The Story Keeper

The Story KeeperThe Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate
Series: Carolina #2
Genres: Contemporary
Published by Tyndale on August 22, 2014
Pages: 438


Jen Gibbs is a successful non-fiction editor in New York just beginning what could be her dream job at a new publishing house. When a mysterious manuscript shows up on her desk from the infamous, off-limits “slush-pile,” she is weary, but inexplicable drawn to the story therein. A child of Appalachia herself, Jen is compelled by the story of mixed race Sarra, a young Appalachian woman in the early 1900s and travels back to her home to search for the rest of the manuscript. With suspicions of the manuscripts author’s propelling her forward and the past pushing her away, Jen must confront not only the manuscript’s mystery, but her own family troubles that she once thought were behind her forever.

Often with a dual storyline that I find myself wishing for the historical aspect to last longer and rush through the contemporary storyline, but that wasn’t the case with The Story Keeper.

I loved both sets of characters and both stories. I found Rand’s spiritual questions to be enlightening, and his interactions with Sarra to be both entertaining and poignant. I wanted more of their story, and think that the end of the book could have brought some resolution there. Though there is little left of the manuscript by the time its origin is revealed, I think an epilogue featuring Sarra and Rand would have been a lovely way to end the book. That I was looking for this speaks to how much I enjoyed the historical elements.

Jen’s personal journey rang true for me. She comes from a very backward-thinking family, who were oppressive in their belief system and hostile toward anyone who seeks life elsewhere. Her frustrations with her father and sisters and hopes for her youngest sister felt genuine; there was no magic button to make everything better. She had to continuously grow and change in spite of her circumstances.  Jen has no control over the decisions that her family has made, or how they respond to her decisions, and she ultimately realizes that their actions aren’t her responsibility. She can keep working through the issues within her power, all the while knowing the ultimate control doesn’t lie in her hands

I think one of my favorite themes touched on in the story is how one person can alter another person’s life, and in essence, their story.

We are all characters in each other’s stories, whether a passerby or a major player, we all affect each other. Jen’s past and the people there helped mold her into the person she became, even the difficult members of her family and most trying times that she experienced. Wingate’s writing reflects these themes well, and I appreciate that the spiritual aspects were subtly woven throughout the story.   I think some points could have been a little more clear-cut, a little more evident, but overall, Jen’s realizations were beautiful

There were several elements to this story – the historical and contemporary storylines, family drama, as well as the mystery of the manuscript. I found myself glad that Wingate didn’t try to sweeten the story by adding an unrealistic romance. While a future relationship was certainly hinted at, in no way did it take over the story. It was nice to read a contemporary story that didn’t fall into that typical pattern. The setting is vivid; Wingate does a great job in using dialogue, tone and word choice as a way of drawing the reader into the Appalachian setting. The descriptions establish a great sense of place, without detracting from the plot. I also loved the details about her job in publishing; I think this behind the scenes look would be fascinating for any bookworm.

The Story Keeper manages to delve into both contemporary and historical without one story line taking away from the other.

Its themes are universal, yet unique to the story. I will be recommending this one to friends and can see myself buying a copy for my personal library. It is one of those stories that I can see revealing even more value and insight on a second reading.

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