Abby Quinn McDougall is a Southern lady whose once picturesque small-town life seems to be shrinking. Widowed at fifty and burdened by the care of an ailing mother and a cantankerous teenaged daughter, Abby wishes her life were simpler and her responsibilities fewer. Abby’s daughter, Neal Grace, devastated by the loss of her doting father and the illness of her beloved grandmother, wishes for change, for the chance to break free from other people’s expectations. And Abby’s mother Edith wishes only to be liberated from life itself.
But wishes, like prayers, often backfire. As their wishes begin to come true, the Quinn women start to wonder: Could it be that their old life wasn’t so bad after all? Is it possible that the answer to their deepest longings has been right in front of them, all along?
The old vase, with the engraved phoenix that appears to be flying when tipped in the light, has many secrets to hold. It is a family heirloom that has seen at least four generations of women. It is said to be “magical” and will grant a wish to those who have “Purity of Heart and Faithfulness of Soul.” This heirloom has seen the lives, loves, and losses of each generation of women and takes the failing Edith on a journey of self-discovery in which she discovers the richness of her heritage and what really matters in her life now.
This book has the potential to be a masterpiece in many ways. It is a delightful stand-a-lone story that encourages those of us who feel we are always struggling with something and “if only” things weren’t a little different we would be happy and satisfied. (That being one of the great lies of the ages – that something other than God himself can satisfy our innermost longings.) However, before I wax on ineloquently, back to the story.
The use of the wishing jar as a symbol that ties each generation together is lovely and works incredibly well. The character descriptions are each full and believable. I felt like I could understand and know each person from the teenager with emotinal angst, to the struggling middle-aged woman, to the reflecting Grandmother.The structure of the plot and overall story fits together beautifully. The writing itself is quite superb. The one problem I have with the story is the mystical properties given to the wishing jar. The fact that it is said to grant wishes to those who have “purity of heart and faithfulness of soul,” seems to be a bit too closely aligned with magic which I believe is incompatible with Christian beliefs. I would have liked to have seen much more emphasis on a spiritual journey instead of the magical experiences through the wishing jar. It left me with a prevailing feeling of uneasiness.
Would I recommend this book to others? Yes, but with a caution or at least a discussion afterwards about the all powerful influence of our God who doesn’t need magic to make our greatest desires come true.