When Mockingbirds Sing - Billy Coffey

Leah is a child from Away, isolated from her peers because of her stutter. But then she begins painting scenes that are epic in scope, brilliant in detail, and suffused with rich, prophetic imagery. When the event foreshadowed in the first painting dramatically comes true, the town of Mattingly takes notice. Leah attributes her ability to foretell the future to an invisible friend she calls the Rainbow Man. Some of the townsfolk are enchanted with her. Others fear her. But there is one thing they all agree on—there is no such thing as the Rainbow Man. Her father, the town psychologist, is falling apart over his inability to heal his daughter . . . or fix his marriage. And the town minister is unraveled by the notion that a mere child with no formal training may be hearing from God more clearly than he does. While the town bickers over what to do with this strange child, the content of Leah’s paintings grows darker. Still, Leah insists that the Rainbow Man’s heart is pure. But then a dramatic and tragic turn of events leaves the town reeling and places everyone’s lives in danger. Now the people of Mattingly face a single choice: Will they cling to what they know . . . or embrace the things Leah believes in that cannot be seen?

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Leah grows up being kept away from most of the townspeople because of her stutter. When Leah's birthday comes around this year, her parents enlist family friend Barney to build her an art easel to encourage her in her artistic interests. They had no way of seeing what came next. Leah starts producing these prophetic paintings, displaying talent far beyond her previous art abilities, rivaling master painters even! Leah claims that the paintings are messages she's given from someone she calls The Rainbow Man, a man only she can see. When news of this gets around town, some dismiss it as nothing more than a creative child conjuring up an elaborate imaginary friend. Others question if Leah has, in fact, been specially touched by God in some way. 

 

Leah's first painting goes to the easel's creator, Barney, telling him that The Rainbow Man said "this is what you need." Barney, after staring at the image for a good bit, starts to see numbers in the background. He decides to use these numbers on his next lottery ticket purchase and wonder of wonders, he wins a massive jackpot -- a windfall desperately needed by him and his invalid wife. Barney's win stirs up a serious religious frenzy around Leah, but when some of her prophetic messages don't work out as people want or expect, they turn on her again. The media gets involved in Leah's story and her father, the town psychologist, becomes fearful and frustrated as he struggles to keep her safe or even understand her gift. Leah tries to explain that she is only the messenger and even she's not given the whole message, that Rainbow Man only seems to tell her she absolutely needs to know. The more people turn against her and ignore her painted messages, the more dark in theme they become until, as you can imagine, great tragedy strikes the town. 

 

I ended up having mixed feelings about this story. I really did like the concept and I like the characters of Leah and especially Leah's friend Allie. Allie cracked me up during the baptismal scene! That being said, a few things really tarnished the overall story for me. I strongly, strongly disliked the town preacher, how he kept acting like he was the voice of reason, he had all the answers and especially how he equated non-churchgoers as "non-believers". Not necessarily the same thing, bud. I got sick of hearing that throughout the story. The other thing that drove me batty --- and this is a minor thing, but I'm sorry, it was annoying -- the constant OMGs in character dialogue, but what made it worse was how it was written. Coffey never uses OMG but "oh my gosh" or, even more irritating to constantly read, "OHHH EMM GEE!" Dude, just say OMG... and maybe not so frequently. I also thought Coffey wrote some of the more impoverished country folk characters a little too ridiculously backwoods. Just one example, Allie describing a canopy bed as one of them beds with the straight up wood arms and a sheet on top. I think any little girl that's ever read a princess / fairytale book knows what a canopy is. 

 

A decent story, was a little underwhelmed with the writing style myself though I know this has been quite the lauded release this year. Not sure if his writing style is my taste but I appreciated the opportunity to try it out.

 

FTC Disclaimer: BookLookBloggers.com and Thomas Nelson Publishers kindly sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.