Secrets of the Porch: Sue Ann Sellon
Two lives are about to intersect by meeting and crossing at one or more points. Sharing a common area these two lives might join together and the end result just might be something quite powerful. Second chances are often rare and all too often the courts come down hard on rebellious teens trying to teach them some of life’s hard lessons by placing them in detention centers or in jail. But, sometimes a judge sees past his black robes, his power and authority looking deep within his soul and comes up with a solution that just might safe more than one life. Secrets of the Porch is a heartwarming, powerful and compelling story of two people whose lives intersect causing them to both face their fears, reflect on their pasts and come to grips with their present.
Sophie Mae Randolph robbed a gas station with her boyfriend Gabe. Sophie is about to make a decision that would determine her sentence and her fate. Will she decide to go to the detention center or will she accept the judge’s alternative sentence? What happens when this teen is sentence to serve her one-year sentence on a farm in Nebraska with a grandmother she never met and never knew existed.
Sophie is determined to hate the world and her grandmother. But, from the moment she steps into Lila’s truck, rides the distance to the farm something slowly changes. Sophie sees within Lila a warmhearted, kind and open-minded woman who has allowed her one more chance to turn her life around but will she take it or will she decide to leave?
Learning that she would have to attend school, do chores and follow the rules and guidelines not only set out by her grandmother but by the court, Sophie had a lot of adjustments to make. As she traveled the distance Sophie began to reflect back on her mother, how her boyfriend reacted to her when he learned she was pregnant and the life that her mother tried to give her. Throughout chapter 2 we hear Sophie’s words, begin to understand her feelings and learn about Grace her mother.
Robert and Hilly Taylor would not only be her mainstay along with her grandmother but would prove what wonderful friends they were to Lila. Lila’s farm required tedious hours of hard work and Sophie would now be a part of everything but would she last? “Trees lined each side of the dirt road that led to the house. Branches formed a canopy over the top, and the cool fall wind blew among them. It felt as if the trees were welcoming us.” Picture the scene so vividly described and feel the wind as it blew. Now meet Hunner a stray dog that will endear you to him from the start, sleep on the edge of your bed and let you know that he’s your best friend.
Sophie took in her surroundings as he memorized each piece of furniture, ran her hands over the wood and felt the smooth surfaces. So, why did it remind her of Gabe, the one person who caused all of her grief and belongs where he is in prison. But, teens often do not see past what they want to see until it’s too late. Each room has its own personality, its own feel and special memories as Sophie enters the library, sees where her grandfather read his paper and then enters the barn. Getting to know Lila we all realize that somewhere within this amazing woman there is a secret that she has yet to reveal and memories of her daughter that she slowly and carefully allows readers and Sophie to uncover. Mysteries are not always solved right away as the mystery of the farm, Lila’s past and what caused Grace to leave the farm and never return must be solved by the reader and uncovered in time as you read this outstanding story.
Chapter 3 will bring tears to your eyes as Lila reveals the day she buried Grace Ann Randolph. Hear the sounds of pots and pans in the kitchen as Lila cooks up a storm and smell the tantalizing aromas. She makes it all from scratch and brings back memories of my own sitting in the kitchen watching my Grandmother Katie create her own unique dishes. From homemade chicken soup to chocolate pudding the smells are still with me and I can taste the soup just by thinking about it.
Lila was always humming and working hard but stopped in her tracks when Sophie asked her if she really believed in God. Saying grace before a meal, learning how to handle change would be just a start for Sophie along with collecting the eggs each day from the chickens and many other chores. Sophie had no idea that her grandmother kept so many memories of her mother within this farm. Her grandmother loved nature and so did her mother. Sophie in so many ways not only had her mothers eyes, her face was almost the same but her love of nature and teaching her to honor and “ appreciate that God had always intended for us to live in his creation of beauty and wonder,” made a great impact on Sophie.
School proves to be a challenge for Sophie until she meets Blake. The girls in the school are more than just mean they are verbally abusive but with the help of Blake she learns to overcome it. Her grades are good and she is learning to adjust to farm life and her grandmother when she is told she has to attend Sunday services. Here is where things get really interesting as three of the leading women in the church have some reason to be rude and insolent to Lila who tried to teach Sophie about her mother, her past and as she soon realized that there was a lot of her in both. But, her past haunted her and incidents plagued her memory as Sophie begins to wonder about Gabe and makes a fatal mistake.
Lila always wanted to open her own bakery. If she did not have to tend to the farm her dream might have been more of a reality. The kitchen smelled of chocolate, mouthwatering creations and Lila hummed religious ballads all the way. But, a special present would cement their love and friendship as Lila presented Sophie with a pen set. Inscribed was: Let your heart be your guide. Let the words flow through it. With Love, Lila. It could not have been more special. But, a Sunday morning sermon really hurt Lila and Vivian the woman whose wrath she had incurred was fearless but Lila would not allow herself to succumb to her cruel ways. Not wanting to tell Sophie what brought this on she kept it hidden as their relationship grew closer. Throughout pages 111- 131 on mystery is revealed as the author and Lila share Gracie’s story and the truth behind why she left the farm and what and who caused it. Lila reminded Sophie that “life’s most profound lessons happen in a moment, where everything is changed and something looks or feels the same. The soul is looking through the same set of eyes, but the depth of the soul has been forever changed.” But, an invitation to the prom from Blake brought happiness to her heart. An evening that was special but turned tragic.
While Blake and Sophie were enjoying the prom someone else arrived at the farm and took the life of someone special to Sophie and injured her grandmother. Arriving back at the farm she realized that something was wrong, upon entering she found her grandmother covered in blood and in need of help. But, although Blake tried to go for help the unknown intruder was too fast for him. As Sophie dealt with a sick person from her past she realized more and more that she needed to find a way to protect and defend her grandmother. Pretending to want to go with him, withstanding his abuse Sophie managed to keep him at bay until a miracle happened and someone from Lila’s past came to the rescue. A special man named Charlie has always held a special place in her heart and the author and Lila while she and Sophie are waiting for help to arrive will share with the readers how they met, why, their relationship and another mystery will be solved. Who is Charlie and why wasn’t he in Lila’s life after Joe died is one mystery that will be solved only if you read chapters 18-20. A story so heartfelt and two people who wanted to be accepted, loved and understood. Two generations that might never have come together had a judge not used his intelligence and foresight to create a sentence that would change a young girl’s life.
What happens to Lila and will Charlie remain or leave? What about Blake and Sophie? The prologue reminds readers that Sophie is returning to the farm but why and why does she hesitate to enter? Read Chapter 22 and the final secret will be shared and the something special that is shared with Sophie.
A story that is true to life and a two lives that would never be the same. How does the power of love, trust, understanding and joy transform two people? This is a must read for young adults, teens, adults, parents, guidance counselors and this book should be in every school’s library. Secrets of the Porch: Welcome to Lila’s farm and uncover the magic and the secrets that are held within the : a structure attached to the entrance of a building that has a roof and that may or may not have walls: a porch. (Free dictionary.com)
Fran Lewis: Reviewer