Review: The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories – Celeste Fletcher McHale

Celeste Fletcher McHale. The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017.

Celeste Fletcher McHale’s The Secret of Hummingbird Cake was one of the most surprising and unique debut works that I reviewed last year.  In sharing it with several family members, they were incredibly impressed with the overall story and characters.  When I had the chance to preview an advanced reader’s copy of Ms. McHale’s upcoming release, I jumped at the opportunity.  After finishing the book in record time, I can honestly say that the novel is well worth the read!

Stranded on a rooftop during a devastating Mississippi flood, Jacey becomes attached to her fellow survivors, a poor mother, her four sons, and a man named Colin.  Over the course of three days, Jacey and Colin formed an indescribable bond forged by their life-and-death situation.  When a chance at rescue separates Jacey and Colin, they promise one another that they will reunite, only to have their contact information and Jacey’s memory wiped away in a tragic accident in the flood waters.  A year later, Jacey and Colin are unexpectedly reunited at a friend’s wedding.  Jacey’s faulty memory, triggered by her tragic accident, begins to return after talking with Colin and reestablishing their relationship in the normalcy of their real lives.  However, the flood waters were not the only complication that Colin and Jacey encountered in the years prior.  To move forward, each must have faith to overcome their previous challenges and fears, even if it means setting aside the relationship that they each have sought to relocate after the flood.

Ms. McHale shows herself to be a resonant voice in Southern fiction, writing in a style that reaches beyond traditional Christian fiction and into the real world challenges of everyday people.  The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories will leave readers wanting far more of Ms. McHale’s stories.

Overall, I was absolutely thrilled with The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories!  After reading Ms. McHale’s debut novel, The Secret of Hummingbird Cake, I was left unsure as to whether she could ever write another story of equal caliber.  In The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories, she shows herself to be an incredible (and surprisingly consistent) storyteller.  The novel features complex and compelling characters faced with incredible, yet realistic, challenges, leaving the reader reflecting on the story long after it ends.  While some aspects of the novel may fall outside of the norm for Christian contemporary fiction, Ms. McHale’s story offers a fresh and genuine tale that will resonate with a Christian audience.  Additionally, the storyline, including the characters’ faults and challenges, will also ring true for a general readership.  In this purely Southern tale, Ms. McHale offers an insightful look at the true meaning of redemption and second chances, whether for a family, marriage, friendship, or romantic relationship.

Fans of Ms. McHale and The Secret of Hummingbird Cake will definitely want to read The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories.  Likewise, readers who enjoy Southern-inspired Christian fiction will also want to check out this novel.  Ms. McHale writes for a broad audience, with moderate to fast pacing of her story.  Some readers may dislike some of the novel’s language and actions of the characters, which may impact the age-appropriateness of this story.  However, the novel is well worth the read for those who can appreciate the overall plotline and the characters’ redemption, in spite of their imperfections.

Special thanks to the author (Celeste Fletcher McHale) and BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories

Review: The Secret to Hummingbird Cake – Celeste Fletcher McHale

Celeste Fletcher McHale. The Secret to Hummingbird Cake. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

I regularly ship off a pile of books to various groups, libraries, and family members. Today, I’ll be sending an extra fun stack of books that I’ve already featured on the blog to some of my family in Canada. With the long winters we enjoy here in the north, books are a great source of entertainment and joy, in spite of the weather outside. :)

Celeste Fletcher McHale debuts her writing talents in The Secret of Hummingbird Cake. A purely-Southern tale, the novel follows the adventures of three best friends: Carrigan, Ella Rae, and Laine. Having grown up together in a small town, they know everything about one another. Together, Carrigan and her two friends have taken on every adventure, encouraged one another in their marriages and relationships, and been through every life event right alongside each other. However, life brings unexpected news for one friend, forcing all three to pull together in a way they have never experienced before. Along the way, they discover the mysterious secret ingredient for hummingbird cake and their once-in-a-lifetime friendship.

Ms. McHale weaves an incredible tale of love, friendship, and faith in her debut novel. Readers will find themselves shedding tears of joy and sadness, as they feel drawn into a sweet Southern town and Ms. McHale’s remarkably well-written characters.

Overall, I was very impressed with The Secret to Hummingbird Cake. While I’m not typically the person drawn to chick-lit novels that focus on a close-knit group of friends, I ended up reading this novel from back to front in one sitting. Ms. McHale offers incredible insight into women’s personalities and relationships with one another, accessing the full range of human emotion in a way few authors ever accomplish. She presents a conversational style in her writing that will draw in readers and keep them immersed in a compelling cast of characters, who seem to leap off the page in their realism. I found myself particularly awe-struck by Ms. McHale’s ability to communicate her characters’ maturing experiences with love and loss, as these topics seem nearly impossible to articulate in even real-life situations. After reading The Secret to Hummingbird Cake, I am very eager to read Ms. McHale’s writing in the future.

Fans of contemporary Christian fiction, particularly focusing on friendship and character-driven storylines, will definitely want to read The Secret to Hummingbird Cake. Likewise, those who enjoy other examples of Southern fiction in the Christian fiction market should definitely try Ms. McHale’s work. The novel contains some language not regularly found in Christian fiction. However, the quality of Ms. McHale’s writing and character development are well worth the read.

Special thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the advanced copy of The Secret to Hummingbird Cake!

Looking for this book? Support the Books and Biscuits blog, while shopping at:
Amazon – The Secret to Hummingbird Cake