Over the course of twenty years and seven novels James Wilcox has established himself as one of the most distinctive and beloved voices of the South, a comic master whose work has been praised by writers as diverse as Robert Penn Warren and Anne Tyler. From Modern Baptists—which was both included in Harold Bloom’s Western Canon and featured in GQ’s list of the forty-five best books published in the last forty-five years—to Plain and Normal, he has charted the collision of the stubbornly genteel Old South with a world of franchise food and a brimming melting pot, as the manners and mores that have always been its cherished hallmark threaten to vanish completely.
In Heavenly Days, his first novel in five years, Wilcox returns to the familiar landscape of Tula Springs, Louisiana, and introduces a sweetly hapless heroine trying to come to terms with a way of life for which she is utterly unequipped. Lou Jones—middle-aged, well educated, and faultlessly sensitive—has found herself unaccountably living in a $295,000 faux-Cajun cabin (her husband’s dream house) and working as the receptionist in a fundamentalist health emporium housed in a defunct train station. Hardly the thing for a Ph.D. in music theory, yet Lou consoles herself with making valuable contributions to the American Bassoon Society’s newsletter, and with drawing the town’s spiritually needy citizens into her beneficent orbit. But her well-meaning interventions soon involve her in a series of increasingly complicated misunderstandings, as she becomes embroiled in evading a gun-toting tax collector, trying to befriend her aloof housekeeper and her unnervingly elegant mother, waging an ongoing and fruitless battle over the ownership of her husband's childhood home, and wrestling with a hotly disputed loblolly dresser. These are all distractions, though, from Lou’s true, if unacknowledged, aim: to find the grace of heaven in the days of her own life through the bonds of love.
Heavenly Days marks the welcome return of James Wilcox—a gift to his longtime readers and to an entire generation of new ones.
Van Liere's sequel to the bestselling The Christmas Shoes catches up with Nathan Andrews (the eight-year-old who bought sequined shoes for his dying mother's walk into heaven) in his third year of medical school. Doubting his ability as a doctor and still bitter about his mother's death on Christmas Day years before, Nathan falls for Meghan Sullivan, a young woman in his cardiology rotation who may be suffering from a terminal heart defect. As she languishes, she renews Nathan's faltering faith and sense of purpose in life. He learns again through love the wisdom his mother shared before dying: "each of us is destined for something, a purpose that often seems muddy"; and even when life brings more pain than it should, in the end there is always joy. Van Liere's warm prose transforms what would otherwise be a cliched tearjerker of a Christmas miracle into a cozy, inspirational holiday tale.