Here are notes I received via email from a review that will be finalized and apparently published in THE LAYMAN, a national Presbyterian newspaper. I am withholding the author’s name until publication is final.
(1) Shari expresses a rock-solid, reality-tested faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in Scripture. The Bible forms the lens through which she views and assesses every experience. She knows that book well, and it grounds her life and writing.
(2) Shari comes across as a straight talking, no-nonsense, Mid-Western, self-assured woman. No frilly lace handkerchief and helpless female demeanor here. This is a gal who upon seeing a hard spot in the ground, reaches for the hoe. She can pump water, split wood, repair fences, feed the animals, design a room, and balance the books. Experiences that some people might label obstacles she greets as opportunities. While many of the traits listed above are often associated with masculinity, Shari’s femininity is beyond question. After all, this is the woman who chose to wear a sheer, lime green blouse and camisole at Cary’s burial because “I wanted to look ‘hot’ for my husband!”
(3) Shari is passionate. This is no third-person writer. She openly shares her emotions through intensely personal vignettes. She loads her sentences with extraordinary detail: wardrobe choices right down to the underwear, an aunt’s gelatin salads and non-stop talking streak, that “dirty, rag-tag, pancake pillow” that she inserted in Cary’s coffin. And in each chapter, one meets her love of a Christian faith that is not only said, but sung. She chooses the great hymns of the church as her way to express what Scripture describes as “sighs too deep for words.”
(4) Shari is intelligent. Her accomplishments as an interior designer and “Blessed Farm” entrepreneur offer ample testimony to her ability to size up a situation and offer the appropriate – though not always obvious – response. Her vocabulary is expansive, a landscape splashed with colorful images. Her phrases (“cowboy elegance”) vivify her subjects. We are informed not only by what she says but through what she leaves to the reader’s imagination: How do we know that Aunt Agnes was married to a very patient man? Because “he stayed married to Agnes all his life …”
(5) Shari is purposeful. She believes that moments are meaningful, and that her purpose is to explicate that meaning. Stretched Yet Unbroken is no mere autobiography; no casual tale of who begat whom through a meandering labyrinth that leads us nowhere. This is Shari’s probe into the meaning of her husband’s death – a death that those of less schooled faith might regard as untimely. But for Shari, Cary, “a trim, tan, lean, handsome machine,” was “at the top of his game,” and his death on a “perfectly cloudless, windless summer Sunday morning,” albeit excruciatingly painful, made sense to her. It took its place in a pattern woven through dust storms in the depression, a J.C. Penney store in the middle of nowhere, the tale of two debaters who exchanged forensics for a lifelong love, an infant’s Christmas death, a farm whose dirt not only sustains, but teaches life’s lessons. Shari knows the Weaver, and she intends that those who view the pattern woven among Parker, Howard, and McMinn threads will come to know the Weaver as well. That purpose fuels the passion that illumines this book. Confident in the providence of God, she invites the reader to see her family’s stretch marks, knowing that not one strand has been broken.
Will Shari’s book be a best seller? If one measures the odds based on the thousands of homemade family histories that come and go, probably not, although Shari’s writing skills makes this one better than most. But in the wider scheme of things, does market measurement matter? Shari did not assemble these vignettes in search of literary acclaim. She penned them in honor of her husband and as a witness to her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And if her family and friends, those who are most likely to read her words, are enticed to examine the patterns that emerge in their own tapestries, then Shari will have accomplished her purpose.
Each of us has a story to tell that unveils the Weaver’s work – whether or not we acknowledge the pattern. It is often in a person’s telling of that story that the divine dimension unfolds. Shari has seen it, and with insight and clarity she shares her reflection. In so doing, she inspires our own introspection, for the Weaver whose threads Shari sees has a message for us as well.
Here are some earlier ‘first read’ reviews of my book.
+++ “From city life to remote homesteading, a large birth family to adopting two additional families, happy celebrations to unexpected widowhood, Shari Howard McMinn portrays her life and heart with disarming candor. STRETCHED YET UNBROKEN is a testament to God’s faithfulness in every area of life.
It reads like a novel, but defies genre – memoir, family history, parenting, philosophy of life, and much more – all from Shari’s big heart. Filled with pathos and humor and the lessons learned from a rich life, it will challenge you to live deeply and abundantly. Don’t miss this unique book!”
Marcia K. Washburn, BA, M.M.Ed; author, speaker, teacher; www.MarciaWashburn.com; Fort Morgan, Colorado
+++ “Having met Shari Howard (McMinn) in college, I loved reading the ‘back stories’ that make sense about the amazing woman she is today…her curiosity at such a young age…mastering all of her interests and passions…now passing them on to her children.
In STRETCHED YET UNBROKEN, her witty, down to earth sensibilities will have readers laughing, and at times crying, as she handles each new challenge with God always by her side…while never losing her contagious sense of humor.”
Colleen ‘Susu’ Leong Markham, BS Architecture; Homemaker, Community Volunteer; Kailua, Hawaii
+++ “A Christian heritage is a special gift, one worthy of writing about. I found joy in the pleasures and simplicity of days gone by, along with the treasures of a life abundantly lived. As I read STRETCHED YET UNBROKEN, I appreciated a faith that endured, laughed at Aunt Agnes, and enjoyed and anticipated each chapter with great delight. This was an adventure of a life lived, and reflections pondered.”
Amber Baughman; Adoptive parent, Homeschool mom; Castle Rock, Colorado
+++ “Shari has brought to life the Howard and McMinn family legacy for future generations to read, and be inspired. Bring a tissue as you live their life, including the Heavenly home-going of her beloved husband, Cary, and see the faithfulness of the Lord. May we all be encouraged to revisit our family legacies to learn of God’s enduring love for us“.
Roxie Cheney; Homemaker, Family Economist; www.BlueBarnProducts.com; Elizabeth, Colorado
+++ “Fathers can be expected to endorse a beloved daughter’s memoir, but a lawyer father who reads through the lens of 50 years of trial and appellate experience, has high hurdles for an endorsement. STRETCHED YET UNBROKEN clears those hurdles with ease, and is far more than a prodigal daughter’s memoir.
This is a passionate exposition of faith renewed and lived out every day. Told in prose that is active, concise and moving – Shari’s grief will give you tears and her faith will cultivate yours. This memoir is a modern testament about faith, family and friends, and the powerful redeeming influence two people can have on numerous lives through extraordinary devotion to Christ and to each other.”
Robert L. Howard, Esquire, Of Counsel, Past Chairman of the Board, FOULSTON-SIEFKIN Law Firm; Life-long Elder, Eastminster Presbyterian Church; Wichita, Kansas