Review: Going Home (Book #1: Chandler Hill Inn Series) by Judith Keim

43323876. sy475 In 1970, Violet Hawkins’ only wish at eighteen is to escape her life in the Dayton, Ohio, foster-care system and make her way to the west coast to enjoy a mellow life and find the love she’s been missing all her life. She makes it to San Francisco, but soon learns she needs a job if she’s to live properly. A kind, young man named Kenton Chandler offers her a sandwich and a job at his father’s inn and vineyards. With nothing to lose, Lettie takes him up on his offer and begins a whole new life in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. She immediately falls in love with the land and is fascinated with the idea of growing grapes in order to make wines. She, Kenton, and Rafe Lopez become friends as she learns about running the small inn on the property.  

At the same time she marries Kenton, a stroke kills his father. And then before she can tell Kenton she’s pregnant, he dies in an automobile accident. Heartbroken and burdened with the gift of the Chandler Hill Inn and Winery, she’s left with the task of making them a success. Struggling to raise a child alone while working to grow the business, Lettie makes a shocking discovery that changes everything.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Purchase          Rating: 5/5 stars

Lettie Hawkins is now and always has been a child with no real family.  As an orphan, Lettie grew up in the foster care system with no real roots and certainly no sense of family or a place to call her own.  Through a series of coincidences, a bit of good fortune, and a bigger bit of completely unfortunate events, Lettie finds herself, at the tender age of 19, the mother of a new baby and sole owner of an up and coming winery and inn. 

Though Lettie certainly has the option of walking away and starting her life over, the Chandler Hill Inn has felt like home since the moment she stepped foot on the property.  To Lettie’s way of thinking, leaving isn’t an option at all, but following through on the well-laid plans left behind is the only option.  With more than a bit of determination, hard work, support from her friends and staff, Lettie begins to grow the inn and winery’s reputation until it is one of the most reputable and profitable in the area.  With each year and each season that passes, Lettie involves herself more and more deeply in her endeavors and though she is a professional success, Lettie’s personal life has suffered.

For so many reasons, Lettie has never truly looked for a man to replace the two she once held so dearly.  One was lost forever and the other simply got away; over the years Lettie has dated some, but no one has ever come close to her two loves.  What’s more, dating as a single mother isn’t exactly easy and Lettie’s daughter, Autumn, isn’t the easiest kid in the world.  Though Lettie has always tried to be close to Autumn, running the inn and winery has taken so much of her time that she often feels neglectful of her daughter.  As Autumn grows, the seeds of that “neglect” begin to bear fruit and Lettie spends years in limbo where her relationship with her daughter is concerned. 

In the long years of her life at Chandler Hill, Lettie learns so very many valuable lessons about life, love, commitment, friendship, heartache, and joy.  As the universe so cruelly took from Lettie, it also gave and in the latter years of her life, Lettie finds the love and companionship she has long been missing.  She settles in to a quieter, less hectic professional life just as she settles into a happier and more fulfilled personal life.  For a time, and for the first time in her life, Lettie can truly be happy in the knowledge that she has it all.  Because of her background, Lettie is the first to acknowledge her good fortune and life’s blessings; also because of her background, Lettie is the first to know, understand, and appreciate how quickly that which is given can be taken away. 

The Bottom Line:  What a truly moving and emotional book Going Home turned out to be and I loved every word and every page.   This was a single sitting read for me as I just couldn’t let go of this story until I knew how every detail worked out and played out.  What a ride this one took me on!  From the highest of highs to the pits of despair, Going Home is truly a family saga.  Though it covers decades, the story moves at a good pace, plausibly jumps ahead in time as needed, and is more than interesting enough to keep you turning pages.  What’s more, the wonderfully full-bodied characters inhabit an environment that is not only beautifully described but completely appropriate for the stories playing out in that environment.  Everything important thing about this book – its characters and its setting – feel so very real and that is one of the qualities I enjoyed most about this read.  I couldn’t put Going Home down and, in fact, dove immediately into the second installment, Coming Home.

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