The Ninth Step by Barbara Taylor Sissel
ASIN: B005KDCOCE (Kindle Edition)
Publication date: August 30, 2011
A novel of timeless love, loss, and family and the steps we must take for forgiveness.Livie Saunders is fluent in the language of flowers; she taught the meanings to her fiancé, Cotton O'Dell, but then Cotton vanished without explanation on their wedding day forcing Livie to learn the language of desolation. Heartbroken, she buries her wedding gown beneath a garden pond and she resolves to move on, but there are nights when she slips . . . into a sequined red dress and a pair of stiletto heels, a stranger's bed, a little anonymous oblivion that is not without consequence. Still, she recovers a semblance of ordinary life and imagines herself content. After all, Cotton told her to forget about him. Livie even maintains a friendship with Delia, Cotton's mother, whom he also abandoned without a word of explanation.Then, six years later, an unsigned card and a bouquet of irises signal Cotton's presence, but his reunion with Livie isn't as joyous as he had hoped. While she struggles to forgive him, Livie can't hide her own past and how she has changed since Cotton left.Meanwhile, Cotton is still haunted by the crime that caused him to flee...a crime for which the legal clock is still ticking. For a moment, it seems they can both forget the past and rebuild their lives together, but then Cotton goes missing again.Time telescopes, avenues of escape close, and as lives hang in the balance, choice teeters between mercy and revenge. And a decision that will take only a moment will carry the consequences of a lifetime. THE NINTH STEP is a story of redemption, of being brought to your knees to face a monstrous error and somehow finding the strength to make it right. Even if that effort breaks your heart, endangers your freedom, and ultimately threatens your life.
Livie Saunders suffered heart break when Cotton O'Dell left her at the altar. She has suffered from torment when her self-esteem was so low that she would go out seeking pleasure and admiration from strangers. But Livie is no longer the lost person she once was; she has a good life, good friends, close family, and a good career as a landscaper. Livie may not have found love but she hasn't ruled it out. Just when she thinks she is beginning to move away from the past, it presents itself again with the reappearance of her former fiance, Cotton O'Dell. To make matters even more difficult, a one night stand with a really good man, Joe Bolten, results in a major complication.
Cotton knows that forgiveness will not be easy, but he also knows that he must try to make amends for the wrongs he has committed. Some of these may be easily forgiven and set aside and others may not. Cotton has to make amends for so much in his past, including seeking forgiveness from Livie, his mother, and a family of strangers. Over time, Cotton befriends Wes and Nicole Lattimer. He comes to respect them as well as like them, but will he ever be able to make amends for the part he's played in their lives.
People make mistakes, some small and some large. Some mistakes are forgivable and others may require time to ease the pain before forgiveness can ever be considered. We often seek forgiveness from others before we can ever begin to forgive ourselves. Cotton learns that anything worth having is worth working for, as well as the fact that forgiveness doesn't come easy. Cotton's past behavior had impacted so many lives and he learns to accept responsibility for his actions in his ongoing attempt to make amends. Livie learns that she can't be responsible for other people's happiness and in return finds happiness herself in an unexpected place.
The Ninth Step is filled with intense drama and emotions. Some of this intensity is derived from the normal male-female give and take in relationships and some from the misunderstandings that arise from the differences between men and women. There's family-oriented drama between Livie's sister Kat and her husband, Tim and their ongoing problems with Kat's out-of-control spending. There's dysfunctional family history components from Kat and Livie's childhood experiences with their mother's numerous boyfriends, as well as with Cotton, his family, and alcoholism - namely his and his mother's alcoholism. Ms. Sissel doesn't sugarcoat the problems presented in The Ninth Step, nor does she provide easy resolution to the problems addressed. However, she does provide a sense of hope that things can turn out okay for everyone involved. I found this to be a very realistic portrayal of life and families. No one is presented as wholly bad or wholly good, but a combination of both. The Ninth Step may not be an easy read for some but it is a fast read that is well worth the time.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."