READ: Just 18 Summers by Rene Gutteridge and Michelle Cox
This simple comment by her pastor after a child’s dedication did more than resonate with my friend, author Michelle Cox. It set her heart humming, her mind whirling, and before long, “Just 18 Summers” moved from concept to a parenting blog, a novel, and a screenplay.
It seems appropriate that I review the Just 18 Summers novel just before Mother’s Day. This also happens to be the week that our youngest daughter graduates from home high school. Like most parents, I face this milestone with mixed emotions. I’m thrilled for our daughter and the Christ-follower she has become. Not only has Melanie been named the valedictorian of her class at the private school that keeps our records, but she has also received at least three scholarships toward her future studies in Mass Communication/Public Relationships at the University of South Florida. Before she enters college, she’ll serve as a missionary to Nicaragua for five weeks as part of a team sent by Awe Star Ministries. We have much for which to be thankful, and much to celebrate.
Because we started her homeschooling career a bit early, this is only our seventeenth summer with Melanie. But that doesn’t take away from the validity of Michelle’s concept or the strength of her novel, written with popular novelist Rene Gutteridge.
Just 18 Summers covers four families at different stages and facing different challenges in their parenting journeys. The death of Butch’s godly wife, Jenny, has touched each one. Butch, a contractor, has the challenge of parenting his young daughter without his wife’s wise and loving influence. His employee, Tippy, and his wife Daphne, are expecting their first child and wondering if following all the right parenting rules will give them all the right answers. The Anderson family’s nest is almost empty, but what about their daughter’s choice for a husband? Robin sees him as her handsome prince, but to her parents, he’s more like a pizza-delivering frog. And what about their snooty neighbors, the Buckleys? Is it too late for them to realize the things they valued most may have the least significance?
I enjoyed this novel—and not only because I have an almost empty-nest. The chapters flip from one family’s story to another’s, and it took me a little while to keep the characters straight. But this minor issue was more than offset by the way Gutteridge and Cox made me care about each family and their lives.
Michelle, author, speaker, and food blogger for Fox News personality Todd Starnes, has authored seven previous books ranging from inspirational to humor to cookbooks. Her nonfiction skills and Gutteridge’s fiction expertise combine well in this novel, which reveals numerous truths about parenting and families without coming off as preachy. If you have or are thinking about having children, I highly recommend both Just 18 Summers as well its companion parenting blog. And watch for my “Words with Friends” interview with Michelle, coming soon.
Remember, you have just 18 summers with your child. Read this novel to boost you into using them with purpose and intention. I’m praying you’ll have many happy celebrations ahead.
What feelings does the “Just 18 Summers” concept evoke in your heart? How have you found these words to be true? I’d love to hear your ideas—and I know Michelle would, too. Since my review copy was electronic, I can’t give it away, but I am offering a copy of Dr. Walker Moore’s parenting book, Rite of Passage Parenting: Four Essential Experiences to Equip Your Kids for Life plus a Mother’s Day bonus book! I assisted Dr. Moore in writing this book and its companion workbook, so I’m not unbiased. But as Melanie’s life attests, the principles within are solid.
Leave a comment about the novel, about the “Just 18 Summers concept,” or about Melanie’s graduation by midnight on Mother’s Day, May 11, and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win this great tool for 18 summers and beyond.
(FTC Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this novel free from the publisher. I was not required to post a review or a positive response.)
Find Just 18 Summers at a local Christian bookstore.