Reviewed by Donna Meredith
Jeff High delivers another heart-warming novel in Each Shining Hour, the sequel to More Things in Heaven and Earth, further exploring life in a small town in Tennessee.
While the clever repartee between Dr. Luke Bradford and Watervalley’s citizens adds humor to the story, the serious scenes are the ones you’ll cherish.
Like when Luke’s prickly housekeeper Connie says the townspeople will remember him because he has made “each shining hour count for something positive in people’s lives.” Or when the young doctor lists his flaws to high schoolers in his commencement address, explaining he has “sleepwalked” through parts of his life, not noticing the “strength and courage” of the ordinary people around him or the “selfless hearts” of those who loved him. Even though he prefers city life to small towns, he shares with the graduates that he has come to appreciate a place where “your roots are so deep, the storms of life cannot blow you away.”
High has a gift for writing scenes like these that remind us not to sleepwalk ourselves, to focus on what’s important in life.
This novel adds a decades-old mystery to High’s loving portrait of Watervalley. Luke is cleaning out old journals and patient files from his office when he runs across an autopsy of a murdered German. Murder in Watervalley? Unbelievable. As the doctor questions his friends, he learns that the incident involved the double homicide of a local baker and a stranger passing through the town during World War II. The unsolved murders grew into town legend, complete with missing diamonds and German spies. But how much is true and how much the invention of local gossips, the doctor wonders.
His preoccupation with the ancient murder is on the verge of derailing his burgeoning romance with schoolteacher Christine. He is resisting her efforts to introduce him to the finer aspects of farm life, such as riding a horse or milking a cow. He worries that he will face a choice between returning to the city life he misses or embracing farm life and the seductive Christine.
Each Shining Hour reacquaints us with the beloved characters we met in More Things in Heaven and Earth. The reclusive, cynical John Harris. The lonely, precocious boy-next-door, Will Fox. And it introduces some new ones: Estelle, the sister of Luke’s housekeeper, who is Connie’s polar opposite. Randall Simmons, the banker who stands between Estelle and her dream of opening a bakery in Watervalley. Lida Wilkins, Luke’s patient who worries she might be menopausal. Ann Patterson, traveling nurse who joins the clinic staff.
Each character delivers one more clue needed to solve the old murders with Luke Bradford at the center as detective. It’s a beautiful thing to watch all the pieces fit together. Especially beautiful because it turns out the past isn’t really dead. Luke is able to restore a man’s reputation long after his death, correcting local history and bringing a measure of peace and prosperity to his descendants.
A third Watervalley novel is planned for October 2015, promising further developments in Dr. Bradford’s stumbling courtship of Christine.
After Jeff High grew up on a farm in rural Tennessee, he earned degrees in literature and nursing. A three-time winner of Vanderbilt Medical Center’s writing contest, High currently works as an operating room RN in open heart surgery.
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