Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beyond the Shadow of the Brownstone by Valerie Lawrence

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book (from the back cover)-

Following a family as they transition from the "Old World" culture to their newly adopted country, Beyond the Shadow of the Brownstone pulses with life and death sorrow and joy. We hold on for dear life traversing through the wild turbulence of trials, tragedies and triumphs. Knowing that children are the spiritual and corporal legacy, the family is fractured when abortion becomes a very real issue. The psychological impact presents thought provoking ideas that challenge the reader.

The reader emerges through the storm weathered and worn, but with the realization that life is precious, fleeting and fragile. The knowledge that a life full of joy, hope and peace is possible, only after forgiveness. VM Lawrence reminds us that those living in depths of despair, or struggling with family problems, can find solace by offering them the wisdom that a broken, bitter and battered heart can be transformed into a heart filled with unconditional acceptance and unending love.

My thoughts-

My first thought about this novel is how beautiful the front cover is. It is beautiful to me in a tragic kind of way, without even reading the back cover to find out what the book is about, you immediately get the feeling that something tragic will occur. The book spans several time periods and offers glimpses into the same family from several different generations. The most prominent character is Grace, who is in the middle generation. Before I go further with my thoughts, I will mention here that this book has some heavy subject matters that some may wish to not read about in their fiction, so if that is you, it might be wise to stop reading this review here. For the rest of you still with me, Grace finds herself pregnant as a young mother when she doesn't feel like her husband will take the news well, so she chooses to have an abortion. She never tells a soul, but makes it her life's mission to help other people. It haunts her for all of her days, so when her son calls her with the news that his own wife is considering the same option...after all a baby would get in the way of her big promotion at work...Grace makes it her personal mission to do everything in her power to save her grandchild. Grace does some pretty crazy things in order to try and save the baby, but the ONE thing that might have actually helped. I feel like I would have liked this book more, if the characters were more developed. The main take away I got is that everyone in this family is extremely selfish, even the well-intentioned ones like Grace, not always being authentic to who they are or sharing with others thoughts or past mistakes that may have brought them closer as a family and saved everyone a lot of pain. In the beginning of the book, we did get to know some of the older characters and I wish that it would have continued on that path instead of focusing solely on one subject and not so much on the rest of the lives that led up that pivotal moment. Still, the authors passion for education (In the book, Grace and her husband are teachers) and the right to live are obvious and Beyond the Shadow of the Brownstone is definitely a legacy of her thoughts she left behind for all to see. This novel would make be a good pick to get a conversation going about controversial issues.

About the author (from the back cover of the book)-

Valerie M. Lawrence (1945-2013) "Beyond the Shadow of the Brownstone" A brilliant work by this most accomplished author. A troubled childhood directed her to seek comfort in the one area that only she could control, that of education. Graduating Magna Cum Laude from Duquesne University with a degree in science, she continued her studies at the University of Pittsburgh receiving her PhD in Psychology. Coupled with her religious training and certifications in related program, along with her vast research and clinical studies she became a specialist in individual, family and marriage conflicts. "If you can't control the winds, adjust the sails". Those words were the compass that helped her navigate the seas of life. Drawing on personal discipline, moral integrity and educational and religious values along with the desire to assist those with personal demos she found the perfect canvas for Beyond the Shadow of the Brownstone.

Valerie M. Lawrence on Goodreads

You can buy a copy of Beyond the Shadow of the Brownstone on

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