging his pants, trying to stop him from finding what he knew he'd find. And then he was there, at the pond's edge, staring at a white grocery sack, yellow smiling face printed on it, two tiny feet twisted in the handles.
"Dear God ..."
He dropped to his knees, clawed at the bag, the plastic stretching like skin, tight over his fingertips. It split, and he saw human flesh before a swarm of mosquitoes poured into the air. Benjamin swiped them away; one dove into the sweat on his forehead and bit him. He crushed it against his brow and, in the same sweeping motion, gathered an infant from the bag and into his hands.
Startled by the light and the rush of air against its body, the newborn scrunched up its face and wailed, fists flailing like a prizefighter's, knuckles bluish-gray and filmy. The umbilical cord hung from its- her-belly, a dirty shoelace knotted near the frayed end. Benjamin laid her across his knees, tugged at the buttons of his uniform, opening the top two and then yanking the shirt over his head. He wrapped the baby in it and sprinted to the car.
"Tallah, get up here," he said.
"It's a ... a ..."
"Just get in the front seat. And belt up." The girl did, and Benjamin gave her the baby. "Hold on to her, you hear?"
The girl nodded, her arms tightening around the bundle, and Benjamin flipped on his siren.
* * *
She was three, maybe four hours old, the doctor told him. A bit longer in the June heat and she would have been dead. Benjamin stared at her in the isolette, her new baby skin swollen with dozens of furious, nickel-sized welts. Mosquito bites. Black fly. Maybe some ant mixed in. She was wired and tubed and taped. And alone. The other babies born within the past forty-eight hours-seven, he'd been told-slept with their mothers in private rooms.
Her chest rose and fell with the beeps of the heart monitor. He put his hand through the hole in the side of the Plexiglas and stroked her arm with two fingers, once, twice, feeling her frailness beneath the downy lanugo. She shrunk away; his hands were cold. Always, lately.
Things like this didn't happen in Beck County. Women tossed away infants in other places-faraway places people around these parts heard about on the news but never visited. A New York City dumpster. A Chinese rice paddy. Not in the weeds at the west end of Hopston's beef farm. After Afghanistan, when Benjamin came home to South Dakota, he thought he'd gotten away from things like this, things that caused nightmares. But here they were, following him. God's judgment.
A nurse came in. Her purple rubber clogs squeaked as she walked. She checked the fluid bag and the intravenous line in the baby's scalp.
"How's she doing?" Benjamin asked.
"Holding her own, considering."
"The doctor said they might move her."
The nurse nodded. "To Sioux Falls. They got a NICU there."
Benjamin touched the infant's palm. She closed her fingers around his, and he stared at her shiny, pink fingernails, so small and perfect. He thought of Abbi, of all the times he'd looked at her hand in his own, her pale Scottish-Irish-English-and-whatever-else skin ghostly
against his India brown. And he wanted to hear her voice, which surprised him almost as much as finding the baby.
"I'll be back tomorrow," he said, meaning his words for her, but the nurse nodded.
In the hospital lobby, he dialed home. One ring, two. Three. Abbi's recorded voice said, "Hey, we're not here. Leave a message." He pressed the receiver against his ear for several seconds, tapped it against his forehead before hanging up. He needed to get back to Temple, for the press conference.
* * *
He carried the evidence bags through the jumble of news vans, cameramen, reporters, and gawkers, and into the courthouse building. The temperature in the sheriff 's office felt hotter than outside; Benjamin said so.
"Probably is. Cooling unit broke this morning," Deputy Al Holbach said. "You don't plan to talk to the press looking like that."
Benjamin still had on only his undershirt, the armpits yellowed with sweat, his stomach smeared with his dirty handprints and blood. The sleeveless, ribbed-cotton kind, the kind Abbi hated. She called them wife-beaters, told him she saw them and thought of the men who wear those undershirts as outerwear, and stand on their front lawns scratching and screaming at their women and children. Just one more thing she never did like about him.
"Can't we just send a press release?"
"Don't think those piranhas waiting outside would be happy with that," Holbach said. "I got an extra shirt if you need it. Might be a tad big."
"No. I have one." Benjamin wrenched open the bottom drawer of his desk. He grabbed a clean uniform shirt, another undershirt, and his black leather toiletry bag. In the restroom, he stripped off his dirty shirt and balled it under the faucet, drenching it with cold water. He rubbed his bare torso, his neck and head, and slathered deodorant under his arms. The clean shirts felt stiff, unyielding. The dirty undershirt, he tossed in the waste can.
"Where's the boss and Wes?" he asked, back at his desk, pinning his name tag on his pocket.
"They should be back any time now. Went out to the scene."
"They found the bag, then."
"Right where you told 'em."
Benjamin briskly rubbed the top of his head, wishing he had hair long enough to grab and yank. "Just-" He dropped his bag into the drawer and slammed it closed with his foot. Sighed. "Just ... everything."
"You said it," Holbach said.
* * *
The press conference lasted twenty minutes-three minutes of prepared statement, and the rest questions from the mob, most drawing answers of "We can't say right now," or "We just don't know at this time." The reporters skulked away, unsatisfied. Benjamin knew the feeling.
Back inside the office, he bit down on the marker cap and pulled, drawing a diagram over the whiteboard, a squashed spider with an uneven black circle for a body and eight legs spread in eight different directions. Sheriff Eli Roubideau rolled some tape on the back of a Polaroid photo and slapped it in the center of the circle. The torn plastic bag.
"Gotta get one of the kid instead," Roubideau said, removing his hat and patting his hairline with a rag. "Somebody needs to get over to the school tomorrow."
"I will," Holbach said. "First thing."
Benjamin wrote School and A.H. on one of the empty lines. The office phone kept ringing; they didn't pick it up after hours, after the secretary went home. The answering machine kicked on, recording
reporters or dial tones.
"That bag. The Food Mart uses them," Raymond Wesley said.
"And probably a dozen other stores," Holbach said.
"We can't do anything about the others, but I'll head over to the Food Mart, ask around. Maybe one of the clerks remembers someone coming through there pregnant."
"And I'll just start knocking on doors," Benjamin said, adding Wesley's and his initials to the diagram. "Covering the whole county is going to take a lot of time. Not much else to do, though, at least for now."
"Not much else, sure as shooting," Roubideau said. "Now go home. All of you."
Benjamin didn't. He drove around for twenty minutes, then let himself back into the station, into the holding cell. He took off his shoes and socks, his shirt, his belt, and crawled onto the bottom bunk, setting his watch alarm for four thirty. The sheriff didn't come in until close to six.
Excerpted from Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish Copyright © 2009 by Christa Parrish. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
A winner of Associated Press awards for her journalism, Christa Parrish now teaches literature and writing to high school students, is a homeschool mom, and lives near Saratoga Springs, New York.
A winner of Associated Press awards for her journalism, Christa Parrish now teaches literature and writing to high school students, is a homeschool mom, and lives near Saratoga Springs, New York. She is the author of Home Another Way, finalist for the 2009 ECPA Fiction Book of the Year, Watch Over Me, which won the 2010 ECPA Fiction Book of the Year, and The Air We Breathe. Learn more at www.christaparrish.com.
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Christian Fiction has finally come into its own. No more damsels in distress; no more easy answers; no more silly crying! I loved Watch Over Me, a realistic book about families, marriages, blended families, sin, etc. No critizing--just great storytelling.
This book is a great book to read. It touched my heart and i was so absorbex into the book that i could not put it down.
Watch Over Me is a powerfully written story that pulled me in from the end of the short first chapter. There are so many layers to the story: a marriage in trouble, an abandoned newborn, a disabled and seriously sick teenager nobody wants, a town that's not sure how to respond. At its core though, this is a wonderfully crafted story about abandonment, the pain it causes, and the road to healing. About crawling from the lonely places we hide, and risking to reach out and love...again...and again...and again. And the writing is beautiful, lyrical, and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will return to its pages.
At the very beginning of this book, the reader is drawn in to a scene with powerful emotions. A newborn baby has been cast into the field, left abandoned by it's mother and left to die. Fortunately, Deputy Benjamin Patil finds this baby girl in enough time to save her life. From there, the story unfolds into several directions. Deputy Benjamin Patil and his wife Abbi are struggling with marriage issues since Benjamin returned home from active duty in the military. Abbi, who has fertility issues reluctantly decides to take this newborn girl in upon her husband's begging request. Benjamin has eyes for this newborn girl who he is drawn to from the very beginning. Meanwhile, the reader is introduced to Matthew, a deaf boy who lives with his aunt. Sadly, Matthew is dying and needs a kidney. He is on the search for his father while his negligent mother who's in prison shows no interest in her son. Furthermore, these stories blend together in what will bring you emotionally apart of the plot. Having said this, the reader will not want to put this book down. Even more, having never read a book by this author, I have a feeling this will be the beginning of many fantastic stories!
I felt the angst of the characters trying to connect over their separate hurts, However, it is not a book I would read twice..
This is a story of complexities in life, woven together so skillfully in a handful of very different characters. Christa Parrish blends the day to day struggles of a soldier haunted by memories of war, a young boy fighting for his life, a hurting wife in a strained marriage, and an abandoned baby. In the news we hear of babies left in dumpsters but that still seems so unlikely. This book shares a "what if" story and explains the characters involved in unexplainable circumstances. From the back cover: "Things like that don't happen in Beck County. Deputy Benjamin Patil is the one to find the infant girl, hours old, abandoned in a field. As the police work to identify the mother, Ben and his wife, Abbi, seem like the obvious couple to serve as foster parents. But the newborn's arrival opens old wounds for Abbi and shines a harsh light on how much Ben has changed since a devastating military tour. Their marriage teeters on the brink, and now they must choose to reclaim what they once had or lose each other forever."
I was a little skeptical when I started reading this book. I usually don't like to read books where the couples are already married because the authors don't always use real solutions. The main characters struggle and struggle and then, presto!, they're back together again and God did it all without showing how they work it through. This book is definitely not one of those. This is a story about a marriage, that maybe shouldn't have happened at all, and how two people can let life's situations carry them away from each other. Then when God throws a curve ball at them, they try to once again control the circumstances themselves and fix it. It isn't until their whole world falls apart, yet again, that they both finally realize that they can't do it on their own. They have to let God be the solution. Your heart will go out to the young boy in the book that slowly steals the book and the attention. That character was very well written and brought to life. There were several places, especially towards the end of the book, that I made note to use when I speak on marriage topics. All in all, a well-written book that captures your imagination and takes you with the characters on their journey. It is a book that I would definitely recommend and an author I would like to read more. This is a Bethany House Blog Review.
Watch Over Me by Christa Parrish is a stunning follow-up to her debut novel Home Another Way. Benjamin and Abbi Patil have watched their marriage slowly disintegrate after his return from Afghanistan. They are so radically different: Benjamin a police officer who is just your average guy, Abbi a war protester who is vigilant about keeping her vegan diet and safeguarding the earth, it doesn't seem like the love they once shared is enough to pull them through this storm. When Benjamin discovers an abandoned newborn baby and brings her home for them to care for until her parents are discovered, it forces them to re-evaluate their marriage and their future. Matthew, a profoundly sick and deaf teenage boy, drifts into their lives, but it's Matt who has the power to shatter them completely. I love Parrish's novels. Her characters aren't your shiny, bright Christian fiction characters that so many of the novels out there are populated with. Benjamin, Abbi, Matt, and the rest of the characters breathe and bleed realism. You could walk down the street anywhere and meet them. Abbi is sunk deeply in her independence; her fierce determination to be her own person has kept her from committing fully to her marriage. Benjamin wants so desperately to have a normal life, but he's shackled with guilt from the death of his best friend in the war. Matthew takes care of his four cousins, trying to give them a normal life, but his illness has given him an expiration date that makes every moment count. My heart ached for Matthew as he prayed through pi, trying to find peace of mind. Parrish is an enormously talented writer who understands that life doesn't always tie up everything neatly with a bow, and her stories reflect that. The reader realizes that the story doesn't end with the last page of the book, there is more to be said and done. The only sad thing about finishing the story is that I have to wait another year for her next book!
This was the first book I read by Christa Parrish. Christa can tell an amazing story, and for that I will be adding her to the list of authors I will keep up with in the future. In Watch Over Me, we follow a young married couple who are struggling, a deaf teenager who is independently defying the odds against him, all who have fallen in love with the newborn baby who was left to die in a field. As Ben, who is struggling with the aftermaths of serving in Afghanistan, works the case of putting the few clues together, Abbi devotes her life into caring for this unwanted baby girl. It's no secret that Ben and Abbi are having marital problems. Abbi suffers from a poor self-image and struggles with her weight. Ben is so lost and mad at God for the things he did, saw and lost in the war. Their life is falling apart, is this baby the answer they need to put this marriage back together? In comes Matt, a deaf teenage boy who have been left deaf and in kidney failure due to a rare genetic disease. In this small town, Matt is looking for odd jobs to earn some money. He begins to spend a lot of time with Abbi and the baby, mowing the lawn, babysitting while Abbi naps, showers and catches up on her hobby of pottery making. The twist that happens as the case is cracked is somewhat predictable, still the journey was worth the ride. Parrish does an unbelievable job of capturing the heart of the character and drawing you in. Her characters are real, almost tangible. I'd love to sit down for coffee with Abbi and know more about her, what drives her, what challenges her, what helps her. POSSIBLE SPOILER: I have one major problem with this book, I believe with all my heart that any married couple who is having the problems, both as a couple or individually, as Ben and Abbi were, they need to seek help, counseling or the like. Though being physically close to your spouse during the hard times is important, it does not solve problems. And yes, though praying together and attending church together is strengthening to any marriage, whether good or struggling; working through things, talking, even counseling are needed. I wish that Christa would have mentioned that they signed up for counseling or that either or both of them sought out professional help. To me, this would have made this book from a good one to a great one.
Christi Parrish's first novel made me a huge fan of her writing and her sophomore release only solidifies this. Once again, Bethany House has done an amazing job at publishing another wonderful literary novel that rivals those in general fiction. Christa's writing is honest and touches at the heart. The characters are so realistic that it's like walking to your neighbor's house and being able to hear their conversations. There were times during the book when it's hard to read about the relationship between Benjamin and Abbi because it's so realistic. He came back from Iraq a changed man, both physically and psychologically and they both have to live with those consequences. At times, their relationship is strained to the point of disintegration while at others you can tell that they love each other more than anything. While Benjamin and Abbi's story about the baby was interesting, what touched me most was Matthew's story. His situation was tragic and he totally could have let that control his life. However instead he chose to live out his life and help out those around him. It gave me hope to see him interact with the couple and other people around the town. The story as whole gave me that feeling. Something that really surprised me about the book is the fact that Benjamin is Indian American. Of course this shouldn't really have shocked me since his last name was Patil but for some reason I initially glanced over that small fact. It wasn't until he began thinking about his parents and their cultural background that it dawned on me. Furthermore, I realized that I believe this is the first time I've read about a male Indian American lead in a Christian book and even more so the fact that there is an interracial marriage in the story. Honestly, I'm actually glad that this fact is so subtle. It avoids any stereotypes and just acts like this is the normal everyday occurrence that doesn't need any attention brought to it. I appreciated that no one at all in the entire book questions or brings up the subject. Cultural differences are pointed out but not once is there a character who is insulted by Ben and Abbi's marriage. I wish more Christian fiction books would feature this style of writing. Overall this was an extraordinary book. I didn't want it to end as I was totally sucked into the book. If you haven't already picked read Christa's previous book, Home Another Way, you must pick it up along with this one. You will not be disappointed. HIGHLY recommended.
When this book became available to read through an author blog tour I signed up. I had read Home Another Way, Christa's first book, and couldn't wait to see where this new author would take me next! Edgy! Christa has away of not only talking about the elephant in the room, but describes it too. Not in great detail, but enough to make you experience the moment and maybe start to have some compassion and understanding of an uncomfortable situation. This book is gut-wrenchingly honest, transparent and difficult to read in parts because of the subject matter. God loves what most people deem unlovable. Christa shows this very aspect of God's love in a powerful and moving way! Another fascinating aspect of Watch Over Me, is the fact that a young deaf boy is one of her main characters. No one makes special accommodations for him; he's a deaf boy making his way in a hearing world. He learns to adjust. He explains himself to someone that asks him if it's hard. "What part?" "Any of it." She asks. He thinks..."this part. The communication. His inability to say the very thing he had pent up inside. "It's hard to fit everything I want to say on a scrap of paper!" The font in the book is set to look like Matt, the deaf boy's, actual handwriting. I liked that. Christa showed many struggles a deaf boy might have going to school, also living day-in and day-out trying to talk to everyone he met, by writing everything he wanted to say on a note pad. I can't even imagine doing that. The author describes what goes on inside a person's heart, mind, and emotions when someone meets God where it hurts. Where the rubber meets the road; where life is messy and uncomfortable. When life happens fast and furious, when you lose control and there seems to be no hope. Can you really lean on God? Does He care? Will He help? Christa Parrish answers these questions and so much more in a very honest, riveting way. These characters and this story will stay with you long after you close the book. Nora St.Laurent Finding Hope Through Fiction www.psalm516.blogspot.com
Deputy Benjamin Patil and his wife Abbi have been dancing around issues in their marriage for awhile but since Ben's return from his tour in Afghanistan it seems to be pretty hopeless. Each have closed themselves off from the other to avoid being hurt yet they each crave the closeness they once knew. They have nothing left...not even their faith. Then one day Ben finds an abandoned newborn in the woods. With no leads as to whom the baby belongs Ben and Abby take the baby in. They name her Silvia and as they both care for her day-by-day she becomes a kind of healing balm for their wounds especially Ben. What will happen to them if they find the mother of the baby? And what of the father? Will Ben and Abby reclaim their faith and fight for their marriage? I found this story to be gritty, honest and soul-stirring. The characters were VERY realistic and I found the dialog to be true to life. Even the secondary characters were very well drawn. It was somewhat of a dark tale yet filled with the light of hope in what God can do.