Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blessed Are the Wholly Broken / Melinda Clayton

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Approximate word count: 60-65,000 words

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“Melinda Clayton is the author of Appalachian Justice, Return to Crutcher Mountain, Entangled Thorns, and Blessed Are the Wholly Broken. Clayton has published numerous articles and short stories in various print and online magazines. In addition to writing, Dr. Clayton has an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration and is a licensed psychotherapist in the states of Florida and Colorado.”


“After the heartbreak of losing their newborn son to a previously undiagnosed genetic condition, Phillip and Anna Lewinsky managed to patch their lives back together and move forward, filling the emptiness with friends, work, and travel.

When Anna unexpectedly finds herself pregnant again at the age of forty-three, Phillip is thrilled to have a second chance at fatherhood in spite of Anna’s objections.

As desires clash, misunderstandings abound, and decisions are irrevocably made, the foundation of their marriage begins to crumble until only tragedy remains.”


Given a choice, I’d prefer to like a book and give it a good review than the opposite. Yet, it seems writing a negative or even lukewarm review is much easier. Articulating why a book didn’t work for me is normally easy, usually a matter of listing which common faults I found, both of a technical nature (inadequate proofing, grammar problems, convoluted verbiage) and issues with the story (inadequate or too much characterization, lack of conflict, nonsensical plot points) with examples.

You’d think a good review would be a matter of working from the same mental list of what can go wrong and explaining that it didn’t. Sometimes I do just that. But how many times can a reviewer say “fun (or entertaining) story, good characters, buy this book?” Even if the readers of the review don’t notice, the reviewer knows and feels like he or she is repeating the same old thing. It may not bore you, but sometimes it bores me writing it. Often the books I like the most are the toughest to figure out how to explain why. Blessed Are the Wholly Broken is one of those books.

Melinda Clayton’s first novel, Appalachian Justice, has been on my short list of books to recommend to others since I first read it. This book is as good in its own way, but much different. Maybe the way to get at the appeal of this book is to compare and contrast the two. The main characters in Appalachian Justice (I’ll abbreviate the two books as AJ and BWB going forward), due to the environment they were born into, both have much to overcome just to survive. Although one of the characters in BWB was born into a situation that isn’t much better, when we pick up his story he appears to have moved beyond his troubled beginnings (whether that is actually true, I’ll leave to the reader to decide). In any case, the characters and the setting of the story in BWB are going to feel more familiar, a lot more like what the typical reader has experienced in their own life than those in AJ.

The story conflict, those things the characters need to overcome, is also something most readers will more easily be able to relate to their own life or someone they know, even if they’d handle the conflict in a different way. Another difference between the two is the overall tenor of each story. While both have emotional ups and downs, AJ is much more positive and ends on an emotional high while BWB is the opposite, darker throughout with enough of the ending hinted at in the prologue lurking in the readers head to temper even the happiest points in the book.

In the end, both are excellent stories, but much different reading experiences. Picking a favorite would be tough and ultimately comes down to the reader’s taste.


Some adult content.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues

Rating: ***** Five stars


Pete Barber said...

Great review, Al. One for the wife's Xmas stocking, methinks.

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks, Pete. If she doesn't mind a bit of darkness in her reads, this is a good one. As are all of Melinda Clayton's books.