The Lady of Esterbrooke: Loves Journey Through Time
by Ann W. Phillips
BookVenture Publishing LLC

"’I especially miss you when I do my Bible reading. That has always been our special family time.’"

Marla is a Christian young woman looking ahead at her life. While living at home on the plantation her father manages, she meets Lance, the son of the new plantation owner. After a rocky start, they fall in love, marry, and build a family on the land they both love.

Marla’s story advances in conventional linear fashion, stepping sequentially through the milestones of love, career, marriage, family, and community. Yet it does so with the tranquil sense of life’s ongoing, inevitable, cyclical progress. Joys and key moments, rather than conflicts and conventional setbacks, are the substance of Marla’s journey as she evolves from uncertain single girl to happily settled matriarch. She ages as though with the loving wisdom of hindsight, filtering out mundane trivialities. The destination is what matters, and Marla and her family reach it with love and integrity.

Several recurring themes bolster Marla and Lance through the years. The land beneath them serves as home, foundation, and allegory. Set on the rolling acres of an old plantation that is changing hands and finding a new identity, Marla’s growth into womanhood maps to the seasonal longevity of her land. As she narrates the history of the plantations, she could be describing any life cycle of birth, growth, aging, demise, and ultimate renewal. People and land move in similar ways here, and Marla’s life against the backdrop of the plantation highlights the parallel.

Similarly nurturing to the characters is their food, which is never scarce and always abundant in portions and detail. Marla’s generous homestyle cooking and that of neighbor restauranteurs are cornerstones in these characters’ expressions of love and joy in life’s simple pleasures. Breaking bread together with food they make and share is essential to their familial spirit of giving and growth.

Wrapped around all this down-home goodness is the quiet understanding that Marla believes in God. She reads the Bible, prays, and lives with her religious beliefs enmeshed in all she does. While religious activity is at times overtly noted, the understated omniscience of her faith and practice energizes the heart of her story. Marla is living the life that comes to her, and she does so honorably, patiently, and fully, with the confident joy that she is following the path—both figuratively of the heart and literally on her plantation—for which she is intended.

God, it seems, has a plan for Marla. Perhaps it is her comfort in that knowledge that lends such peaceful progress to the unfolding events of her life. Where other young adults might tarry and thrust their way through romance and life discovery, confusing priorities and risking what they value most, Marla’s faith seems to set her smooth course forward. She believes in God, and so she believes in Lance, their love, land, and legacy. She asks for only the simplest pleasures life offers, and in return is gifted with the infinite joys such gifts bring. Her life will turn out right, and, like the land she lives on, her seasons of growth will continue.

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