This was a beautiful book. Though I’ve never read anything by Laurie Lewis before, I’d heard she was a great writer, so I was excited when her publisher contacted me about reviewing Awakening Avery on my blog. I didn’t know what the book was about until I got it and read the back cover copy:

“You’re depressed,” the doctor declared.

“Ya think?” is author Avery Elkins Thompson’s sarcastic response to the astute diagnosis for the malaise that set in following her husband’s untimely death. Avery’s carefully controlled world is imploding, and her adult children fear they are losing her too.

“You’re just a shadow of the person you used to be…We’d gladly give you up for a while if it meant getting you back.”

Avery can’t write, and questions about their father’s death leave the family mired in pain. “We need a healing place,” her oldest son tells her, suggesting she find it on Anna Maria Island, Florida, a former family vacation spot.

When Avery returns to Baltimore to sell the family’s waterfront condo, she meets rodeo-ers-turned-real-estate-brokers Teddie and Rider Davis, and Avery’s quiet life will never be the same again.

The Davises help arrange a short-term house swap with widower Gabriel Carson from Anna Maria, whose overprotective parenting has resulted in two self-centered, twenty-something daughters. Avery and Gabriel are in for the summer of their lives as they step into one another’s messy, complicated worlds.

Still, venturing out on her own again is challenging for Avery, whose experiences at the Ringling’s magnificent Ca d’Zan mansion, and with the quirky characters she meets there, eventually awaken her to truths she has long forgotten – that as crazy as life can be, it is possible to laugh and love again.

I found the characters complex and well developed. They all seemed like real people to me with real challenges. There were so many little storylines for the characters that keeping them all straight should have been confusing, but other than when I couldn’t get back to the book for two days, I had no problem keeping everyone’s roles straight. (That’s what happens when I set down a book for more than a day though). The descriptions were well done, the plot interesting with plenty of twists.

I loved that the story opened with Avery having ruined her television and computer monitor in her grief over losing her husband. Greif manifests itself in so many ways, and you see several of those displayed in the various characters in the story. The stories wrap themselves up maybe just a little too pat (in one case), but it left me with lots of warm fuzzies and I would definitely reccommend this book to anyone. It’s an LDS story with LDS values, great lessons and the kind of far-reaching lessons that touch lives.

You can learn more about Laurie on her blog or website. She’s also the author of the Free Men and Dreamer’s series–three books set in the early 1800s of the U.S. (the first is pre-was of 1812).