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The story, Simple Pleasures (Bella Books), starts out benignly enough, with avid softball player Dale Kinsel participating in a charity game. As the account begins, we find that Dale is annoyed, even irate, over the presence of one Taren Dorsey, who has joined the opposing team, but who couldn’t play a decent game of softball if her life depended on it. Why Dale is so put out by Taren’s presence slowly begins to come to light as the story unfolds. Years before, there was a confrontation between Dale and Taren. Words were exchanged, and an unpleasant awkwardness surrounded by anger ensued. As a result Dale has kept her distance from the woman, in spite of the fact that Taren’s sister was Dale’s partner, Sydney, who succumbed to cancer several years before the story opens.
Through sheer force of will, Dale finishes the game, a benefit for cancer victims, and returns home to become enveloped by the well documented, devastating EF-5 tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, and left a portion of the town shattered and flattened. As Dale emerges from the wreckage that was her home only moments before, she finds her neighborhood has been decimated. She walks around in shock, meeting up with neighbors who have managed to survive the devastation, trying to take it all in and understand what has happened to their community. Slowly, Dale pulls herself together and starts to go through the rubble, trying to salvage the pieces of her life with her now-deceased partner. As Dale soon discovers, there isn’t much left for her to keep. The tornado has taken or destroyed it all.
Dale’s somewhat self-centered, although obviously caring, sister, tries to come to Dale’s aid by offering her a place to stay in an already too small apartment. However, Dale is driven back to her neighborhood to try to protect her property from looters. Deciding a tent won’t do, she ends up across town at Taren’s house, asking if she can buy back a camping trailer that Sidney had insisted she and Dale give Taren when they no longer had use for it. Taren, to her credit, seems to want to help Dale and offers her the trailer. When Taren shows up on Dale’s property later with other offers of help, Dale is stymied at her show of goodwill.
In direct opposition to Taren’s reaction to Dale’s troubles, Dale’s new relationship with a woman named Janice quickly reveals her to be immature and even more self-centered that Dale’s sister, and one wonders how a down-to-earth person like Dale can tolerate this woman. Janice is obviously not the woman of Dale’s dreams. As a matter of fact, her actions may result in Dale problems multiplying if she isn’t strong enough to act.
As Dale tries to put her life together, she’s confronted with difficulties in getting through the red tape in which the lives of victims of such tragedies become entangled. In addition, some of the death and destruction Dale has experienced leaves her with survivor guilt and difficult emotional challenges to overcome in the midst of her ensuing recovery efforts. All the while, Taren is thoughtful and kind, making the reader, and Dale, all the more wary. As the paths of these two women cross again and again, the story gradually yields the reasons for the enmity between Dale and Taren and the secret that Taren holds.
Kenna White has given us a glimpse into what it’s like to be in the midst of such a ravaging storm. She weaves a tale that makes us feel as though we are in the storm’s path ourselves. The aftermath gives us insight into what it’s like for victims of an overwhelming, catastrophic force of nature: when the storm is over, the difficulties of recovery are just beginning. In the midst of the after effects, White has given us glimpses into relationships among the characters that are maddening, caring, and compelling.
This story is one of the resilience of the human spirit in the midst of unbelievable destruction and the ability to heal and move on. This is a story about thriving after difficult circumstances. Read it to experience empathy and hope, resiliency, and triumph over adversity—and second chances at love, because in the end, love is the most important simple pleasure of all.
By Kenna White
Paperback, 9781594933707, 216 pp.