Only Philip Gulley can put a pastor in the kind of predicaments faced by Sam Gardner. Whether it's family or the members of his meeting, they find ways to confound poor Sam. Gulley's novels about the Quaker pastor are funny, touching, and warm. There's always something Sam, and, by extension, the reader, can learn about life and people, as in the latest book, A Lesson in Hope.
Sam Gardner had only been pastor of Hope Friends Meeting in Indiana for four months when Olive Charles dies. To everyone's amazement, she leaves her entire estate to the Quaker meeting, including her house, a car, and over $800,000. While Sam has dreams, "a fantastical illusion that he might get a raise", his meeting also has ideas. There's talk of a new roof, a new fellowship hall, a new vanity in the women's restroom, a new stove. And, then all that talk turns to squabbles. Maybe the insurance company would pay for the roof if there was hail damage. Who gets the car? Should they negotiate with Olive's niece, who is threatening to sue?
Can it get worse? Of course it can. In just a few days, Sam has to deal with "a hospitalized parishioner, a case of Alzheimer's, and a possible divorce." And, Sam's life continues to go downhill when Thanksgiving rolls around with a visit and surprise announcement from his parents. There are moments when Sam wonders if he made the right move to Hope, despite the pie committee.
Does every meeting and parish have squabbles and eccentric characters? Who knows? But, Philip Gulley always succeeds with stories that incorporate an interesting cast, humor, including some laugh aloud moments, and a lesson about hope, faith and fellowship. A Lesson in Hope is another charming story about a man who continues to be puzzled, and amazed, by people and life.
Philip Gulley's website is www.philipgulley.com
A Lesson in Hope by Philip Gulley. Center Street. 2015. ISBN 9781455519842 (hardcover), 260p.
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