Fiction review: The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis

The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis is a debut novel by Jane Rubietta, but you’d never guess it. Little by little, the fascinating plot reveals repressed memories.

Evelyn “Evie” Lewis is a successful interior designer, much sought-after by New York City’s real estate owners. But, her world is rocked with two events: a client goes bankrupt, which means Evie may not be able to pay her own company’s bills, and she inherits her mother’s homeplace in Tennessee. The problem was, the property she planned to fix up and sell came with a clause: she had to live there for three months. Three months … and her company was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Her old motto, “Get in, get out” had always helped her cope. Why was she having nightmares and flashbacks now? What had happened in her childhood? Why did her parents leave her?

Evie has to stay or she doesn’t get the property. Much to her surprise, she begins to be enveloped in the neighborliness of the townspeople—or is it love? She feels part of the community and even family for the first time in her life.

Follow her as she gets to know them and as she begins to care. A little bit at a time, Evie finds her past. Some is earthshakingly tragic, and some of it is beautiful.

There’s a lot I could say about this novel. I loved it! The writing is masterful. It pulled me in before the second page. There’s a little bit of everything in the plot: humor, pathos, romance, and lots of genuine love. I enjoyed the details about rehabilitating the old house and how the author revealed Evie’s story a little at a time while also surprising with complications and twists.

I looked for Ms. Rubietta’s author page, and found out she has written and co-written several non-fiction and devotional books, but this is her first novel.

I loved The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis, and I think you will, too.

Clean, Christian, some pre-marital kisses, but no sensual content at all. The plot includes “evangelistic dating,” which, of course, I don’t recommend. Though you may want to chat with your daughters beforehand, I think your teen girls would enjoy this as much as you will.

Shopping therapy

I love to shop. For sure, I can shop ’til I drop. That’s about three to four hours, but I do it with complete abandon, a smile on my face, and my eyes darting back and forth to discover anything new and interesting. Shopping is therapy for me.

I confess I rarely buy anything. I window-shop—but more than that, I actually window-shop inside stores, as well. Is that called aisle-shopping? I don’t know.

My favorite stores are home furnishings, but I love a good variety store, antique shop, art gallery, or department store. I like quirky things. I especially love it when little “rooms” are decorated, so you can actually see the possibilities. My imagination goes wild! Inspiration overload.

I enjoy clothing stores less—because I rarely find anything I like in my size that looks good on me with a price I’m willing to pay. Clothes shopping does nothing for my good humor. Shoe shopping is even worse—but I’ll spare you.

I rarely get to do my shopping-’til-dropping escapades, and perhaps that’s a good thing. The malls where we live in Spain only have one home decoration store—nice but pricey. I still might find myself spending a short afternoon at a mall, just for fun—about once every two years. But, in the United States…. The possibilities are endless.

Michelangelo once proclaimed, “Gazing at beautiful things acts on my soul.” I totally agree with him.

I love to shop with my sister, who should start her own business of where to find what and how to outfit a person in one afternoon. I also enjoy shopping with our daughter, who tells me honestly what she thinks and keeps me from being “too old lady.”

Is shopping your therapy?

Which do you prefer: window-shopping or actually buying things?

Do you get a kick out of using your credit card ’til it smokes and buying a whole new wardrobe, pricey make-up, doing your hair and nails at the salon, and changing the living room furniture …

finding yourself overspending?

Dave Ramsey once said, “We often overspend because we are trying to fill an emotional gap in our lives. No object will ever satisfy your soul.”

It is one of the reasons we spend money—that emotional gap. We collect things because they make us feel somehow comfortable. Spending on ourselves makes us feel momentarily happy. After all, we deserve that treat. (Not so.)

Soon, we’re right back at the same low emotional place, and we’re tempted to spend even more money in order to feel good again.

We realize things don’t do it.

We’re not alone. Many post milennials are going minimalist because they’ve learned that living in a junked-up house is tiring. Too much stuff means too much to clean, put away, and it produces mental clutter and oppression. The decorating pendulum has swung the other way. Now, we enjoy clean surfaces, less is more, and invite Marie Kondo into our closet so we can learn to fold and roll.

Back in the 1800s, Henry David Thoreau decided to camp out at Walden Pond and enjoy a simple life (where he only stayed two years, by the way). He said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

“He who buys what he does not need steals from himself.” (Swedish proverb)

I think that’s true.

Is it sinful to go shopping? Of course not.

Is it wrong to overspend? Yes, we’re responsible to God to manage what He has given us. Jesus tells his disciples a parable about an unjust steward. It’s talking about money (here called mammon), and the parable concludes: He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Luke 16:10-11, 13).

God says you either serve Him or money, not both. When we overspend, we haven’t been faithful with the money God has entrusted to us. We become slaves to money—since we owe it.

The remedy for overspending, of course, is contentment. Are we content with what we have right now? Can we be okay not spending crazily?

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1 Timothy 6:8). Do we have something to eat and wear? Yep.

Let your conversation (lifestyle) be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).

Our relationship with God is sufficient for our contentment. His presence alone should bring us joy.

I’ll close with an unattributed quote I found on Pinterest: “It costs $0.00 to be grateful for what you already have.”

Role models

We often hear news interviews where people reference their heroes (sports, arts, actors, rescuers, etc.) as role models. Some of their role models have reached iconic status and are even referred to as idols.

Who’s your role model?

Why?

What does this person’s example teach you?

I’m not sure I ever had one role model, though I have a whole list of heroes and people I look up to. Some have impressed me with their kindness, graciousness, generosity, and understanding. I have a few women friends who are examples to me in the way they act. The people I respect are faithful workers in their churches. Many of my personal heroes lived in days gone by, and most are missionaries—pioneers who never gave up. David Livingstone, George Müller, Mary Slessor, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Adiniram Judson are role models for anyone. Of course, there are many more.

Closer to our time are people like Darlene Deibler Rose, Elisabeth Elliot, Cori Ten Boom, Joni Eareckson Tada, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who’ve inspired us with their testimonies, speaking, and writings.

If you were to choose an ideal woman for a role model, what would she be like?

Proverbs 31 is a good place to start, with the Virtuous Woman. She’s a wife, mother, provider, industrious, thoughtful, and she dresses with grace and beauty. She also cares for the poor, looks after her household, and makes sure her husband and children have what they need. She’s strong, yet her speech is with wisdom and kindness. This lady commands respect.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 say we should dress like and have the same attitude as godly women who fear the Lord. Godly women should be both our role models and clothing models. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

A similar passage is: Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands (1 Peter 3:3-5).

How should mature Christian women act? They will be good examples and teachers. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:3-5).

Role models in the world tend to be in favor of just about everything that flies in the face of biblical standards.

We have a choice: embrace the models God has given us, or reject them and follow the women the world sets up as examples.

Let’s choose the best role models: women who love the Lord.

Follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life (1 Timothy 6:11b-12a).

How to be wise–and a few applications

Everyone old enough to read should study the biblical book of Proverbs. This is the second installment in our series. (You can read the first one, here.) As you know, the book of Proverbs is mostly written as if Wisdom is a person. She talks to Solomon and tells him how to be wise. This book of the Bible is just as valid today as it was in Solomon’s times.

Let’s open Chapter 2 and see what kind of advice we find.

I love the first part. It says that in order to have wisdom the son needs to listen, incline his ear, apply his heart, and even cry after wisdom, knowledge and understanding (verses 1-3).

It goes further. The son is to search for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding as if it were silver (money) or hidden treasure (verse 4).

The benefits of looking for wisdom: understanding and respecting the Lord, finding the knowledge of God (knowing Him), and wisdom (verse 5).

The source of wisdom is the Lord and His Word. Out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding (6).

Again, we see the benefits of wisdom:

  • God is a shield (Protector).
  • He preserves our way.
  • When you have wisdom and knowledge in your heart, you’ll have discretion, understanding, and be delivered from evil (7-11).

There are two parentheses in Proverbs 2. One describes an evil man. Wisdom will deliver us from this kind of a person. The evil man speaks perverse things, leaves the good path and walks in the ways of darkness (13). He rejoices in evil and enjoys the perversity of wicked people. His ways are crooked and perverse. It’s not a pretty picture.

The next parenthesis is a portrait of an evil woman, obviously immoral and possibly a harlot. She flatters. She has forsaken her parents’ guidelines and forgotten the covenant of her God (17). Her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life (18-19). This speaks of the moral consequences that await someone who has a relationship with a prostitute or adulteress.

Proverbs 6 describes the same scenario this way: To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent (6:24-29).

Proverbs 2 now admonishes the son to walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous (20). There’s a reward for good men.

The end of this chapter is a warning. The wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it (22).

How practical! We’ve learned the difference between evil men and women and the righteous. We’ve found out where to find wisdom—in the Bible—and its value and benefits.

May the Lord bless you, today!