"The Other Side of the Bonfire"
by Melinda Johnson
Published by Lingua Sacra, August 2012
Also available on Kindle from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
What do you do when you realise your life is falling down around your ears ? For many of us, it is no-brainer; we turn instinctively to our family and close friends to see us through the difficult times and Jewel is no exception.
Disheartened by a string of failed relationships and bitterly hurt by the most recent betrayal, she flees to her dearest friend, Sara, for refuge and advice, and begins to rebuild her life as a single woman. Her confidence sapped by her recent experiences, she needs support, tender loving care and wisdom which are amply supplied by her best friend, and slowly her new life begins to take shape.
A chance encounter with Fr Nicholas and her instinctive response to provide help to someone in need introduces her to the priest and parishioners of an Eastern Orthodox church, and Jewel finds herself unexpectedly attracted to the worship and life of the church, which is very different to anything she has experienced before. The parish is a true microcosm of society, with people she soon grows to love and people she finds hard to get along with, yet all of them mean well and are doing their best to live Christian lives, even if they do not always succeed.
There is a dearth of high-quality Orthodox fiction for adults and Melinda Johnson is to be commended for so bravely stepping up to the plate and filling this need. She succeeds exceptionally well because she obviously writes from the heart and gives us very real characters with whom we can cry, laugh, mourn and rejoice, and many of them are instantly recognisable from our own lives and parishes. Jewel quickly discovers that the church is indeed a spiritual hospital, and this is especially true of some of the strongest characters you would least suspect of needing such help.......
I have the feeling that Jewel's story - and that of the parish - is very far from over, and I hope Melinda will give us a sequel to this thoroughly enjoyable book soon.