Jaded is Varina Denman’s first book. It won the 2013 ACFW Genesis Award and I can see why. What started out as a gentle story of a small town and the people in it, quickly turned into a book I really had a hard time laying down at night. It has been a while since a book has kept me awake at night, long after I should have put the book away and gotten some sleep.
Jaded is the story of Ruthie. The story starts when she and her mother are kicked out of the church one morning. Ruthie is not real clear on what happened, but it has turned her away from not only church and the people in it, but God also. As we move forward 13 years, we find Ruthie dreaming of the day she can shake the dust of Trapp from her shoes and never return. Her mother suffers from depression and Ruthie walks on tiptoes to make sure not to rock mom’s world. That is until an interesting new family moves into town.
The Cunninghams are not just a new family, they are the new pastor’s family. Dodd is the oldest son and is now supporting his mother and younger brother after the passing of his father. He takes a position of not only the new pastor, but also invades Ruthie’s space when he becomes the new math teacher at the high school where she works. They soon find themselves attracted to each other and the opposition rises against the idea of them dating. Not only from Ruthie’s mother, but also the leaders of the church.
When I first started this book, I thought it was going to be a sweet little love story that will have the couple face the bully and love will conquer all. Well that is not exactly what this story is about. Yes it is a love story, but interestingly it is not just Ruthie and Dodd’s love story as a couple. It is the story of Christians loving people to Christ. It is also about secrets. Secrets that people know and use against others to keep them out of the church. And yes, a bully. A bully who thinks he can get away with whatever he wants.
What this book turned into was a story of a family that just loved on their neighbors. Never once did they preach at them until questions were asked. They didn’t judge them by their past and what others said of them. They weren’t perfect, but they sure did try hard to live a life that would attract people to them instead of preaching about how bad someone was and how they needed to fix something before the church would welcome them back.
I am sure I am not the only one who could tell stories about what has happened to us in a church, but this is not that type of story, this is a story of redemption and forgiveness. But it is also a story of Love, yes with a capital “L.”