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Just Shy of Harmony Paperback – March 16, 2004

Book 2 of 8 in the A Harmony Novel Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Just Shy of Harmony, Philip Gulley's follow-up novel to Home to Harmony, the award-winning author again offers matchless slices of small-town life as he catches us up on the doings of the quirky characters that inhabit this small community. Beloved minister Sam Gardner slides into depression as his little Quaker church, which once had goals of spreading the gospel and ending world hunger, now juggles such lofty issues as what type of vanity table to put in the ladies' restroom and the progress of its chicken noodle sales. Gulley gently pokes fun at evangelical Christianity's foibles through his characterizations, including church member Dale Hinshaw's "Scripture egg project" (chickens lay eggs with Scripture in the yolks to reach the unsaved). There are poignant moments: Wayne Fleming's wife Sally has deserted him and his three kids, and now Wayne is in love with lawyer Deena Morrison, owner of the Legal Grounds Coffee Shop. When Sally returns home, Wayne must make the most difficult decision of his life. Reading one of Gulley's stories is as comfortable as sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch, listening to an old friend spin tales. This installment in the Harmony series is sure to win Gulley some new fans and please his loyal following. --Cindy Crosby --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

When Sam Gardner reads an article about "the ten warning signs of depression" in a Christian magazine, he discovers that he has seven of them. The article closes by telling readers that if they have seven or more signs of depression, they should see their pastor. The trouble is, Sam is the pastor. He's tired of writing sermons and exhausted by his congregation's resistance to any change more meaningful than installing a new vanity in the women's bathroom. In this refreshingly candid novel, a sequel of sorts to Home to Harmony, the members of Harmony's quirky Friends Meeting engage in various struggles with depression and doubt. Like Jan Karon, Gulley has a gift for understanding the hilarity and pathos of small churches in small towns. With his characteristic wry humor, he develops a host of side characters, from Dale Hinshaw, the self-righteous and infuriating church elder, to the salt-of-the-earth lottery winner, Jessie Peacock. Gulley is unflinching at depicting some of the church members' narrow-mindedness, but he never succumbs to stereotype. While some readers may initially have a difficult time adjusting to the way Gulley often switches from the past to the present tense, this device helps the book play out like a comfortable, down-to-earth conversation. Many readers will relate to Sam's honest struggles with faith and will appreciate the book's subtle message: that Sam's faith is rekindled only when he steps away from congregational infighting and begins to help others. This story is a winner.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (March 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006072708X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060727086
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Gulley has become the voice of small-town American life. Along with writing Front Porch Tales, Hometown Tales, and For Everything a Season, Gulley is the author of the Harmony series of novels, as well as If Grace Is True and If God Is Love, which are coauthored with James Mulholland.

He hosts "Porch Talk with Phil Gulley" on the Indiana PBS affiliate WFYI television's flagship show Across Indiana.

Gulley lives in Indiana with his wife, Joan, and their sons, Spencer and Sam--in a rambling old house with Gulley's eclectic chair collection (64 at last count) and a welcoming back porch.

Customer Reviews

These books are easy, pleasant and clean reads.
Stephanie S.
Sam Gardner is the narrator of the story and he is the Quaker minister of Harmony Friends Meeting.
Holly
This is the second book in a series about the small town of Harmony, Indiana.
Dan Whipple

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mamalinde on August 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Gulley takes an irregular route to the very heart of things, complete with a test of faith. The reader returns to Harmony where once again the author shines up the mediocre and the mundane and turns it into a miracle. A very sympathetic look into the discouragement of leading a church of willy nilly believers, with one or both feet in the past and blinders on their eyes. The reader will learn why goal setting and a gymnasium aren't necessarily a good thing for a church, and how a run-away wife and mother can pull people together. The accidental lottery winners and scripture eggs and yes - gossip - keep things interesting, when life isn't always harmonious. Believe it or not, there is something for everyone here in this story of a Quaker minister challenging faith and depression. The well intentioned, as well as the goofier members of this congregation, are kindly and humorously set out in caricatures that leave you laughing or shaking your head (and I'm betting you'll recognize some of these folks). The Friendly Women taking on the liberal press and hijacking the hospital kitchen was simply a touch of genius. The gentle people of Harmony occasionally practice the fine art of indifference, but joy and faith, steadiness and kindness carry through. A thought provoking and profound ending that challenges the reader to come up with their own explanation. Might giving thanks be more important than seeking the truth?
Don't miss Gulley's other warm, wonderful and charming books: Home to Harmony, Front Porch Tales and For Everything There A Season ... divided into easy to digest chapters for all ages.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Katie F. on January 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In this wonderful sequel to Home to Harmony, Sam is beginning his second year as pastor of Harmony Friends Meeting. This sequel, as the first book, follows a year in Harmony. Dale Hinshaw is still getting on Sam's (and everyone else's) nerves and has a new idea for witnessing - scripture eggs. Deena Morrison, owner of Legal Grounds, returns and plays a bigger part as does Wayne Fleming.
I enjoyed this book even more than the original. Instead of the vignettes of small-town life that the original had, the sequel follows a more traditional storyline and I found that the characters came even more to life for me in this fashion!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Dan Whipple on February 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Last weekend I spent a wonderful year in Harmony reacquainting myself with the good citizens of this simple Indiana town. This is the second book in a series about the small town of Harmony, Indiana. Brought to life by a master storyteller,the common folks of Harmony will make you laugh, cry, pull your hair out in disgust, and leave you with a warm feeling. Phil Gulley will lead you down a path of character assassination and, just as you have passed judgment, facts are revealed to reverse your feelings 180 degrees. A subtle lesson in prejudging others results in a paradigm shift that leaves you rooting for the underdog. I can't wait for the next book in the Harmony series to find out what Dale, Sam, Jessie, Deena, Fern, and all the other great folks of Harmony will be up to.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book was excellent. A lot more serious than the first, but definitely with its lighter moments, like with the Scripture Egg project. I'm sure that many people can relate to the characters in this book, who are so believable. I can relate to Sam's struggles with his belief in God, as I'm sure that many have experienced the crisis of faith. I was touched by Asa's and Jessie's generosity with the lottery money and how the town pulled together over Sally's illness. I can't wait to read the next book in the series. And the author himself is such a nice guy. I have friends who used to go to his church, and he responded quickly to an e-mail where I complimented him on his first Harmony book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ann Sherry on May 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the first book I've found that hits close to the best in the Mitford series. It's different than the Mitford series, tho. It's more concise and succinct. Every page shines with laughter and true faith. I enjoyed it more than the first "Home to Harmony". The author is more polished and he is just hilarious, has created characters that we love getting to know, and, if you've ever been active in church you can spot most of your fellow parishioners among them. Thank you, Mr. Gulley, for such a warm and entertaining experience from cover to cover.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Julie S. on May 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My whole family (teenager included) just finished reading this delightful book. We all found ourselves laughing over the scripture egg project, and the folks of Harmony. Maybe we saw ourselves in some of the people. Even though parts of it were serious, it brought you to the place of reflecting about your own spirituality and yet brought humor into the story at the same time. I have read all of his books, and found this one as delightful as the others. Thanks Phil!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie S. on December 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The whole Harmony series is very enjoyable, and it among my favorite in the fiction genre. They are all light-hearted and full of wonderful and entertaining characters. The books follow Sam, a pastor in a small-town Quaker church, and the eclectic group of individuals who are members.

You will likely find yourself laughing out loud at the antics of Dale, as he undertakes his scripture-egg project or his salvation balloons. Fern Hampton may drive you nuts, but you'll learn to love her.

Many reviewers compared this to the Mitford series, reading this one because they enjoyed the Mitford series so much. I tried reading the series after this one, and found it dry and dull.

These books are easy, pleasant and clean reads. Enjoy!
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