A Spool of Blue Thread

A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel
By Anne Taylor
Published: 2016, Ballantine Books
Genre: Literature, Family Life

 

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Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny. They were getting ready for bed at the time.

I grabbed this book from Half Price Books because the cover intrigued me and the price was right. I had high hopes for it because it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and it was a Pulitzer Prize winner.

I thought this novel was very soap opera like. To me, it felt like the characters and the story had no depth, that it was very much just a surface skimming novel. As I continued through the pages, I kept waiting and hoping for the author to dig in just a bit more and flesh out the characters, but alas, it never occurred. I felt that the pages were full of fluff and not enough meat.

It was certainly not all bad. It had its good moments. If you’re looking for a very easy, beachy, soap opera type of book, then this is certainly it. I was looking for a Pulitzer Prize winning book and I felt that it did not live up to that.  The ending did not leave me satisfied either.

Perhaps someone else out there has read this novel and has a different perspective? Please share in the comments if you do.

…… When he reached Linnie’s side he took hold of her hand, and the four of them climbed the steps. They crossed the porch. He unlocked the door. They walked into the house. Their lives began.

A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel

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Little Fires Everywhere

.Little Fires Everywhere
By Celeste Ng
Published: 2017, Penguin Press
Genre: Literature, Fiction, Family Life

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Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

There has been a lot of talk about this recent release from Celeste Ng in the book community so I have been wanting to read it for quite some time. It finally came up to the top of the TBR stack.

The book, as you can see from the quote above, starts quite dramatically. The author commences with the ending and then works back through the novel illustrating how the characters got to this emotional finish.

As we work our way through the novel, we find out how Mia and Pearl’s history influences the Richardson family as well as their family friends, the McColloughs. Mia’s choices in the past have an impact on how she parents Pearl, how she interacts with the Richardson family and how she reacts to the situation with the McCollough family; which then creates circumstances that may have never occurred if Mia and Pearl had not just shown up one day.

The Shaker Heights neighborhood somewhat reminded me of The Stepford Wives; everything appeared perfect and neat with zero issues but behind closed doors was another story. With the addition of Mia and Pearl into this community, they start to realize that life is not as they always thought it was.

Some readers enjoy an ending in a book that is somewhat open; an ending that allows you to draw your own conclusions. I am not one of those people. I did not enjoy the ending. I need a book to tie up all the loose ends and to know what the finished product is. This book left me wanting more.

Overall, it was a great book and I enjoyed the story line; it was a well written novel. I would recommend it to those that don’t mind an ending that leaves you questioning.

Little Fires Everywhere

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Caroline: Little House, Revisited

Caroline: Little House, Revisited
By Sarah Miller
Published: 2017, William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical, Literature

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Caroline’s wrist turned and flicked as the steel tongue of her crochet hook dipped in and out, mirroring the movement of the fiddle’s bow. With each note, the white thread licked a warm line across her finger. Her pattern had just begun to repeat, chorus-like, as the tune ended.

Nostalgia. That is the feeling I experienced while reading this book.
I read the The Little House Books so many times as a young girl that I practically had them memorized. I was pleased to see that there was now a book written from the perspective of the mother. Since I am now a mom myself, I loved getting to read the same story but from Caroline’s point of view.

I thought that Sarah Miller did a wonderful job of staying true to the historical knowledge of the Ingalls family, but adding enough of her own creative elements that we were able to really feel like we were a part of Caroline’s life. She did an impressive job of portraying what a woman would think and how a woman would feel during the troubles and times of the Ingalls family.
I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to be a pregnant mother, leaving behind your entire family and all you have ever known, to travel across the country into the unknown.

Those that she could not bear to leave sat close around her, yet as she looked backward through the keyhole of canvas at the blur of the waving hands, Caroline could not help but wonder whether Charles and the girls would be enough.

The writing in the book was beautiful. The words used, the pictures that the author created, put me right back inside that wagon with the Ingalls family; only this time I was the mom and not Laura.

I really enjoyed this book and reliving the days of Laura and Mary through Caroline’s eyes. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who read and loved the Little House series as a young child (or still does).

Caroline: Little House, Revisited

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Loving My Actual Christmas

Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season
By Alexandra Kuykendall

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I was so ecstatic when I saw that Alexandra Kuykendall put out a call on Instagram for women to be a part of her upcoming Christmas book launch team.
Not only is Christmas my favorite holiday, but I enormously enjoyed her other book, Loving My Actual Life, which had a huge impact on my life and gave me perspective on where God has me in this season of my life; MY actual life.
Through my posts about her other book and helping to launch this book, I feel as if I have gotten to “know” Alex. You guys! She is just like us. She is down to earth, she is a hot mess of a mom, she is trying to just live in her actual life right here and right now while keeping herself and her family entrenched in His word. She needs Jesus just as much as we do. She is human just as much as we are. She just happens to write books is all.
Read her book. You will NOT be disappointed!

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Through her new book, Alexandra Kuyukendall gives us a marvelous fresh perspective on how we should slow down, stop and enjoy the Christmas season that we are living in RIGHT NOW. Because that is all we have, is the RIGHT NOW; our actual life. She beautifully entwines real life with scripture and biblical principles on how to not just “get through” the holiday but to relish in and enjoy the season that celebrates the beautiful birth of our Savior.

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Pause from the hustle and remember.
Remember a baby.
Remember a savior.

 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. ~~Luke 2:11

We are only human. We can only do so much. We only have so many hours in a day and some of those we need to use to eat and sleep. We do not need to do every.single.holiday activity that is out there. If we tried to do that, it would take us an entire year. And then, Christmas would loose its magic, its significance and its importance.

Rather than overspending, overeating, undersleeping, and underrejoicing, I want to notice the goodness God has offered in the here and now. In this year. This. Christmas. Regardless of the circumstances. Because I don’t want to resent this actual Christmas, I want to love it.

Don’t you want to love your Christmas this year? This Christmas. Not last year’s Christmas or next year’s Christmas, but this one. The one right here, right now, in front of you, staring you in the face.

Hope.
Love.
Joy.
Peace.

The four weeks of Advent.

Alexandra takes us through each week of the Advent in her actual Christmas. As we journey through her life with her, she gives us scripture to steep ourselves in, biblical knowledge and tangible ideas that we can use to help us love OUR actual Christmas.

She reminds us that the celebration of the birth of Jesus does not end on December 25th. Amidst the wrapping paper, dropped needles all over the floor and new gadgets and gizmos, we have 12 more days in the liturgical calendar to relish in our magnificent Savior.

Advent is the period of expectation and waiting. Christmastide is the season of celebrating his arrival. I celebrate here in the middle of my actual life with my actual circumstances.

Celebrate YOUR Christmas in the middle of YOUR actual circumstances. Amidst the busy, amidst the crazy, the grief, the joy, the shopping and baking, the school plays and concerts, amidst the impatience and frustration, the strained budget, and even amidst the brokenness.

And you want to enjoy this Christmas. The one right in front of you. In the midst of all the imperfect circumstances. You want to remember it as one filled with celebration and love, rather than frustration and regret. 

Find Hope within it. Find Love within it. Find Joy within it. Find Peace within it. Find Your actual Christmas. Because we only get this actual Christmas once in our life. We cannot do it over again.

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I cannot recommend this book enough. And you need to get it now. You need to read it now. BEFORE the craziness of the holiday season overtakes your life. Because then, just maybe, this Christmas won’t be crazy. Then read it again throughout the Advent and Christmastide season. It will keep you grounded in His word and the amazingly beautiful story of a baby who came to rescue a fallen world.

Loving My Actual Christmas: An Experiment in Relishing the Season

I received a free digital copy of the book in order to do this review.
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More Than Just Making It

More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated
By Erin Odom

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In More Than Just Making It, Erin Odom shares her family’s story through their previous years of financial struggles. She tells about how they were drowning in debt, with not enough income, and struggling to feed their family, but how through it all, they learned to rely on and be content with God’s provisions. Erin shows us how her family found contentment right where God had them and that after following God’s lead, they were able to find the light on the other end of the tunnel.

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Through Erin’s transparency, we are able to see that God will provide for all of our needs; not wants, but needs. There were some stumbles and bumps for her family along their path but they continued to be faithful to His word and His path for them.

As Erin takes you through her own story, she equips you with tangible, realistic ideas and tips to save money, live within your means and dig yourself out of the dark hole while continually having faith that God will never forsake you. She provides you with encouragement, and empowers you with the tools you need to find the life God has planned for you.

I want to give you hope, but I also want to arm you with practical solutions that will take you from financial stress to financial success.

One of the pieces that I thought was fantastic is how Erin opens up conversation about the stigma of using government assistance. WIC, welfare and other forms of government aid have gotten a ginormous stigma of shame, abuse of the system and lazy people who do not want to go out and get a job. Erin does a wonderful job of getting rid of the stigma by explaining how the help is there for those that TRULY need it. Yes, there will be exceptions and those who abuse it, just like with anything else; but if we were to take it away completely then there would be families just like hers that would not be able to even feed their children. She does a effective job of bringing it back to scripture and what God intended for His people.

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done. ~Proverbs 19:17

We need to help those that have fallen on hard times. Life sometimes has a way of kicking you while you are down and it by no means says that you are lazy or abusing the system. The system was put in place to help families for a short term while they regained their footing during a tough time of financial struggles.

What if our generation could live with less than the Joneses while reaching for a new American Dream that leaves us fulfilled, less stressed, and re-imagining “the good life”? What if we learned to be satisfied with our needs being met? What if we aligned our wants with God’s design and own callings, instead of basing them on what the family next door has chosen?

What if we stopped living above our means and using our excess to help those who are in need? What if we were content with what God provided for our needs and used the excess to change the pah of a struggling family? What if our generation tried to “keep up with God” rather than the Joneses? What would our world be like then?

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This book has at least a little bit of something for everyone.
If you are in the dark, swimming, trying to figure out how to put the next meal on the table, then this book is for you.
If you are just getting your head above the waves and finding your footing, then this book is for you.
If you have already been through the darkness and you’re on the other side, finally living comfortably without financial worries, then this book is for you.
If you have never known the depths of the darkness that comes with financial strain and not being able to feed your family, then this book is for you.

There is a lesson for each and every individual within the pages and words of Erin Odom. I highly recommend it to all.

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Be sure to get your lowest price, pre-order copy from Amazon by clicking my link at the top or bottom of this post. After you have pre-ordered, be sure to get all of the fantastic freebies (only available to those that pre-order the book!) by going to the More Than Just Making It website. Scroll to the bottom and you will see how to get your freebies. 🙂

More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated

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The Lightkeeper’s Daughters

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters: A Novel
By Jean E. Pendziwol

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I had seen many people on Instagram saying they were reading this and that it was fabulous, so I was intrigued and willing to give it a read.

“In her mesmerizing adult debut set on the shores of the Great Lakes, critically acclaimed children’s author Jean E. Pendziwol delivers an affecting story of family, identity, and art involving a decades-old mystery.”

So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around

The Lake
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

I really enjoyed this book. It was not exciting and adventurous, but it had a wonderful story line that evolved and intertwined with all of the well developed characters. The story was set in a part of the world that I have never been to and it was nice getting to experience it through the author’s words and the characters’ stories. Jean Pendziwol did a wonderful job with the descriptions of the setting that you could picture it clearly and feel like you were right there with Elizabeth.

I loved how the book explores the ideas of knowing your past, where you come from and learning how that can shape who you become. There are also some undertones of the argument nature versus nurture. I think the author does a fantastic job of getting you to think about which one is the underlying reason of who you turn out to be.

The novel is full of family secrets and choices that change the course of things, lost loves, bullying, acceptance, unconditional love despite your circumstances and the journey of a young girl desperate to find her roots and a sense of belonging.

As I said above, the book is not chalk full of adventure, but it contains its own kind of mystery that keeps you intrigued all the way up until the end of the story. It was a great read that was not too in depth or made me think too much but had just enough to keep me hooked. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a quick, “lighter” book to read.

 

*Note* There is a little bit of adult language in the book. However, I think it lends to some authenticity of the character and the story.

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters: A Novel

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the strange and beautiful sorrows of ava lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
By Leslye Walton

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This book was so fantastic and so phenomenal that I had to read it twice.
Ava Lavender was the book club pick for this month. The first time I read it, I had it done in just 2 days.
I thought I should read it a second time before our monthly meeting to make sure I did not miss anything since I devoured it the first time. I took a little bit longer to read it the second round so I could grasp more of the details; 4 days.

To many, I was a myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth–deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl.

Myth incarnate……but just a girl.

The book follows 3 generations of women through life; we walk with each of them through their journey with love, loss, tragedy, understanding and redemption. It is unique, however, in the fact that the story is told from the narrative of Ava Lavender, the 3rd generation in this line of women.

I loved the background story the author gives us so we can understand what makes Ava who she is and how the women before her fit into her story. Emmilienne seeks to forgive, Viviane seeks love and Ava seeks normalcy and acceptance.

Lesyle Walton, in her debut novel, weaves just enough realism within the story that there are moments that you have to check in with your mind to remember that it is magical realism and pure fantasy. She makes it easy to get so wrapped up inside the pages and the characters that you tune out the world around you and forget that it is just the result of a brilliant imagination and extraordinary writing.

The writing, the words, the language, the flow of the story of Ava Lavender is quite captivating. It is poetic, it is whimsical and it is exceptionally enchanting to read.

Just a girl……normal…..accepted…….is that not what we all want, wings or not?

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There is some adult content. While it is a YA book, I recommend this for older teens and for you to pre-read it to gauge what fits into your family’s level of acceptable literature.

This next section is where I usually add to my review after my book club meets and include some thoughts and opinions of the other ladies, but I do not want to ruin the magic of this book for you by giving away spoilers. 

The majority of the ladies enjoyed the book, although magical realism is quite different from what we typically read.

I highly recommend this book and it is definitely one I could see myself reading multiple more times.

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

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Gospel-Centered Mom

Gospel-Centered Mom: The Freeing Truth About What Your Kids Really Need
By Brooke McGlothlin

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I have talked to countless women who feel that they’re failing or that they’re not strong enough, creative enough, spiritual enough, wise enough for the thing they most want to get right —–parenting.

How many of you moms out there feel this way?
I know that I often do. As a woman who has struggled with perfectionism and the “not good enough” mentality my entire life, it has now seeped into my parenting as well. Every.Single.Day. I feel like I am not getting it right and that I will never be a good enough mom that my children need.

The only thing I could hear was not enough. Actually it felt like the whole world was united in screaming at me, “You’re not enough!”

As soon as I read those words, I felt a kinship with Brooke; I felt empathy and I finally felt understood. Everywhere I turn, I feel like that is all anyone thinks about my parenting.
As I have mentioned previously, I have children that can be challenging to parent. We can have some pretty rough days and when days are rough, moms tend to (at least I do) blame themselves and feel like we have failed at everything.

The word enough means “to fully meet demands, needs or expectations.” It’s the “fully” part of the definition that catches me. If we’re “fully” able to meet demands, needs, or expectations, why would we continue to need Jesus? 

What?!? Did you read that?
This.
This was a humongous, gigantic light-bulb moment for me.

If we were enough on our own, we wouldn’t need Jesus, and, friend, we all desperately need Jesus.

I know that I certainly need me some Jesus in my life.  I need Jesus every single day. Without Jesus, I don’t have a way to get to my Father and I desperately need a way to reach Him. I need the love and the forgiveness. I need His grace and His mercy.

I’m not enough, because I was made to need God. I was never meant to do life without God helping me. Every moment of every day I need the work of God in my life through my Savior, Jesus. When I say I’m enough, I’m actually saying that I don’t have an ongoing need or that I’ve somehow arrived at enough and will always stay there. This isn’t the truth of the Gospel the way I see it. I will never arrive. I will never not need God.

This book has had many eye-opening, light-bulb moments for me. I know that it can do the same for many other moms out there who struggle with perfectionism and the “not good enough” mentality.

Brooke McGlothlin has a way of making you feel like you’re not the only one out there struggling and having the feelings that you’re struggling with. She makes you feel heard, understood and loved.
Brooke weaves scripture and biblical truth in and out of her book while giving you tangible things you can do to accomplish being a more Gospel-Centered Mom.

I highly recommend this book for all moms, who like me, need some Jesus in their life.

 Gospel-Centered Mom: The Freeing Truth About What Your Kids Really Need

* I received an advance copy of the book to read and do this review*
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firefly lane

Firefly Lane
By Kristin Hannah

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I was recently gifted a delightful afternoon to peruse our local Half-Price Books to my heart’s content so I decided to try and find some new authors to read.
I was drawn to this book because of the cover art. Who can resist the idea of a summer night filled with fireflies, friendship and serenity?
After reading the synopsis on the back, I decided to definitely give it a try. I love reading books about friendships between women and I was also delighted to see that the setting was in my own area of the Pacific Northwest.

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Love. Family. Friendship. Acceptance.

What everyone wants from life.

We first get to meet Kate and Tully as young teenagers who become fast friends during a time in each of their lives when they felt that they had no one.
Being a teenager is hard. Being a lonely teenager is even harder.

When I was a teenager, I had good friends. None of them ever turned into that deep connection, bosom buddies, through thick and thin type of friendship that lasts over 30 years. I always craved it, but now it is too late for that kind of relationship; the kind where you grow up together.
I now have some fantastic friendships; definitely the kind that I could see lasting the next 30 years and sitting in our rocking chairs on the front porch with our gray hair. It was bittersweet for me to read about the youthful friendship of Kate and Tully.

As I have said before, I like to be transparent with my reviews. There is a minute amount of language and a tiny amount of adult content but the majority of it is tasteful and can be skipped. 

These two women certainly had their ups and downs in their friendship. They each have a different type of personality, come from a different home life, and have different life plans and goals. Through it all, they stuck to their promise to each other to “always be best friends, no matter what”.

That’s the funny thing about writing your life story. You start out trying to remember dates and times and names. You think it’s about facts, your life, that what you’ll look back on and remember are the successes and failures, the time line of your youth and middles age, but that isn’t it at all. 
Love. Family. Laughter. That’s what I remember when it’s all said and done. For so much of my life I thought I didn’t do enough or want enough. I guess I can be forgiven for my stupidity. I was young. I want my children to know how proud I am of them, and how proud I am of me. We were everything we needed—you and Daddy and I. I had everything I ever wanted. 
Love. 
That’s what I remember. 

I pray that everyone is able to find a friendship in their life like TullyandKate; a friendship of love, anger, pain, family, growth, sweetness, bitterness, hatred, unconditional love and acceptance.

I highly recommend this book, especially as a wonderful summer-time read. Grab a floppy hat, a glass of iced tea, slather on some sunscreen and sit at the pool or on the beach and enjoy Firefly Lane.

There are additional novels that take place on Firefly Lane. From what I have read, only 2 of the stories are related.
The Kristin Hannah Collection: Volume 1: Firefly Lane, True Colors, Fly Away

Firefly Lane

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In the Unlikely Event

In the Unlikely Event
By Judy Blume

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How many of you women have fond memories as a tween girl, giggling with your friends at the latest slumber party, holding a dog-eared copy of the much loved Judy Blume novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
I know that I do. A novel, treasured and coveted, that taught many life lessons within its pages.

Thank goodness for us, she now writes adult novels as well.

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A historical fiction novel, In the Unlikely Event visits the unusual and chaotic events of 3 separate plane crashes occurring in the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950’s.

Judy Blume is able to lend some authentication within the pages of this novel because she happened to be a teenager living in Elizabeth when the events took place. The characters and their stories in the book are fiction, however Judy was able to lend authenticity to the emotions and repercussions of the accidents because she was there during that time.

I cannot even begin to imagine the fear that would run through a small town after not 1 or 2, but THREE airplane crashes; especially since aircraft was still a fairly new phenomenon.

Children had nightmares, families moved, women and men vowed to never fly on an airplane again and lives were changed forever after they witnessed the crashes along with the aftermath.

As we follow Miri, her family and friends through the impact these crashes had on their lives, we learn about first love, old love, anger, growing up, unexplained tragedy, mental illness, family and how secrets can affect not only your own life but those around you. We learn what it is like being a single mother, being an only child without a father, what it is like to be wealthy and what it is like to barely be able to pay the bills.
We learn that life does not always turn out how we imagine it or how we would like it to.

In true Judy Blume fashion, there is some adult content in the book; not a lot but enough that you need to be aware that it is in there.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. I enjoy learning about historical events but still being able to lose myself in the fiction story of a novel. Judy Blume did a good job penning a work of fiction that you can get invested in all while intertwining the historical events during the early 1950’s. The book is not a work of amazing literature, but it would make a wonderful summer beach read.

“No,” Rusty said. “Enough is enough. She’s too young to understand. None of us can make sense of it–how can you expect a young girl to?”
“Not by sweeping it under the rug and pretending it didn’t happen,” Henry said.

In the Unlikely Event

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