of Coldwater Revival
Reviewed by Kevin Lucia
Coldwater Revival by
Nancy Jo Jenkins
"Written in a style that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as another Southern literary woman – Flannery O’Connor."
For years, a devastating childhood accident has scarred Emma Grace Falin, haunting her every footstep. No matter what she does, pangs of guilt stab her heart, robbing her of true happiness and contentment. Though she’s learned to deal with her grief in part over the years, a corner of her heart has remained closed off, pain and self-recrimination locked within, tainting her, pulling her slowly downward. Feeling forever unworthy of love and affection, Emma has become emotionally stunted – a person interrupted, her life melancholic at best.
When Gavin O’Donnell, a roughish, attractive man, arrives from Ireland, she can hardly believe her fortune when the handsome fellow – who could have any girl in town – turns his sights on her instead. After spending so many years certain she wasted her one chance to love and have a family of her own, Gavin seems heaven-sent; a virtual gift from God above. However, as the wedding day draws near – amidst subtle and not so subtle objections from family members – something stirs inside Emma, a strange, discontented feeling that fills her with sudden doubt about her future with Gavin.
With fear and trepidation, she realizes that in order to move forward with life, she must re-visit the past, dive deep within memories of a horrible tragedy that changed her forever. Caught in a storm while out walking, trying to sort out her conflicted feelings, Emma seeks shelter inside hillside rock formations, and retreats down the hallways of yesteryear, in search of a little girl who was never able to let go of her burning guilt.
Coldwater Revival is Nancy Jo Jenkins’s first offering to the literary world – and quite frankly, it’s just a wonder to behold. Written in a style that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as another Southern literary woman – Flannery O’Connor – Coldwater paints a striking picture that is nostalgic, full of depth, and real. These characters live and breathe, and it’s not hard to imagine the tale stretched out across the silver screen. This is a story that takes its time reaching its destination, but the journey is to be enjoyed and cherished, not endured.
Stylistically speaking, it is sophisticated and literary – and the Irish lineage of the Falins rings clear and true, the characters speaking authentically and realistically. Jenkins comes from a large, close knit family – and it’s clear she’s used them as a resource; she understands how to write people. Many writers excel at constructing credible plots; others are skillful at orchestrating imaginative, suspenseful plot twists, but to find a writer who can breathe life into their characters – like the late O’Connor, or Dean Koontz and Stephen King - is a rare treat indeed.
This is an endearing novel, and Jenkins clearly has a bright literary future ahead.
Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun
Bulletin and The
Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s
Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened
Horizons Vol. 3 & 4,
NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus
Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations,
Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s
writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The
Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his
wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at
Catholic Central High School
in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing
at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and