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The Chapel Wars Paperback – 2014
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Rating: PG to PG-13
Cupid's Dream represents everything Holly's beloved chapel has long stood against -- the cheap, commercialization of marriage and Vegas's reputation for tackiness. But Dax is a surprise. The Alabama-transplant is everything his grandfather isn't, has a smile that steals her breath, and a loyalty to his family's chapel that only Holly can begin to understand. But if Holly was going to save the chapel for her grandfather, her family, and herself, she couldn't possibly lose her heart to one of the enemy. In the Chapel Wars her would-be Romeo proves surprisingly persistent, and as Holly really, truly, opens herself to the possibility of love, she discovers the only thing more dangerous than losing her heart to the boy next door is the realization that the future she thought she's always wanted may be the last thing she really needs.
After falling in love with Lindsey Leavitt's breezy love letter to vintage aficionados, Going Vintage, last summer, her newest was high on my list of summer must-reads. While "old-fashioned charm" is perhaps the last phrase one would readily associate with the gambling mecca that is Las Vegas, Leavitt spins a sparkling love letter to the strip and what matters most with all of the warmth and winning flair that characterized its predecessor. But more than a love story set against the memory of the Vegas of Sinatra and the Rat Pack, The Chapel Wars is an unexpected treatise on grief and the lessons that can be gleaned from life's most painful and challenging chapters -- loss and (unsought) change.
While at first glance Holly finds it impossible to believe that she could have anything in common with Dax, both are scarred by losses and struggling to find their way in a world whose very foundation has crumbled beneath their feet. Dax is still reeling from the accident that robbed him of both his father and his chance to play college baseball. He blames himself for the tragedy, at his lowest drinking his pain into oblivion. The death of Holly's grandfather and the pressure of his bequest bring the divorce of her parents into sharp relief, a loss of normalcy that she doesn't understand and fears accepting. For if she loses the chapel and her parents remain split, what glue would be left to hold her fractured family together? Loss is often a trigger for sould-searching, and when the rock upon which one's identity rests is shaken, it forces an individual to question not only who they are, but who they want to be. And within the pages of The Chapel Wars, Leavitt explores how both Holly and Dax do just that individually and collectively with compassion and a dash of humor.
Leavitt's characterizations and relationships -- familial, friendship, and romantic -- shine here. Holly, Dax, and the friends and family members within their orbit, the relationships fostered and challenged, are a study in finding beauty in the ashes of life's most painful, messed up moments. In life and in fiction, especially when the former leaves one reeling, it is human nature, I think, to look for resolution for neatly-wrapped fictional endings that satisfy the emotional and intellectual need for closure. But what Leavitt reminds us with Holly's story is of the beauty in the brokenness, the questions, and the journey itself. As Holly comes to realize, "We're all messed up...life is just about finding the right people to be messed up with" -- or, perhaps to put it even more simply, to remember to treasure the gift of grace.
The Chapel Wars contain everything I've quickly come to love about Leavitt's writing -- warmth, humor, and a sweetly-told, swoon-worthy romance. But she surprised me in the best possible way with Holly and Dax's story, for this is a breezy summer read with depth and heart, and exploration of grief and loss, and a celebration of the oft-times poignant, bittersweet nature of new beginnings. This story is an absolute GEM, and I cannot wait to see where Leavitt takes readers next!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This e-galley was provided by NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA Children's in exchange for an honest review.Read more
She wrote one of my favorite books of 2013: Going Vintage...and now I'm sure this will be one of my 2014 favorites.Read more