Thursday, February 11, 2010

Never Say Never by Lisa Wingate

Today, I get to share my impressions on Never Say Never, a very enjoyable read. Following my review and the interview, you'll find information on a contest. Check it out below.

First, the back cover copy:

Sometimes Life's Storms Blow in Unexpected Possibilities Never Say Never Kai Miller floats through life like driftwood tossed by waves. She's never put down roots --and she doesn't plan to. But when a chaotic hurricane evacuation lands her in Daily, Texas, she begins to think twice about her wayfaring existence. And when she meets hometown-boy Kemp Eldridge, she can almost picture settling down in Daily--until she discovers he may be promised to someone else. Daily has always been a welcoming place of refuge for those the wind blows in, but for Kai, it looks like it will be just another place to leave behind. Then again, Daily always has a few surprises in store--especially when Aunt Donetta Bradford has cooked up a scheme.

And now, my review:

You’ll get more than you bargain for reading this book. Never Say Never is such an enjoyable read!

I’ve never experienced a hurricane. You’d think this author was taking us directly into the storm and bringing us through it the way she penned this story. Her characters come alive with their quirkiness and relatable feelings. As a lover of romance, at first I was a little disappointed we were only in two POVs—the elderly character—Donetta Bradford, and the youthful heroine’s—Kai Miller. But as I kept reading the romance thread which develops, I found Wingate very capable of showing us the hero’s heart from his surrogate mother’s (Donetta’s) POV, and even Kai’s. Well done, Lisa!

There are so many laugh-out-loud moments in this story. And like a good comedy writer, Wingate knows just when to turn up the intensity. One scene had me laughing so hard, I had to put the book down, catch a breath, assure the other family members in the room that I was going to be fine(!), And assure myself I could keep reading, calmly. Then, I’d come back to the story and laugh ‘til more tears came. This cycle happened about four times during that one scene alone. Then, when Wingate revisits those characters a few pages later, I was laughing (or as my family calls it, “gone”) again. This author is a master of getting deep into the comedy of a situation. But she’s also skilled at bringing out poignancy, too.

Relationships. Wingate’s ability to take us into relatable relationships and elicit similar feelings to the characters is fantastic. She didn’t only make me laugh in her story. She made me cry. And that’s the sign of a good writer, a great novel.

So, even though, perhaps by the cover*, you may feel you’ll get a light, fluffy read. You won’t. You get a light read, but it’ll take you to deep places. And all of them worth it.

I’ll be reading this author again!

Highly recommended.

*BTW, I love this cover. And though I believe the cover will sell the book, being in Kai's POV while reading, you won't find this girl flirty and sassy like the cover depicts. But I wouldn't change the cover. Just expect a deeper character than you see. :)

Here's an interview with Lisa Wingate:

1. How did you develop the initial story idea/plot line for this book?

Some book ideas you search for, and some just blow in on the wind. For the past several years, dating back to Hurricane Katrina, we in Central Texas have been the recipients of massive hurricane evacuations. These massive exoduses of people, pets, and belongings are frightening, frustrating, challenging, and at times oddly wonderful. When so many are on the road seeking shelter, the worst, but also the best qualities of humanity come to the surface. Hurricane evacuations truly provide times when we ask the question, "Am I my brother’s keeper?" In answering that question, we’ve enjoyed amazing moments of friendship and fellowship, family reunions, and chances to share a food and space with strangers from other parts of the country. We’ve traded stories and recipies, laughter and tears.

One thing we’ve learned about hurricanes, living here, is that the paths are never predictable. Storms waver, hesitate, speed up, slow down, and sometimes change course unexpectedly. Evacuations needs can change and develop quickly. What better way for the beauty shop girls to find their inner strength and to show Daily hospitality, than for their cruise plans to land them smack in the middle of a sudden and chaotic hurricane evacuation?

2. Almost every author puts a little of themselves into their stories—what did you put of yourself into this one? (personality traits, life events/jobs, settings, characters based on people you know, likes/dislikes, etc.)

There’s a bit of me in the setting, of course. I love Texas, in all its variety of cultures and landscapes, but, living in a small town, I have a particular affection for little bergs like Daily, where the coffee’s always hot, and a good slide of pecan pie can cure most ills. Having watched our little town mobilize to take in hurricane evacuees several times now, I’ve been reminded that sometimes the worst things that can happen bring out the best in people. Given the opportunity and faced with the need, regular people can rise to the occasion in amazing ways, as do the citizens of Daily in the book.

Some members of the Wingate family might also claim to recognize themselves among the citizens of Daily, Texas. I would offer the disclaimer that any resemblances are completely unintentional, but that would be a bald-faced lie. When you come from a family of great storytellers and colorful characters, there’s nothing to do but make use of what you’ve got.

3. Did you encounter any interesting challenges while writing/researching for this book? Please explain if so.

The most difficult part of working on Never Say Never was researching and reliving the devastation left behind on the Texas gulf coast last year after Hurricane Ike. While interviewing family members about their experiences during the evacuation and return, we shared laughter and quite a few tears. For those who have lived in southeast Texas all their lives, talking about familiar landmarks, heirlooms, and old family places that were washed away forever, knowing some things will never be the same, is both difficult and devastating. For those of us who have so many memories of family gatherings and vacations there, it’s hard to believe we’ll never visit the old places again.

4. Why is this book/story relevant today?

Despite our best-laid plans, we all experience storms in life—whether those storms be of a weather-related nature, or due to an illness, death, or in recent months, job loss and financial misfortune. When the parameters of life and our ability to control fate suddenly change, we’re confronted with our own helplessness and need to rely on other people and God. In a culture that values independence and self-sufficiency, it’s important to remember that we all have a common need and a common responsibility for each other and that without faith we really are alone in the storm.

Lisa Wingate is a popular inspirational speaker, magazine columnist, and national bestselling author of several books, including Tending Roses, Talk of the Town, Drenched in Light, A Thousand Voices, and A Month of Summer. Her work was recently honored by the Americans for More Civility for promoting greater kindness and civility in American life. Lisa and her family live in central Texas.

Okay, now for the contest info. Leave a comment for a chance to win the following treats. Here's how the contest works: you leave a comment here. I choose a winner. That person's name gets forward to the blog tour coordinator who will then include our winner's name in the hat with other winner's names and come up with a grand prize winner. All of these prizes are included to the Grand Prize winner:

Grandprize Drawing

Donetta and Imagene's Texas Road Trip Basket (approximate total value over $150)

Take a Texas road trip, without ever leaving home!


The Daily Texas Series by Lisa Wingate:

Talk Of the Town

Word Gets Around

Never Say Never

The Blue Sky Hills Series by Lisa Wingate:

A Month of Summer

The Summer

Beyond Summer (a special advance copy not available in stores until July 2010)

Road Trip Snacks (Straight from Texas, of course!)

Wrap it all up with a fuzzy, fleecy Texas throw blanket for those cold nights on the road (or curled up with your books!)

So, leave a message here to be entered into the overall contest. Don't forget to leave your email address: youraddress [at] wherever [dot] com. :) We'll have the drawing on February 19th and pass the winner's name on over that day.

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