Fate handed Rachel Stone another nasty blow when her ancient car died in Salvation, N.C. With nine dollars to her name and a five-year-old son to take care of, Rachel is desperate enough to do anything. Run out of this town years earlier, Rachel knows her reception will not be positive. Rachel's late husband, G. Dwayne Snopes, was a TV evangelist who ripped off the citizens of Salvation before dying in a plane crash. There was also the matter of a missing $5 million. By returning to town, Rachel hopes to find a clue that will lead her to the missing money.

Since the death of his wife and son, Gabe Bonner has been an emotional zombie. His worried family treats him like spun glass. For something to do, Gabe has been restoring an old drive-in. When Rachel turns up looking for a job, Gabe does his best to run her off. The realization that both she and little Edward are nearly starving forces him to reconsider. His hiring Rachel does not sit well with the townspeople and Gabe's brother Ethan. Being a reverend, Ethan has a hard time forgiving Rachel for her perceived involvement in her husband's schemes.

The snarling and snapping that Gabe and Rachel indulge in has the unique effect of resurrecting both their spirits. Any hope for the future, however, will require major emotional reconciliation and forgiveness.

This novel employs all the enchanting elements which make Ms. Phillips' books such a complete joy to experience. (Feb., 400 pp., $6.50)

Reviewed by: 
Jill M. Smith