Words Speak Louder in Rene Gutteridge's Listen
Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
What happens when private conversations really aren't private?
On the surface, Marlo seems an ideal town in which to live, a close-knit community where the newspaper business is suffering because there's so little to report. But a mystery is brewing, causing tensions to rise and pitting neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. An unknown someone is quoting whole conversations between townspeople, posting them on a Web site for anyone to read.
Who is listening, and by what means? How will people react when their conversations go public? And who is responsible for the consequences when confidential words provoke unexpected reactions?
Reporter Damien Underwood and his family—wife, Kay, and children Hunter and Jenna—anchor the story of Marlo's mysterious web site. The previously sedate, even boring, news cycle in Marlo is enlivened by a local pastor's cat found strung up in a tree, and a church deacon blamed for it. The only link between the two appears to be complaints the deacon made privately, in a conversation with his wife, about a church-related issue. How would anyone know what he said, and why did it get posted verbatim on this anonymous site?
Tensions escalate as other citizens discover surprising truths about one another through words they were never meant to hear. The once quaint, peaceful town roils with bitterness, conflict, fear, and mistrust. Damien, formerly the opinion editor and crossword puzzle writer, turns investigative reporter. His discoveries, both disturbing and surprising, lead to a stunning conclusion.
Woven skillfully into the main story, the subplot of the Underwood family dynamics sheds light on the book's theme—the power of words. Kay struggles to connect with her daughter, while Damien bumbles his fatherly talks with Hunter in several humorously written scenes. Readers will identify with these well-developed characters.
While appropriately tense and intense, the story flows quickly. Rene Gutteridge blends humorous and witty dialogue with insight into the human psyche to create likeable, real characters. Readers will cheer for them, feel sorry for them, or even dismiss them (whichever reaction the author intends for us to have … she's that good).
Gutteridge explores how words shine truth on hidden reality. Readers will easily connect this theme with the biblical passage alluded to several times in the story, James 3:8, 10, which says, "But no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. ... From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters."
One character bemoans how the web site has changed Marlo into a different, ugly place to live. Another points out that the web site has only revealed what was there all along but concealed behind closed doors. Marlo hadn't changed at all—its true nature had just been exposed.
The reader is left to ponder the same questions that perplexed Marlo. Is the power of words limited if they are not heard by the person in question? Or do words have power intrinsically? What are the consequences of hateful words, even those spoken when no one is apparently listening?
How aware am I of the words I say? Do they curse, or do they bless?
**This review first published on March 30, 2010.
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly
Clever novelist Gutteridge (the Storm series) has consistently upped the ante of Christian storytelling by offering her readers intelligent and entertaining texts. Her newest work delves into the deepest recesses of the human heart via the spoken word. The small town of Marlo, where nothing newsworthy ever happens, is blindsided when a mysterious Website begins posting the private conversations of its citizens. Intrigue and suspicion mount quickly and everyone is suspect and suspicious. When one of Marlo's police officers dies, newspaperman Damien Underwood commits himself to pursuing the site's creator. Damien's search hits close to home as he attempts to protect his wife Kay and two teens, Jenna and Hunter, from the escalating mistrust, lies, and deceit. Swirling acts of violence and voices of condemnation serve to heighten an already tense and fragile citizenry. Gutteridge's skillful handling of the power of words will have every reader quietly introspective. (Feb.)
Never the Bride by Cheryl McKay and Rene Gutteridge
Reviewed by Lori Fox for Title Trakk
"...totally fresh... hilariously funny chick-lit-with-a-twist..."
Have you ever wondered what God looks like? Well, Jessie Stone can tell you, right down to the size shoes He wears.
Not that she's always happy about it, mind you. I mean, God is rather jealous, He always wants her attention, nobody else seems to be able to see Him, and, worst of all, He wants her to give control of her life over to Him. Seriously, just how much can He expect?
Cheryl McKay and Rene Gutteridge teamed up to write the hilariously funny chick-lit-with-a-twist, Never The Bride. It'll make you wonder, what if God appeared to you as a man? A rather good looking man, actually. A fairly romantic man, but one that really likes to push your buttons. Someone who'll talk a stroll with you on the beach and then push you into the sand to make you chase Him (talk about seeking His face!).
All in all, despite the temper tantrums, psycho-analyzing, and bizarre behavior, I think that Jessie Stone handles it pretty well! A lot better than she handles her love life, anyway. After all, she's been writing her own love story for over 30 years, and where has it gotten her? A dull job, and a best friend who doesn't love her that way. So, why not hand it over to God? Even if his methods do seem a little unorthodox.
I tell you, this book made me laugh so hard I think I woke my husband up from a dead sleep several times. The cover and title really didn't intrigue me much, because it seemed like the typical chick-lit. While I do love good chick-lit, I don't like some of the bland romance-with-a-twist books that have been coming out recently. That is not this book at all.
Never The Bride is totally fresh, with a unique story that may just bend your mind a little. It gave me a whole new perspective on the Jesus as the Bridegroom part of our romance with God (don't worry, it's not sacrilegious), despite the fact that Jesus wasn't actually mentioned at all in the book. For days I wandered around talking to Him as though He was standing right next to me (OK, He is, actually) because of how well Never The Bride put it into perspective for me.
Never The Bride is like a box of liquor filled chocolates---sweet, yummy, a little naughty, and if you don't watch it, the whole box'll be gone in one sitting.
From Publishers Weekly
No Christian fiction novelist can tickle a funny bone like Gutteridge, and her third installment in the Occupational Hazards series (Scoop; Snitch) doesn't disappoint and works easily as a stand-alone. Think Snakes on a Plane meets Airplane meets Billy Graham. Hank Hazard, a homeschooled, naïve mime in the Hazard Clowns family troupe, has struggled to find his niche since his parents died in a freak hot tub accident. The 28-year-old's latest job foray is as an airline company spy for Atlantica, where he flies incognito to evaluate the service. Hank gets more than he bargains for on Flight 1945 to Amsterdam, which involves a rampaging pig, a senior flight attendant with hot flashes, some diamond thieves, a 103-year-old woman pronounced dead and an aging female pilot who pastes sticky notes on the windshield. Hank can't resist evangelizing the passengers, and somehow Gutteridge makes it work without seeming awkward. Gutteridge is a pro, from smooth point of view changes to snappy dialogue. What could have been clichéd slapstick turns into unbridled hilarity in her capable hands, and the laughter doesn't stop until the wheels touch the tarmac. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This book may very well contain Rene Gutteridge's most eclectic and eccentric group of characters ever. And considering the books she's written... that's saying a LOT.
Skid is the third book in the Occupational Hazards series, a collection of basically stand-alone novels chronicling the employment lives of a group of former homeschool kids. After their parents' untimely death (which is explained a little more in this book), the various Hazard siblings disperse to college or other jobs, creating the focus of each individual book.
Hank Hazard made a brief appearance in the previous book, Snitch, and now takes over as the central character this time, having discovered a love of flying. Seeking a job of any kind in aviation, he ends up with a sort of "Secret Shopper" job with the task of taking lengthy flights and reporting on the service he receives. His boss instructs him to try to be a "problem passenger" by constantly pestering the staff, etc. For someone who's been raised to be super polite and pleasant to everyone, Hank's not exactly the best choice for that kind of job, or so it would seem.
But Hank is actually one of the most "normal" characters in this insane flight across the ocean. Also present are a mysterious Captain with more legends and quirks about her than anyone in aviation history, two co-pilots who don't get along very well, a head flight attendant who seems to be overly grouchy for some reason... and that's just on the staff. The passengers are even nuttier. I could list each one, but why bother? If you're already a fan of Rene's hilarious but moving writing, you're probably already sold, and if you're not... this should be enough to whet your appetite as it is. Go buy it!
One of the things I appreciate the most about this particular novel in the Gutteridge canon is the number of subtle jokes. Yes, there's tons of laugh-out-loud obvious stuff, as is usually the case, but this time around... she's brought things to another level. She's included a few more subtle comical elements that you'll only catch if you think outside the story, combine a few names, etc. That's awesome.
This is easily her best book since the Boo series ended. Highly Recommended.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby for FaithfulReader.com
Fasten your seatbelts low and tight across your lap, open that tiny bag of peanuts, and get ready for a rollicking fun flight as Rene Gutteridge, the funniest inspirational novelist in the business, pens SKID, her third installment in the Occupational Hazards series and the best of the bunch. This time, Gutteridge turns her pen to the airline industry, managing to incorporate enough wacky characters and oddball situations to fuel a year-long television sitcom.
In case you missed SCOOP and SNITCH, the first books in the series, here's the premise. The Hazard Clowns, a family of seven homeschooled children and their parents, are about to be disbanded after the parents are killed in a freak hot tub accident. Hank Hazard, the shy gentle mime of the group who has never dated, looks for new work and eventually lands a job as an undercover spy for Atlantica Airlines, which is trying to figure out why it's in a slump. His first assignment is to be the highest maintenance passenger on Flight 1945 from Atlanta to Amsterdam and report back to the airline on every possible detail of the flight.
As it turns out, this is no ordinary flight. Not only does Hank have to deal with his work assignment, but his pilot is one of the more unusual ones in the fleet. C.J. Brewster-Yarley is an aging female who relies on post-it notes stuck to the windshield to remember how to fly the plane. She's famous for having crashed a plane into the Bermuda Triangle years ago, but leading the passengers and crew to safety. Other strange stories are tagged to her career…and this flight is about to be one of them.
Some valuable diamonds are in-route and the object of interest by more than just their courier, which promises further mayhem. Overseeing the passengers is GiGi, a 55-year-old senior flight attendant battling menopause, who can't seem to get the air cabin temperature comfortable enough for her hot flashes. Making the flight is positive-thinking passenger Lucy Meredith, who seems to be channeling Oprah (her bracelet reads WWOD --- What Would Oprah Do?) and is hoping to revamp her life after some bad romances. She has just discovered that her ex-boyfriend is on board with a new flame. Further complicating things is First Officer James Lawrence, who manages to offend just about everybody. Add to this cast of characters a prisoner who speaks limited English flying under the care of an FBI agent whose gun has just been taken away by the pilot, a certified companion pig for a supposedly “emotionally-challenged” women, a federal aircraft inspector, and a 103-year-old woman about to “pass on” at any moment.
How fun --- and weird --- can this novel possibly get? The answer: more fun than you'd ever anticipate and weirder than anything you'd begin to imagine. Gutteridge is the author of a dozen novels, including the hilarious Boo series, but funny as that series was, this one outshines it. As events unfolding on the plane get more and more hilarious and wacky, she somehow weaves a faith element into the story that feels natural and true. There's even a little light romance for Hank. Soon, in true dramatic airline movie-type style, the pilot is incapacitated and the lives of the passengers hang on the talents of a former blimp pilot and some of the passengers and crew. And, of course, whether the pig likes jelly or not. Yes, you read that right.
SKID is easily read as a stand-alone novel, as are the first two in the series. With three great books so far in her Occupational Hazards collection, Gutteridge's readers will eagerly anticipate the next installment. You won't be able to put this one down.
Home-schooled clown turned undercover cop? In the hands of one of Christian fiction's most talented and funny writers, Rene Gutteridge, this character seems not only probable, but engaging and loveable. SNITCH, the second book in her Occupational Hazards series, shows why she has earned such a loyal following.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
*Starred Review* Here's a tale of local TV set in Los Angeles. It features a clueless but endearing young Christian woman, Hayden Hazard. Her colleagues include a self-important weatherman who could be played by Will Farrell; an overmedicated producer; a goodhearted reporter, Ray Duffey; and an aging anchorwoman named Gilda Braun. It's become obvious that Gilda's 1980s look is responsible for a ratings dip, and Hayden's counsel that only inner beauty matters doesn't help much. Gilda hits the Botox and is frozen in a smile regardless of what tragedies unfold. Such plot as there is results when Ray is attacked while reporting on pigs in the city; somehow, the station has blundered into a significant story. Unintentionally amusing Hayden tags along for the moral, and maybe even for love interest, in one of the funniest Christian novels ever. John Mort
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This humorous novel from Gutteridge kicks off her new series, the Occupational Hazards, featuring seven siblings in a clown family that disbands when the parents die in a freak accident. Twenty-five-year-old Hayden Hazard sheds her protected, homeschooled life to strike out on her own as assistant to Channel 7 news producer Hugo Talley. Her innocence, simple faith and good looks attract the attention of reporter Ray Duffey and egomaniacal weatherman Sam Leege. But trouble is brewing: an aging newscaster has overdone the Botox, giving her a permanent happy face while announcing the most terrible tragedies, and Ray is assaulted on the air while doing a story on pig zoning. An explosion at the waste-water treatment plant seems simple, but Ray discovers something stinks more than sewage or the pigs. Hugo pops blue pills for his stress, but even his medicated calm can't quell the looming disaster. As she did in her Boo series, Gutteridge clearly has fun with her story; the pages brim with quirky characters and plenty of laughs. Hayden's crusade against Hugo's antianxiety meds are the only questionable note in the book; readers may see it as a faith versus prescription antidepressants message. Drugs aside, this is a rollicking evangelical ride through the television news world, reminding readers why Gutteridge is such a delightful read. (Oct. 10)
This is one of those great books that improves with the second reading and deserves being read out loud to a significant other who can laugh and cry along with you. Highly Recommended. --www.christianfictionreview.com
In her third book in the Storm series (The Splitting Storm; Storm Gathering), Gutteridge picks up previous story lines, and readers find FBI agent and storm chaser Mick Kline in a dilemma. Sammy Earle is on death row and about to be executed, and a box of memorabilia left in the attic by Kline's dead brother could hold evidence of Earle's innocence. Between chasing storms, Kline is torn between three attractive women who all seem interested in pursuing a relationship with him. His budding romance with prickly fellow agent Libby Lancaster is particularly endearing, and his ongoing relationship with his FBI partner Reggie Moore is less on display here than in earlier books, but still enjoyable. Gutteridge is an adept and talented writer with a good sense of humor. The tension is palpable throughout, and the characters are engaging. Occasionally, the plot gets confusing (as do some time jumps), and the hurricane climax feels stale. But a surprising plot twist toward the end helps bring a satisfying conclusion to the story. Although this can be read as a stand-alone novel, it will be most appreciated by fans of the series. (Jan.)
In this charming stand-alone sequel to Boo, Gutteridge pens a delightful suspend-disbelief-and-enjoy-it romp featuring the quirky characters from Skary, Ind. After bestselling writer and Skary resident Wolfe "Boo" Boone finds God and gives up writing thrillers, the horror theme that the town employed to attract tourists goes bust. Busybody Missy Peeple brainstorms ways to rebrand the town, while Wolfe experiments with selling cars, then recommends romance novels as a clerk at the town bookstore. Wolfe’s fiancée, the Martha Stewartesque Ainsley Parker, is distracted from wedding plans by Wolfe’s former editor, who plots to make her the Next Big Thing in homemaking stardom. Newcomer and presumed psychologist Dr. Jack Hass--yes, you read that right--is ready to provide counseling for everything from losing weight to pepping up the sheriff’s depressed tomcat. Meanwhile, howling, ghostly figures walk the streets of Skary, the vet neuters a rampaging cat at gunpoint, and the mayor loses his mind and believes he’s in the Caribbean. There’s the infrequent bad line ("Like a hungry seagull, his mind dove into dark waters, fishing for reason"). But what makes this completely improbable plot, complete with an old map marked with an "X," so enjoyable are Gutteridge’s offbeat characterizations and her sense of mischievous delight in the story. This engaging faith fiction will delight fans of Boo and capture some new readers. Agent, Janet Kobobel Grant. (Sept.)
The Splitting Storm
Gutteridge launches her new trilogy with style in this first installment, which offers fast-paced suspense and some intriguing insight into the world of serial killers. FBI agent and tornado-chaser Mick Kline is determined to track down the person who murdered his brother in cold blood. When he becomes obsessed by his theory that a serial killer’s at large, he’s ordered to take mandatory leave so he can presumably make peace with his loss. Instead, intent on revenge, Kline follows a trail of clues that leads to Bakerville, Tex., where Faith Kemper, the recovering wife of another murder victim, is in hiding—afraid she is next. Faith, her sight impaired by the killer in the same incident that left her husband dead, harbors her own secrets behind her dark glasses. Despite the tension, genuine humor and warmth permeate the novel, and intriguing details about profiling serial killers and symbolism built around storm chasing help keep the reader engaged. The characters have some delightful quirks—Mick is deathly afraid of food poisoning, even keeping his peanut butter in the refrigerator; his partner, Reggie Moore, has never met a diet he didn’t like, or that worked. Gutteridge (Boo; Troubled Waters) withholds just the right amount of information to keep the reader turning the pages. She strikes a good balance with her faith themes and leaves plenty of room to develop potential romantic interests in the sequel. This novel for the inspirational market provokes a few chills while offering an enjoyable read.
The Splitting Storm
Robert Goss for www.roundtablereviews.com
....The story moves along at a rapid pace and reaches the climax just as I had identified the killer; it wasn't easy to solve. THE SPLITTING STORM grabbed me right from the beginning and I found it difficult to put down to do other things. Rene has written a great mystery and I can hardly wait for her next book, STORM GATHERING, a prequel to THE SPLITTING STORM. All lovers of a good mystery will want to add this book to their list of must-haves.
The reader is taken on an emotional journey and witnesses first hand Macey’s struggle with the reconciliation of her troubled past and her abandoned belief in God. Written in a unique style with wonderfully complex characters, TROUBLED WATERS, is a wonderful novel of hope and forgiveness.
The story line is simple, but author Gutteridge takes this simplicity and makes it her own, writing in such a style that makes a small town funeral emotionally overwhelming to some readers. The character development of Macey and her mother are so life-like, one can picture Macey's mother cooking food to feed an army when there's only herself to eat it. . Troubled Waters takes an amazing look at what could happen when you go back to where you came from; especially when you've been running for years.
A simple, vivid look at everyday events puts Troubled Waters in a league of its own.
Gutteridge's ability to create down-to-earth characters will cause you to wonder if she's writing about your family. I wanted to walk into the book's cover and sit on the front porch of a house identical to the one in which I grew up.
Cozy up on your own porch with a glass of iced tea, and enjoy this great read.
TROUBLED WATERS is my first Rene Gutteridge novel, but certainly not my last.
Ms. Gutteridge’s poignant view on family had me laughing and crying. Packed with honest emotion, it is easy to find a piece of yourself within the small town. She has captured the essence of Kansas’s sultry weather, honest people, and understandable dilemmas in this fantastic story of unconditional love, forgiveness and self-doubt. - www.theromancereadersconnection.com
[Boo] reads like a good old-fashioned Frank Capra film. Rene Gutteridge has filled the town of Skary with the wackiest and lovable ensemble cast I've read about in a long, long time.
I have a feeling I'll be re-reading Boo a few times in the next few years. Light and entertaining, yet filled with faith and warmth, this is a book that will be well-used in my home. Highly Recommended.
Rene Gutteridge has penned a sidesplitter of a story, replete with humor, imagination, and a touching portrait of faith as evidenced by Skary's minister. Readers will be eager for a return visit to Skary, Indiana.
The unique and hilarious plot of Rene Gutteridge's latest offering will hold the reader's attention from start to finish.
"GHOST WRITER is an excellent first book. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat and awake at night because you will have to find out what happens in both stories. Combined with the suspense is a strong spiritual message. This book will encourage, intrigue, excite and inspire the reader. I look forward to her next effort." - Reviewed by Lorie Ham for Suite101.com
"...author Rene Gutteridge does a good job of keeping the story alive and interesting while working in all the intricacies that make for a suspenseful novel with a hauntingly familiar message."
- Reviewed by Melba Lovelace for The Daily Oklahoman
"The mixture of stories combined with everyone's personal problems adds depth to this contemporary story. This is Gutteridge's first novel. Rush to this one, and watch for additional stories from her."
- Reviewed by Terry Whalin for Christianity.com.
"...this outstanding novel is a must-read. It's a mystery, a story within a story and an intriguing way to present the Gospel. First-time novelist Rene Gutteridge can only be classified as a rising star herself."
- Reviewed by Bev Huston for Romantic Times Magazine
"I'm treading on new ground here. Inspirational, or Christian literature, isn't what I usually read. No explosions, no vampires, no karate, no heaving bosoms. What's left to like? Well, as I discovered after I found GHOST WRITER on my doorstep, quite a bit, actually...GHOST WRITER presents the basic premise that, yes, people sometimes do resist temptation. And are the better for it."
— Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub for Bookreporter.com
"This book is an intricate twist of plots, and Gutteridge does a good job weaving the stories together without losing readers. Customers who like a mixture of suspense coupled with a message of redemption will enjoy the tales of the GHOST WRITER." — Reviewed by Christian Retailing
"Jonathan's struggle in the face of danger provides a refiner's fire that exposes his core. Gutteridge's debut novel makes her an author to watch."— Reviewed by Library Journal
Thank you for all the letters! I get so many now that I can't keep up with posting them here, but I appreciate every letter I get, and always send a reply!