Monday, May 19, 2014

Paige Rewritten by Erynn Mangum

Book Two in the Paige Alder series sees Paige dealing with interest from two young men while trying to decide if she should take a job at her church as a youth minister. Complicating this is the return of her younger sister, Preslee, who ran away from home years ago to live with her rocker boyfriend.

Although Paige has now managed to learn to say no to people in her life, so that at least she can have decent mealtimes and take time to relax and pray, her life still seems disorganized.

Luke Prestwick, the brother of her best friend Layla, is back in town and determined to restart his relationship with Paige. He strong-arms a lonely Paige into dinner on her birthday and then continues to show up on Saturday mornings bringing breakfast with him, even when Paige seems less than friendly.  Luke has all the trappings of success; a good job, his own apartment, is well dressed and immaculately groomed. Even more amazing, he has come back to the church.

Meanwhile her relationship with Tyler Jennings isn't faring much better. Tyler, whom Paige really likes, seems cautious and approaches their relationship as if Paige is made of glass. This makes Paige doubt whether Tyler is anything more than just a friend. However, as Tyler begins to ask Paige out to dinner and lunch more frequently, Paige begins to wonder about her own feelings towards him. His easy-going nature and quiet confidence are in contrast to Luke's more forward approach.

Added to this is Paige's jealousy over the return of her prodigal sister, Preslee, who has managed to turn her life around, become Christian and is engaged to Wes, the son of a minister and owner of his own realty company. Paige's feelings are understandable given that she was the one left to comfort their parents when Preslee vanished years ago. While Paige obeyed the rules and did what she was supposed to, Preslee went off and made plenty of mistakes and seemingly got rewarded for her disobedience and her rash ways.

I stayed. I was here. I was the one who followed all the rules, heard all the complaints, and dealt with the aftermath of Preslee's behavior. It was me who held Mom the years that Preslees hadn't even bothered to call on Christmas or Mother's Day.
Paige is now being asked to welcome Preslee back into the family, to rejoice at her upcoming marriage and her good fortune. It's a bitter pill for her to swallow despite the fact that she knows it's the right course.

Can Paige find the maturity to sort through her feelings about Preslee, can she discover what she truly feels about Luke and Tyler to choose between them and can she make a decision about whether or not to accept a job offer from Rick? There's plenty of opportunity for growth in Paige Alder's complicated life.

Paige Rewritten is mainly a story about a young woman's struggle towards adult maturity and the ability to take charge of her life. As a result, Mangum has not written a strong female lead character who knows her mind. Instead in this second novel, Paige Adler is presented as a fairly immature twenty-three year old who is somewhat of a pushover which is frustrating for readers. She doesn't seem to have learned much from her experiences in the first novel and hasn't applied it to any other areas of her life.  In the first novel she was a pushover for just about anyone - saying yes to anyone who asked her to do something. In the second novel, she struggles with the three most important relationships in her life, that of Tyler, Luke and Preslee.

Luke, the boy who left her five years ago is back and Paige simply watches as he waltzes into her life every Saturday morning with food, which seems to be the ticket to Paige's heart (and brain). Incapable of setting some firm boundaries from the beginning and telling Luke that they cannot simply pick up their relationship as if nothing happened, that she is interested in someone else, she does very little to discourage his behaviour. Part of this is the result of Paige not having worked through what happened between her and Luke, leaving her deeply conflicted. What Paige eventually discovers about herself is that she needs to forgive Luke, allowing them both to move on.

Luke is smooth, suave and polished on the surface but his actions and words make him seem insincere and creepy, especially in how he moves a few doors down from Paige, begins attending the same church as she does, and shows up unannounced at her apartment door on Saturday mornings. He does what he needs to, in order to attract Paige's attention again and admits as much; "I want you Paige. I want you back in my life. I've changed, I swear I have. I'm back at church, back reading my Bible, back to trying to walking with God." It's evident that Luke wants Paige's forgiveness, in fact, he apologizes to her many times. But Paige is not ready to hear him nor to forgive him. For her the relationship is over, but for Luke, it is not, leading to the shocking twist at the end.

In contrast to Luke, is the patient and kind Tyler, who seems to respect Paige's uncertainty. He's willing to take the time to establish trust and to honour her heart. Maybe he's not too sure yet either, but Tyler's willing to safeguard her heart before he moves too far, too fast.

A great strength of this novel is the theme regarding life in general and the idea that a person can live their life in a righteous way, as Paige has done, but this is no guarantee for happiness or success. Bad things happen to good people and plenty of good things happen to people who have behaved badly. Sometimes this realization can lead to jealousy like what Paige experiences. The difficulty is in working through those feelings and coming to the realization that God has a plan for each of us (even when things don't go according to plan) and that our plan is unique. It takes Paige some time before she realizes that her sister Preslee overcame some bad choices and had to work hard to recover her life. Paige also realizes that although she did not make the mistakes Preslee did, she nurtured pride in her heart that she was a better person than her sister and that this hardened her heart towards her sister.

It's not surprising then that the theme of forgiveness is dominant in Paige Rewritten - hence the title of the novel. Paige has to rethink each of these relationships and how she views these important people in her life.

Readers will either be frustrated by Paige's paralyzing indecision regarding the relationships in her life, or empathize with the difficulty of coping with situations that require forgiveness and new outlook. Paige Rewritten is a novel that provides plenty of food for thought despite the sometimes annoying choices of the lead character.

The final novel in the Paige Adler series, Paige Turned is now available.

Book Details:
Paige Rewritten by Erynn Mangum
Colorado Springs: NavPress   2013
297 pp.

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