Yesterday I had the wonderful privilege of talking with Gerri Bauer, a first-time novelist with Catholic publishers Franciscan Media. She also loves to garden, is allergic to chocolate (the horror!), and calls herself a “certified cat lady”… but in spite of the cat thing, we still like her around here because she did say that my dog (and unoffical blog mascot) Zuzu was a cutie 🙂
Today I’m delighted to share with you my review of Gerri’s debut novel, At Home In Persimmon Hollow!
At Home in Persimmon Hollow is the first book in a series chronicling the world of Agnes Foster and the people of frontier-era Florida. In 1886, Agnes Foster is forced to leave the Catholic orphanage in New York where she grew up to start a new life as a teacher in Persimmon Hollow, Florida, a town she has only ever seen in a newspaper ad. With nothing but her strong Catholic faith to sustain her, she leaves behind the only home she’s ever known and the little girl she hopes to adopt, and encounters a wild and beautiful new landscape, and a town full of hardworking, faith-filled people. She also meets the difficult, yet handsome and hard-to-ignore Seth Taylor, a man whose heart has been hardened to God after a terrible loss.
Just as Agnes starts to feel Persimmon Hollow could be a good home for her and her daughter, and that Seth could be her love, tragedy strikes in the form of a trio of evil men from both their pasts, intent on doing them more harm. Will their fragile new love survive? Will Seth return to his faith? Can Agnes finally escape her dark past and find a bright new future?
Gerri Bauer’s love of history, particularly that of the Florida frontier, shines through the pages and characters of Persimmon Hollow. Witty humor, inspiring faith, and gentle romance provide a soothing respite for the soul even amid the thread of suspense that weaves between the plot. Animated characters will bring plenty of smiles to your face, and Bauer’s descriptions of the landscape will have you fanning away the heat and mosquitoes, smelling citrus on the breeze, and craving freshly squeezed orange juice!
The characters – both main and secondary – were perhaps my favorite part of this novel. So delightfully charming, they each dug themselves a place in my heart before too many pages had turned. Clyde, Fanny, and Eunice are such a wonderful trio with great lines like, “Wasn’t fixing to turn my delivery wagon into a barouche.” Billy and Polly are adorable children – especially Billy – and they added an energy to the story that would have otherwise been missing from the other characters. I really enjoyed watching Seth’s journey with God as he struggled to deal with impossibly tough issues that life (and others) had handed him; his anger didn’t have an easy fix – or easy answers – and I appreciated that Gerri didn’t give him any.
Agnes comes from a very devout Catholic background; when she arrives in Persimmon Hollow, she finds that she is one of the only Catholics in the area. As such, she must adjust to worshiping with people from other denominational backgrounds (like those dreaded Baptists 😉 … see, I can say that because I come from a Baptist background lol) and wrestle with a small amount of prejudice. Although I am not Catholic, I appreciate how Gerri Bauer embeds her own beliefs and practices into Agnes’ character – many readers can and will relate to her, a rarity for Catholics in the Christian fiction realm. While at times, the story did get a bit too “preachy” for my tastes, it really is all part of Agnes’ character. She herself mentally acknowledged this trait often, as in this instance:
Agnes succumbed to her twin nemeses, impatience and unsolicited preachiness.
And I really must make mention of the bad guys – they were nothing to laugh at, really, but at times they did indeed make me chuckle. Like when one said he was “getting moldy” from being cooped up by all the rain. The bits of humor scattered throughout their scenes helped offset their evil intentions a bit and kept the story from becoming too heavy.
Persimmon Hollow is a town made up of people from all over the States, with a variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds. An underlying theme throughout the book focuses on how their differences make them unique – and yet at the same time bind them all together. An important message for the days & times in which we live.
Oh, and Gerri Bauer – I saw that nice little promo for Oktoberfest in the book! 🙂
Bottom Line: A strong debut novel and a great start to the “Persimmon Hollow Legacy” series, At Home in Persimmon Hollow has a little bit of everything – history, romance, humor, faith, and suspense. Christian fiction readers from a Catholic background will especially appreciate this story as it honors their worship practices and beliefs, but folks from other denominations won’t find it off-putting (at least I didn’t).
(Simply for the purpose of full disclosure, a couple of “minor” curse words do appear in the book. Just the two. Just the twice. This is simply for your information and does not affect my review.)
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)
To purchase a copy of At Home in Persimmon Hollow, click on the publisher’s logo below!
Gerri Bauer has a B.A. in English from Stetson University, where she works in social media and online marketing and volunteers for their campus ministry program. She was born and raised in New York City but has deep roots in Florida, where she lives with her husband, spoils her cats and keeps tabs on a far-flung extended family. She edited The Parce Letters: Voices from the Past, a collection of primary sources on pioneer settlers in Florida. This is her first novel.
Connect online with Gerri Bauer at: