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Book Review: Things Worth Remembering by Jackina Stark

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Kendy Laswell can’t wait for her daughter Maisey and fiancé Marcus to get home this third Monday in July. It’s a mere six days till Maisey’s wedding, and there must be a thousand things to do – though Maisey hasn’t told her much.

But when the kids arrive, Maisey says she’s tired and goes straight to bed. Kendy hides her disappointment but inside asks, for the thousandth time, what is at the root of her daughter’s avoidance? The only thing she can think of is the months-long depression she suffered when Maisey was 13. Things have never been right between them since that dreadful summer nine years ago. Now, though, they still have the rest of the week to patch things up.

In Things Worth Remembering, Jackina Stark takes us through the week before Maisey’s wedding. Through the first-person voices of Kendy and Maisey we live the memorable six days, but much more, as incidents trigger memories. These, plus Maisey’s surprising outburst on Wednesday and a health crisis on Thursday, work together to create a heart-wrenching story about mothers and daughters, marriage and marital unfaithfulness, family, love, and forgiveness.

In Kendy and Maisey, Stark has created two flawed but sympathetic main characters. The supporting cast of Luke (Kendy’s husband), Marcus, Jackie and others also feel real and convincing. Stark’s style of writing current happenings in present tense with the back story in past tense helps dispel any confusion about now and then. Her contemporary American setting feels absolutely believable and authentic.

The story is seen through the lens of a Christian worldview. Stark works the faith of her characters into the story seamlessly and in a way that feels organic to its plot and characters. To underline how integral faith is to the story, we find that even the title hearkens back to a discussion of it:

Luke (to Maisey): “’Children of dust, Maisey, children of dust. That’s not an insult to the human race; it’s just a fact. Making mistakes is unavoidable; we are the created not the Creator. But it is also a fact that God loves us despite our frailty. And it’s a fact that life is good when we choose love and forgiveness.’

I close my eyes against his words.

Dad puts his hands over mine and I dare to look at him.

‘These things are worth remembering, Maisey – they really are.’” 248-9

Being a daughter myself and the mother of a daughter (with whom I planned a wedding a few years ago) I related to Kendy at a gut level. Maisey’s rudeness and the way she shut her mother out of all her wedding plans and activities made me wish I could take Kendy aside and tell her she’d better stop acting so passive and make an effort to get to the bottom of their rift. Yet Kendy downplays her hurt to the extent that at times she seems almost stoic when one would expect her to be falling apart. However, this downplaying is probably safer than over-emotionalizing, as Stark has created an emotional minefield of a situation, and the tone of Kendy’s telling could easily have degenerated into sentimentality and self-pity.

Altogether, the book flew by far too fast for me. The way it explores the mother-daughter relationship, marriage and forgiveness make it an excellent choice for individuals or reading groups.

Discussion questions are here.

Read an excerpt here.

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