Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review of "A Wedding Invitation" by Alice J. Wisler

Rating: 5 Stars
~  ~  ~
Synopsis from Bethany House: It's hard to concentrate when the past keeps shoving its way into your thoughts...

After returning home from teaching in a refugee camp in the Philippines, Samantha Bravencourt enjoys her quiet life working at her mother's clothing boutique near Washington, D.C. When she receives an invitation to her friend's wedding in Winston-Salem, NC, she's excited to reconnect with her college pals.

But the wedding turns out quite differently than Sam expects. A chance encounter leads to a reunion with Carson Brylie, a fellow teacher and the man who once broke her heart, and Lien, a young Amerasian girl who desperately needs Sam and Carson's help.

But working with Carson might put Sam's tender heart at risk once again. Is she willing to forgive the past and take another chance on love?

Review: I have been looking forward to reading A Wedding Invitation for the past few months and I was not let down.  Alice Wisler has a definite talent for crafting plots that exude depth and memorability.  The title A Wedding Invitation did not prepare me for the strength or uniqueness of the novel.  In fact, I wondered why the title was chosen until I finished reading the novel.  A simple invitation seen in the beginning of story is the foundation for all of the events that follow. As I reflect on the novel, I realize that one event that seems of no consequence on the surface can generate life-changing ramifications. Once again, Wisler made me think beyond the pages of her novel.

The plot of A Wedding Invitation alternates between the East Coast if the U.S. in the early 1990s to a refugee camp in the Philippines in the late 1980s.  Sam's story is as much about her past as it is her present, and the two are smoothly integrated into one novel. Her memories of her camp students and her reintroduction to one family focus on the plight of the Vietnamese and Amerasian refugees following the Vietnam war.  This focus is eye-opening, and Wisler's compassion for the refugees who she met as a teacher like Sam shines through the pages.

Through the pages, I was transported to the dusty classrooms of the Philippines to the bustling city of Washington D.C. to the humid south in North Carolina. The characters are equally diverse, and I enjoyed them all...the main cast - Sam and her family, Carson, and Lien, and even more minimal characters like Sanjay, the owner of a neighboring business.  Sam's Aunt Dovie and Beanie are often the sources of humor and charming quirkiness, but also invaluable wisdom.  Although the novel is told from Sam's first-person perspective, the other characters were well-developed.  The story of Sam's heartbreak unfolds as she opens up to Carson, and their love gently blossoms.  Despite earlier heartache, we are left with a happy and satisfying ending.

Read an Excerpt:
A Wedding Invitation

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