Lucy and Charlie Tuttle agree on one thing: they’re committed to each other for life. Trouble is, neither of them expected life to look like this. While Charlie retired early, Lucy is devoted to a long-term career . . . until the day she has no choice.
Forced to retire from her position as music educator in a small Midwestern K-8 school, Lucy can only watch helplessly as the program her father started years ago disintegrates before her eyes. As the music fades and a chasm separates her from the passion of her heart, Lucy wonders if her faith’s song has gone silent, too. The musical score of her life seems to be missing all the notes.
When a simple misstep threatens to silence Lucy forever, a young boy and his soundless mother change the way she sees—and hears—everything.
How long had it been since she screamed into a pillow? Decades. Probably when SamWise burst from her loins pre-equipped with colic. Today it only took one muffled scream before she stopped herself. Bad for the vocal cords. As if it mattered anymore.
The bedroom door clicked open. Lucy sat on the edge of the bed, the pillow in her lap rather than over her face.
“Hey.” Charlie lowered himself to sit beside her. She felt her body tilting toward him and grabbed a hank of the comforter to keep herself upright.
“Hey,” he said again, reaching for her knee. The pillow stopped him. She moved it to the head of the bed, where it belonged.
Don’t make me talk, Charlie. Please don’t make me try to explain what I’m feeling right now.
“Do you want to talk about it? You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge.” He rubbed her knee as if it were the seat of her emotions. “See?” he said. “I’m a better man for watching Dr. Phil.”
What did it mean when a line she would have found funny any other day smelled as bad as paper mill emissions? She had no sanity comforter to grab to keep her from sliding farther.
Wasn’t that supposed to be one the perks of faith? Not falling apart when your world does? Blindly assuming it would all turn out fine one of these days? Sanity glue?
” ‘I will not say, “do not weep,” for not all tears are an evil.’ ”
What language was he talking now?
Charlie lifted his hands palms up, as if she should have instantly understood him. “Lord of the Rings?”
“I thought you slept through that.”
“Not all of it.” Those gray-green eyes she’d fallen in love with her freshman year at LaCrosse, almost teal today because of the shirt he wore – her favorite, she noted – brushed her with a penetrating look that said, “I don’t understand any of this, but I want to.”
She rested her head on his shoulder. It’s then she noticed. The bedroom needs paint, too. Lucy didn’t move, but scrunched her face against the sting of her own indictment. Random thoughts dribbled over into the spot reserved for rests, like the work of an undisciplined musician. She cleaned up the dribbles and leaned into the act of resting her head on his shoulder. Breathing. Drawing strength from his. Filling the rest-space with what it required – silence.
Silence that did not stop counting beats.
She’d made it part of every class’s curriculum – a discussion about rests. Their value. Their weight. Their purpose. “They’re not a vacuum of nothingness,” she’d said. “They have meaning. The music isn’t the same without them. Rests deserve as much attention as the notes you sing or play.”
Without the breaks in the sound, she told them, music has no pattern or shape. “Don’t lose your intensity. Don’t lose your focus. You can’t afford to ignore rests. Honor each rest as a precise note of soundlessness. Active silence.”
As she rested her head on Charlie’s shoulder, a knot in her neck untangled itself. Slowly. Like air leaking from a balloon. She felt the knot loosen its grip on her bit by bit. Lucy remained as still as she could, fearful of disturbing the fragile peace.
The short take
An uplifting story about one woman’s struggle to accept the changes in her life and find God in the silences.
What a beautiful story! I have not read anything by Cynthia Ruchti before, but as a musician, the description of this novel really appealed to me. I do have to confess, though, I wasn’t sure it was going to live up to my expectations at first. As much as I sympathised with Lucy and agreed that the music program was important, it seemed as though she had a very negative attitude, both towards the loss of her job and towards her husband, Charlie. It also seemed to take a little while to move on beyond the initial period of “I’ve lost my job; what now?” But as the story progressed, I began to see beyond the raw honesty of how she was feeling at this point in her life – even to appreciate that raw honesty – and became captivated by the story that unfolded.
Having her job ripped (or should I say, riffed?!) away from her is only part of Lucy’s struggle. The other part is that she is now home 24/7 with the love of her life, who is really just trying to be supportive, and it feels claustrophobic. While Charlie was counting down to his retirement almost from the day he started working at the paper mill thirty-five years ago, Lucy has always resisted discussions on when she might step away from her passion for teaching music; so as much as Charlie tries, he just doesn’t understand how absolutely gutted she feels. He speaks enthusiastically of her new-found ‘freedom’, and looks forward to being with her all day, every day, sharing his new-found passion: worm farming, of all things!
Lucy’s journey has many twists and turns: joining the HHATT book club; having her two adult children move back home; welcoming Sasha and her son, Evan, into their lives (in surprising, but touching circumstances); a canoeing trip with Charlie that changes her life dramatically; and meeting a classical guitarist who not only has a surprising link to her past, but may also point the way to her future.
Through it all she learns the same lesson she has always taught her music students: rests deserve as much attention as the notes you sing or play. The silence is not empty or dead space. Just as the beat continues through the silence, so God works through the silences, shaping, preparing, focusing on the next part of the melody. And through all the upheaval and surprises, God strengthens Lucy’s marriage, her relationship with Him, and brings her to a place where she can hear and welcome that new melody He has written.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 5 April 2016
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Author’s website: http://www.cynthiaruchti.com/