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 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?
(Synopsis: Author’s website)
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When Mockingbirds Sing is the epitome of the book which at its ending leaves you wishing there was one more page to turn and then one more and then . . . well, you get the picture, don’t you? I did not want this book to end.
Billy Coffey is a masterful storyteller. His characters come alive, and some jump off the page into your heart. Others you don’t care for at all. Scenes evolve before your eyes as if an artist was wielding his paint brushes across the canvas while you’re reading. The plot maintains a highly readable pace, holding your interest which is captured immediately upon reading the first page.
Coffey has created a small town with its foibles and quirks and yes, its characters. Into Mattingly, Virginia, he has dropped some city folk from Away. Being from Away tends to make life difficult for those who come from there. Add to that the fact that young Leah Norcross stutters, and life burgeons from difficult to impossible and miserable.
Fortunately, during a birthday celebration, Leah is befriended by Allie Granderson, whom I believe senses Leah needs a friend. Allie is bold and steps right up to fill the job.
Enter Leah’s friend, The Rainbow Man. However, only Leah sees him and hears him. But Leah believes in him with all her might. Leah’s Rainbow Man concerns her psychologist father, Tom Norcross, who has demons he struggles with from a previous life it seems. And his marriage to Ellen isn’t going so smoothly either. A bit more tension added to the story line.
As soon as the Mattingly folks learn of Leah’s Rainbow Man and her belief in him plus his ability to help Leah foretell the future, they begin to take sides — some against Leah because they are afraid, others standing with her because they are enchanted with her abilities. And the town’s minister begins to fall apart at the idea a child could hear more clearly than he the voice of God.
If we take a deep look at the people of Mattingly, I believe we see ourselves, whether we believe in a higher power or not. Judgment cast on others because of where they come from happens daily. Choosing to shun another because of an impairment in speech or other challenge isn’t all that uncommon, is it? And what about fearing what another might say about their own relationship with a higher power?
Has Billy Coffey imagined Mattingly, or has he described for us any small or large town in America? Has he opened the door for us to take a close look at how we treat our neighbors? Is the author attempting to open our eyes and hearts to something bigger than ourselves?
For the answers to these questions, you’ll have to read When Mockingbirds Sing. I promise you will not be disappointed, whether you read it as Southern fiction or Christian fiction. Coffey’s transcendent writing style will hold your attention and keep you entertained.
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“He c-comes to us all, Ruh-Reverend. He’s always w-with us. You and me aren’t duh-different. No one’s duh-different. It’s just that I nuh-know I’m small and everyone else thinks they’re buh-big. That’s why no one else c-can see Him. They pruh-pray and sing and say they luh-love Him, but d-deep down they think they know beh-better than He does. They d-do their own things because they thuh-think they’re b-big enough. But they’re not. No one’s big enough.”
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Meet the Author:
Billy Coffey’s critically acclaimed books combine rural
Southern charm with a vision far beyond the ordinary.
He is a regular contributor to several publications,
where he writes about faith and life.
Billy lives with his wife and two children in
Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Visit him at BillyCoffee.com.
(From the back cover of When Mockingbirds Sing.)
Billy Coffey has published two other novels,
Snow Day (2010) and Paper Angels (2011),
with two more on the way by Thomas Nelson.