My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the Songbird trilogy, The Sweet By and By, a heartwarming tale of love and redemption. This second novel takes up a couple of years after that sweet ending. At first, it looks like Jade’s life is pretty wonderful in Whisper Hollow, Tennessee except for the fact that she and her husband Max have still been unable to have a baby. Then a series of events exposes the many cracks in Jade’s world – her husband’s substance abuse, her father-in-law’s cheating ways and the motive behind them, and, most of all, her husband’s betrayal just before their wedding and a life-changing secret that’s like a knife to Jade’s already wounded heart. On top of all of this heartbreak, Jade’s Freebird of a mother, Beryl, is losing her battle with leukemia and wants to die at home in Iowa.
Grieving for the mother she’s not ready to let go of, Jade, along with her mother-in-law, June, take the opportunity of granting Beryl’s wish as a way to get away from the various sources of heartache and do a little soul searching. Enter Jade’s ex-husband, her father-in-law’s bid for state judge back in Tennessee, and a rolling hill of memories, Jade struggles to deal with everything.
Because it’s a lot. I felt that there were too many problems facing Jade and June at once – substance abuse, infidelity, betrayal, grief, old feelings, an accident at Jade’s business, and more. I mean, sure, that’s how life can be but for the sake of the story, there were just too many things vying for the reader’s attention. There is not a lot of joy to be found in this second story about Jade’s continuing search for redemption but there is a lot of wisdom. And several questions left at the end that are hopefully answered in the final book.
Though it is really about real life and finding the strength to deal with it, Softly and Tenderly and the Songbird series falls under the category of Christian fiction. With a few exceptions, I don’t read a lot of Christian fiction but if what you’re looking for is the tale of strong women thriving in the real world, I recommend J. Ryan Stradal’s The Lager Queen of Minnesota.