Good morning from the frigid north -actually southeastern Michigan, but it’s doing a fairly good imitation of the North Pole this morning. Quite a contrast from those balmy Florida days last weekend. But still, Michigan is “home,” and I’m rather relieved to be here. Last week’s trip was a bit anxiety ridden, for numerous reasons upon which I won’t elaborate. However, there was a bright spot in the week, a book which allowed me to set aside the worries buzzing about my brain and become entirely lost in what I like to call a darn good story.
Kissing Games of the World, a delightful tale by Sandi Kahn Shelton, is the story of Jamie, a single mom whose life is turned completely cattywumpus when her housemate, an older man caring for his young grandson, suddenly dies and his son, Nate, returns to the family home to send her packing and reclaim his child. As you might expect, the two are like oil and water, and lots of sparks fly throughout the novel until it reaches its (never predictable) conclusion.
Shelton has a pitch perfect ear for dialogue, and I particularly enjoyed her characterization of the two little boys, Christopher and Arley, each with his own lovable, quirky personality. Jamie is the perfect combination of gentleness and strength, while Nate-well, he’s one of those guys you gotta love, even when you feel like giving him a good swift kick. The chemistry between the two characters is palpable, and you can’t help but root for their relationship to flourish.
Most of all, I loved watching the process of Nate’s growth, and it struck me that sometimes our lives seem fulfilling and satisfying, and then – BAM! – something happens that sends us careening in unimaginable directions which take us to the place we were meant to be all along. With the real world around us so topsy-turvy these days, it was rather comforting to see that change can be positive and exciting.
Shelton’s writing is warm, witty, and engaging, and amdist the sparkling repartee and roller coaster events a passage like this comes along to calm the readers racing heartbeat:
…every now and then, falling asleep listening to the steady hum of the central air instead of the chaos of a thousand crickets outside, she tried to enumerate all she missed, just so she wouldn’t forget anything. It was like a little exercise in misery, actually, letting herself strum those memories, plinking each one like a string on a guitar, just to see which one hurt. She missed being the only woman in a household full of males, the only one to wear a long dress and to have her hair braided. And how the kitchen had been her domain, how she was the queen of pots and pans, and the way the sun shone in through those yellow curtains, making a buttery circle on the table in the mornings. She missed the back stairs, and the coolness of the front parlor, and the way the glider squeaked, and what it was like standing in the kitchen painting, listening to the boys playing with Legos at the table, making up stories; she missed holding her cup of coffee down at the roadside while she and Harris and the boys waited for the school bus to show up; missed the way people stopped over just to talk sometimes; missed taking a blanket down to the pond and watching the boys catch tadpoles.
Kissing Games of the World is just the kind of story we all need in these troubled times, a feel good, yet insightful tale of real people struggling to discover their true heart.
Like a visit with a good friend, it was just what I needed last week.
by Sandi Khan Shelton
published November 2008, by Shaye Areheart Books