Chasing Lilacs is the coming-of-age story of Sammie Tucker, set in Graham Camp, Texas in the late 50s. I easily lost myself in the plucky, questioning mind of a 12 year old girl who longed for normalcy within her family but whose life circumstances forced to grow up too quickly. Though Sammie’s life was crumbling about her she was still surrounded by love through her solid, steady father and various friends and caring neighbors in the tight-knit community of Graham Camp.
The author poignantly shows how non-familial relationships – though not the perfect maternal one Sammie yearned for but couldn’t quite have – gives the young heroine a semblance of stability and care while providing godly wisdom. The secondary characters are as vibrant and real as Sammie, and the intricate weaving of relationships throughout the story added depth and emotion.
Carla Stewart’s writing is pure, honest and absorbing. Chasing Lilacs reminds the reader of the sweet heat of a first crush and the warm, always-complicated relationship between a mother and daughter. I felt the sizzling sun in Graham Camp during summer’s full swing and heard the explosion when Tuwana’s dad had his accident. I could taste and smell the Juicy Fruit gum Sammie’s Aunt Vadine chewed while spewing criticism at Sammie.
And I deeply felt Sammie’s shock, pain and anger at the betrayal life handed her at the sensitive age of 12.
Chasing Lilacs is a beautiful reminder that faith in God carries us through all life’s circumstances, and that the imperfections of others don’t decrease God’s goodness. They magnify His great love and care.
Chasing Lilacs was much like picking up and snuggling a generous, worn blanket on a cold winter day. It slid over me fully and brought a warmth I needed. Rough around the edges with reality but soft and comfortable from sweet memories, the story details the strength that comes upon learning that love is the perfect antidote to life’s pain.
I highly recommend Chasing Lilacs, and I eagerly await Carla Stewart’s next book.