Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Mill House by Paul McCusker

A sign of an excellent writer is when you turn that last page, only to want to go back to the first and start the book over again. Paul McCusker's novel, The Mill House, affected me that way. As I traveled through this story from 1940s England to modern day U.S.A. & England, the characters took me captive. Not a good thing since I'm supposed to read & review another novel published by Thomas Nelson now. I can't start the other novel, set in Savannah, Ga., because images of Lainey and Nicholas keep popping up in my head!
Paul does such an excellent job of weaving the details of the story that I felt like I was unwinding a ball of yarn. Cecil Murphy described this form of writing in a recent workshop I attended. Glad to find an example of that style so soon to cement it in my mind.

Let me explain how I came to have this treasure of a book. I wanted to donate Christian romance novels to the teens at a farm for wayward girls. As I searched stores, looking for publishers such as Zondervan, Harvest House, Tyndale, and Thomas Nelson, I came across The Mill House. I opened it and read the first paragraph of the prologue.

"Oh wow," I said to myself, "I'm not giving this one away!" I had to find out why an elderly lady would sit on a log in the pouring rain-wearing her nightgown, robe, and slippers, clutching shards of stained glass from a bombed-out church in her hands. Without giving away the ending, let me just say that pondering on the "what-ifs" of life will undoubtedly send us spiraling into the pit of despair. We must remember what the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12-14: Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I'm glad I kept this book for myself. The Mill House also provided a good historical perspective of that time period. Now that I've finished it, I plan to loan it to my friend May, a Liverpuddlian who spent her childhood in an English orphan home during WWII.

As much as I enjoyed this book, I know it would never pass our FWA critique group. Paul uses speaker attributes other than "said" or "asked." A big no-no according to our faciliator. Other authors have instructed the same thing. "Don't be afraid of the word 'said.'" He also uses those pesky "ly" adverbs I've been told to remove from my novel. And--GASP!--he uses a prologue. I happen to like them, even though other writers debate whether or not we should use them. My mentors have told me that, since I have one in Obedient Heart, the first chapter should carry the tension of the prologue forward. I've seen prologues in other novels (Firestorm by Jeannette Windle comes to mind) that have nothing to do with Chapter One, and they work well. But I do digress. Yes...I'd like a little cheese with my whine. 8-(

Whatever FWA no-nos Paul McCusker did in his novel, The Mill House, they aren't worth arguing about. It's a good story, well-told and well-written from start to finish. Drop whatever you're doing right now and buy this book. Or borrow my copy...but you'll have to wait in line.

And if you happen to visit Great Britain, say hello to Lainey, Nicholas, Elaine, and Adam for me!


1 comment:

  1. Ahh, turning the last page. I will hate to see "real" books disappear in favor of the internet.