Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Club: Welcome to Harmony by Jodi Thomas

By: Kara Conrad

Welcome to Harmony
Population: LOTS of unforgettable characters
SYNOPSIS from Jodi Thomas’s website: Sixteen-year-old runaway Reagan has always wanted a place to belong. She's never had a real home of her own, but perhaps she could borrow someone else's. Under an assumed name and identity, she moves to Harmony, Texas, but keeps her distance from the welcoming townsfolk. Until prairie fires threaten Harmony-and Reagan learns the true meaning of family, friends, and home.

When you first enter the town, you’re sure to see people that remind you of someone you’d like to meet, maybe even someone you’ve known your entire life. You will meet young children who can teach us all something about life, teenagers from the local high school, including a rising rodeo star, slightly (maybe slightly more than slightly?) eccentric old folks, some quite cheerful, others down-right cranky. As Alex thinks about Jeremiah, “He’d been old her whole life.” Don’t we all know someone who fits that bill? And I guess that’s the thing about Welcome to Harmony; there is an entire cast of characters the reader will recognize. There are people who may appear one way on the surface, but not too far below that surface have several layers most never get to see. Thanks to the brilliant writing of Jodi Thomas, we do.

If you like romance (and of course we all do), then there is something for you in this book. In fact, there is more than ONE love story for you. I dare you to read the scene when we first meet Alex and Hank and NOT be intrigued by their relationship. We’ve talked before about those books set in small towns, and have featured some of them here at the club. This book has that too, which adds so much depth to the story. By the time you finish, you will feel not only like you KNOW these people, but that you can’t wait to learn more. Lucky for all of us, this book is the first in a series! There’s also suspense and a mystery to solve. This book has it all!

I really enjoy at least a bit of comedy in the stories I read, maybe even a laugh out loud moment or two. How about Jeremiah, the old man we hope will take Reagan in and give her a real home? One of his many, memorable lines is, “I welcome company about the same as I do black mold.” J But this book also offers much more serious, deeper emotional scenes. For instance, on the same page Jeremiah declares his ‘fondness’ for visitors, Reagan describes what she calls reverse wishing. At sixteen, she has learned “I don’t wish for good things to happen, I just wish the bad things would leave me alone for a while.” That line stuck with me, as I know that to be the truth for many children.

If you’ve read the book already, then you know what I’m saying is true, and I’m looking forward to finding out your favorite characters and storylines from Harmony. If you haven’t read this book, believe me when I say, this little write up barely scratches the surface of all you’ll find within its pages.  And yes, I’m a bit biased as I’m currently in my third reading of this book, but I’m not alone in my praise for it. Welcome to Harmony has received many fantastic reviews and is a 2011 RITA winner! The second book in the series is Somewhere Along the Way and is already out in bookstores. The next book, The Comforts of Home, is due to be released November 1!

And finally, this is how I know Jodi Thomas is a writer for me (and anyone who knows me will get this): not only is she an amazing story teller, but right there on page 72 of Welcome to Harmony, Tyler stops by SONIC!  Jodi doesn’t mention the drink he orders, but I’m quite certain it is a Coke, extra ice. J

Jodi is scheduled to visit with us today, so ask your questions! Also, for my own benefit, let’s talk favorite characters, lines, etc. I will be dropping by as often as I can, but don’t let my absence slow you down. Step right up, start the party, and WELCOME TO HARMONY!

While I fully recommend a trip to Sonic, a la Tyler (p. 72), it is the tradition of book club to include recipes with our book talks. Since they are served up here by yours truly, you know it can’t get any easier than this. You cooker ladies keep you laughter to a minimum.
Certain to be hits at the Blue Moon Diner:
Chili Cheese Fries
1 (32 ounce) package French fries
1 (8 ounce) bag shredded Colby jack cheese
1 (15 ounce) can chili with no beans
2 green onions (sliced)

Step 1: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat French fries according to package directions. Drain on paper towels.  In a medium sauce pan over medium heat the chili until it is heated through.
Step 2: Arrange fries on the bottom of an oven safe dish. Top with chili, then shredded Colby jack cheese, and finally green onions. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese has melted (can also be done in the microwave on plates).

Blueberry Crumb Pie

Yield: 8 servings
1 c Sugar
• 8 oz Commercial sour cream
• 3 tbsp All-purpose flour
• 1/8 tsp Salt
• 4 c Fresh blueberries
• 1 Unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
• 1 tbsp Sugar
• 1/4 c Dried breadcrumbs; fine
• 1 tbsp Sugar
• 1 tbsp Butter or margarine; melted

Combine first 4 ingredients; stir well. Place blueberries in unbaked pastry shell; sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over berries. Spread sour cream mixture over berries. Combine breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon sugar, and butter; sprinkle over top. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until center is firm. Yield: one 9-inch pie.