Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: The Splendor of Ordinary Days

The Splendor of Ordinary Days
By Jeff High
A Novel of Watervalley, #3
NAL, 2015


The pastoral charm of small-town Watervalley, Tennessee, can be deceptive, as young Dr. Luke Bradford discovers when he's caught in the fallout of a decades-old conflict.

After a rocky start as Watervalley's only doctor, Luke Bradford has decided to stay in town, honoring the three-year commitment he made to pay off his medical school debts. But even as his friendships with the quirky townsfolk deepen, and he pursues a romance with lovely schoolteacher Christine Chambers, several military veterans' emotional wounds trigger anger and unrest in Watervalley.

At the center of the clash is the curmudgeonly publisher of the local newspaper, Luther Whitmore. Luther grew up in Watervalley, but he returned from combat in Vietnam a changed man. He fenced in beautiful Moon Lake, posting "Keep Out" notices at the beloved spot, and provokes the townspeople with his incendiary newspaper.

As Luke struggles to understand Luther's past, and restore harmony in Watervalley, an unforeseen crisis shatters a relationship he values dearly. Suddenly Luke must answer life's toughest questions about service, courage, love, and sacrifice.

My thoughts

In Jeff High’s Watervalley novels, I have found a new author whose work I love. But before I go on, let me caution those who only read Christian fiction that this story has a small amount of mild profanity, use of alcohol, and it lacks an overt faith message.  However, it doesn’t come from a traditional Christian publisher, nor is it marketed as Christian fiction. I personally enjoyed this character-driven story very much and want to read more of Jeff High’s novels.

The Splendor of Ordinary Days is filled with so many delightful elements – rural Tennessee setting, humor, romance, Southern charm, quirky characters, respect for military service, and even a touch of the supernatural. Jeff does an excellent job, both in storytelling and expressive writing. I won’t attempt to compare these stories to other popular small-town series because the Watervalley books have a feel all their own.

To me, the term “southern” evokes a sense of community, charm, caring families, and Christian faith – all of which Jeff beautifully embodies in this story. At the end of the book, Jeff writes: “Watervalley books are ‘glass half full’ stories that seek to illuminate the sweet and decent things about Southern culture and the strong character of those who live there.” Readers will enjoy a couple of unusual medical cases, humorous and inspired by actual cases.

Luke is a totally down-to-earth character – honest, smart, kind, so easy to like immediately. Although an essential part of the Watervalley community as the only doctor, at times he saw himself as “a stranger in a strange land.” And when it came to matters of faith, Luke was “inclined to cast anything supernatural or miraculous into the realm of false notion, ignorance, or happenchance.” Rather than this story having obvious spiritual themes, I felt that Christian faith was shown subtly through many of the characters’ actions.

High regard for those who served in the military, as well as the effects of post-traumatic stress, are strongly portrayed in this novel. Luther served in Vietnam and I found his storyline very moving. As a college student during those years, I witnessed many friends leaving for the war – and not all returned.  Luther’s conversation with Luke was very poignant: “We arrived in Vietnam believing in so many things – country, patriotism, service, God – and upon our return, we believed in one thing and one thing only: nothing. . . . When it was over, there was no hero’s welcome, no glorious return. America was indifferent; heaven was empty. It left us with hearts that would always know hunger.”

I enjoyed The Splendor of Ordinary Days very much and will seek out more Watervalley novels. Although this is book #3, it can stand alone. This book ends with a tempting offer presented to Luke, so I eagerly anticipate the next in series. Recommended to all who enjoy general fiction with small-town settings.


After growing up on a farm in rural Tennessee, Jeff High attained degrees in literature and nursing. He is the three-time winner, in fiction and poetry, of an annual writing contest held by Vanderbilt Medical Center. He lived in Nashville for many years, and throughout the country as a travel nurse, before returning to his original hometown, near where he now works as an operating room RN in open-heart surgery. He is the author of the Watervalley novels, including More Things in Heaven and Earth and Each Shining Hour.

Connect with Jeff at, Facebook, and Twitter

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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