About the Book
Name of book: Almond Street Mission
Author: June Foster
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: September 6, 2016
When Glorilyn Neilson’s nineteen-year-old brother, Tannon, goes missing without a trace, she’s frantic. Prayer and volunteering at the local homeless shelter in El Camino must fill the time until her sibling returns. But her sapphire eyes and auburn hair inadvertently cause a stir among the male population at the center. Her life changes one evening when she’s attacked by a burly vagrant intent on rape in the alley behind the building.
Jeremiah Goodman loves the Lord, but he’s homeless. When he witnesses a foul-mouthed vagrant overpowering one of the volunteers at the homeless shelter, he defends her, saving her from unwanted advances.
When Glorilyn offers him a way of escape from his impoverished lifestyle, he can’t tell her why he must live the life of a vagrant. What powerful secret keeps him on the streets?
About the Author
An award-winning author, June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in education and MA in counseling. June’s book Give Us This Day was a finalist in EPIC’s eBook awards and a finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for best first book. Ryan’s Father was one of three finalists in the published contemporary fiction category of the Oregon Christian Writers Cascade Writing Contest and Awards. Deliver Us was a finalist in COTT’s Laurel Awards.
June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day, As We Forgive, and Deliver Us, and Hometown Fourth of July. Ryan’s Father is available from WhiteFire Publishing. Red and the Wolf, a modern day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, Books One, Two, and Three in the Almond Tree Series, For All Eternity, Echoes From the Past, and What God Knew are all available from Amazon.com.
Recently June has seen publication of Christmas at Raccoon Creek, Lavender Fields Inn, Misty Hollow, Almond Street Mission, Restoration of the Heart, and Letting Go, all published by Forget Me Not Press, a division of Winged Publications.
June enjoys writing stories about characters who overcome the circumstances in their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find freedom to live godly lives. Find June on line at junefoster.com.
Guest Post from June Foster
Stories Behind the Story
Almond Street Mission tells the story of Glorilyn Neilson whose younger brother, Tannon, has gone missing, hurling her entire family into turmoil. Prayer and volunteering at the local homeless shelter fills the empty, lonely hours. One evening, she’s attacked by a brawny vagrant intent on rape. Another vagrant, Jeremiah Goodman, defends her, saving her from unwanted attention.
Jeremiah loves the Lord but is homeless. The mission director, Mr. Harris, offers him and nineteen-year-old, Tank, a place at the shelter. But when Jeremiah later tries to protects a drug addict in hope of sharing the gospel with him, Mr. Harris finds heroin on Jeremiah, and he’s booted out. Tank chooses to leave with him.
On the street, Jeremiah and Tank try to scrape up a meal, but even trash cans around the city park don’t provide food for their hungry stomachs. Taking a chance on getting arrested, they beg for food in front of an elegant downtown Italian restaurant. Two older women walk out. One ignores them but the other looks at them with kind eyes and offers an entire pizza.
All this to explain a real life happening which gave me an idea for this scene. My daughter and I were in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at an Italian restaurant. We each ordered a small pizza, but the waiter brought me a Hawaiian pizza though I’d order pepperoni.
When I pointed out the mistake, the server brought out a second pizza for me, this time pepperoni, and told me to keep the first one. No way I could eat a another pizza, and we didn’t have anywhere to keep it at the hotel, so I asked him if he knew any homeless people. The waiter said yes, that they congregate nearby, and he’d deliver it to a hungry vagrant.
In the story, the other woman who gives the extra pizza to Jeremiah and Tank is above average height. I wrote myself into a brief portion of the scene, and my 5’10” height qualifies as tall! When Tank says “God bless you,” the lady says “He does, everyday.” The sentiments of my heart. Real life always provides rich fodder.
Another story behind the story is when a friend at my church mentioned a Christian homeless ministry in the nearby city of Birmingham, Alabama, The Jimmie Hale Mission. I called and asked if I could take a tour. A chaplain welcomed my husband and me and scheduled a time for us to visit. He promised to personally conduct our visit.
When we arrived, the chaplain took us through the dining facility, exercise room, chapel, clothing bank, computer rooms, classrooms, and dorms. While in the dining area, we met the efficient kitchen manager, a paid employee who provided three delicious meals a day for the residents. Tingles ran down my arms when he shared his experience. He was once a drunk and resident of the mission. Today, he loves the Lord, is reunited with his wife, and holds down the manager’s job. As a side note, I based two characters’ situations on this real life man.
While at the mission, the men learn job skills and have opportunity to take classes. When they leave, they’re fully grounded in the Lord and on their way to a new life. A few are employed at the facility.
Before we left, the chaplain generously gave me his cell phone number and offered to answer any further questions, and I had several. Research for this story provided a rich insight into how God’s power can change and equip those that society may have chosen to discard.
To be honest, I walked away from this book not really sure how I felt about it. On one hand, there were some concepts that I agreed with; but on the other hand, I’m not sure I agree with the delivery of some of those concepts. The book, at times, didn’t have a natural feeling flow to it and some of the situations and they way they played out seemed odd and unlikely. Wording was also awkward and stilted in some places which made it more difficult to get into the story at those times. There were parts of the story, especially the ending, that felt rushed and not like a very natural, realistic ending.
Sometimes I felt like there wasn’t enough background or history given to understand the characters well and to follow some of the story lines. I think more attention could have been given to that and that the book could have done with a bit more depth and true character growth and development. A little more time spent in the minds of the characters as they were working through some of their struggles, more time spent letting the reader in on the change as it was happening in a character, rather than someone preaching at someone else and then without much other insight into the character or situation, that character suddenly ready to know God or suddenly ready to change their actions.
I felt like more background could have been given that would have made the Caleb’s story better—more insight and depth into who he was before, what really led to him doing that ministry. Some things were just too briefly touched on, making it feel like there was some depth lacking.
I also felt like Glorilyn’s character needed more development and more insight into the process of her going from childishly refusing to speak to “Jer” and hear anything he had to say (even to the point of claiming that he rejected her when he was practically begging her to talk to him, and she was, in actuality, the one rejecting him) to suddenly being past her issues. We didn’t get much view into the process that got her to that point. Some friends tried to talk to her here and there, but she would shut down and not seem to listen. Then suddenly at the end, she says she’s been thinking and realized that she’s been letting her past affect her future. It made the change seem somewhat unbelievable and like it came out of nowhere. I wanted more from her, more of seeing her truly internally deal with her struggle with her dad from her past instead of feeling like she went from one position to another just like that.
Caleb’s disguise and the program he’s a part of is an interesting concept for the book. I could see how something like that could help, but I could also see it not working out well. To some homeless who discovered his secret , it might be encouraging to them that someone willingly took on the kind of life they had been living. To others though, it might upset them and make them believe Christians are not trustworthy. It could even make them resentful towards someone who would pretend to be homeless.
I’m not entirely sure that I really agreed with the way Caleb would come at people when presenting the gospel. He often seemed to just jump in and the words he used sometimes made it come across as though if these people would just accept Jesus, everything would be fixed and that’s just not the way it always works out. Yes, God never leaves or forsakes us, but no life is not perfect and happy all the time just because we have a relationship with Jesus. We still face struggles and things that need to be overcome. Knowing God doesn’t necessarily mean life is good and easy from then on and I think there could have been a little more clarity on that when he talked to people about God. With that being said, I did appreciate how his actions matched what he preached. He acted out the love of God that he talked about to others.
I did truly appreciate was that the author was willing to address the subject of the homeless and I felt like she did help in giving a little insight into what it looks like and feels like to be homeless. I very much appreciated how the heart of God toward the homeless (and really anyone) was portrayed. It served as a much needed reminder of his love and care for everyone.
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In honor of her tour, June is giving away a grand prize collection of 1 signed paperback copy of Almond Street Mission, a $25 Amazon card, and 12 handmade cards! Click the picture below to enter!
**I received a copy of this book from the author and have chosen to review it. My opinions are my own.