Author: Barbara K. Richardson
Bay Tree Publishing
“Guest House” centers around two main characters. Melba Burns is a middle aged single woman who witnesses a nightmare collision, after which she abandons her car, refuses to drive it again, quits her job as a highly successful Realtor, and retreats into her newly purchased old farmhouse. She carries with her the burdens of having had her family cut ties with her, of leaving a religion that was not supportive of her, and of a long ago ex-husband that was abusive. She is looking for personal peace, but hesitates to move outside of herself.
The second main character is Matt Garry, a shy ten year old with the weight of the world on his shoulders. His father is more attracted to alcohol than to fatherhood, and his mother’s major interest is herself. The saving grace for Matt is HeShe, his unseen companion.
Matt’s path crosses Melba’s when his mother, JoLee, moves in to share Melba’s house. JoLee is a beautiful woman with big dreams – far bigger than anything that Matt’s father (and her husband) Gene could ever provide.
Prior to this Matt’s father, Gene, found out that JoLee wanted to divorce him (he found the papers hidden in her bedroom). He immediately took his son and left town – ending up in another state, the owner of a run down bar.
Melba finds out that JoLee is still married, and that she has a son. After talking to Matt on the phone, Melba decides to invite him for Thanksgiving for a visit. The end result – Matt stays on with Melba and JoLee.
Throughout the trials and travails of Melba, Matt, JoLee, Gene, and JoLee’s new boyfriend Bill, we get a birds eye view of lives not so well lived, and the consequences of actions taken and not taken. In the end, Melba finds her sense of self, and sense of peace, through her interactions with young Matt. Melba’s interactions with her physical garden mirror her spiritual garden, with weeds being pulled and soil being turned over, with the help of Matt and JoLee.
This book gives a good sense of how we carry our emotional burdens not only within our hearts and minds, but within our physical selves. Richardson touches on friendship, and how it can be both supportive and nurturing, and a source for betrayal. Some of the finest moments are seen through the eyes of a young policeman that Melba encounters.
‘Guest House” is a wonderful portrayal of human nature – the good and the bad, and how we can heal ourselves.
© June 2010 Bonnie Cehovet