"A compelling and compassionate story of support, faith and love!"
Reviewed by Audrey Lawrence
Posted March 2, 2020
Literature and Fiction | Inspirational
In the midst of their own worries and anxieties, five seemingly random strangers receive a beautiful, but anonymous invitation to attend a meeting of the Fifth Avenue Story Society. No facilitator arrives so the five people gradually introduce themselves and slowly open up to each other. They are still uncertain as to what this about, but they all agree to continue to meet every Monday evening at the old, but still elegant library. With the encouragement and support from their newfound friends, they learn to confront their fears and to move forward to what they need to do to achieve their dream. Will they ever find out who sent them their invitations?
THE FIFTH AVENUE STORY SOCIETY is both an amusing and awesome story of faith, love and regaining self-respect, despite the slings and arrows of everyday life. Written by the well-known and highly regarded Christian fiction writer Rachel Hauck, she seamlessly interweaves their stories of love, loss and renewed faith in themselves and God. While each story is written from the perspective of Jett, Lexa, Chuck, Coral and Ed, the impact of their support for each other shines through and continues to move them forward to what they need to achieve and to do what is the right thing for them.
I found THE FIFTH AVENUE STORY SOCIETY to be compelling reading, especially as the characters’ actions start to connect in their lives outside of the Monday meetings. Drawing on elements of her own experiences and research, Hauck‘s writing is so authentic and eloquent in describing emotional situations, that THE FIFTH AVENUE STORY SOCIETY almost reads as if it were a true story. Written in the first person, the story unfolds in such an intimate way and with such realistic characters, it is almost impossible to put this inspiring and heartwarming story down. My only regret in reading this book is that I didn’t get an invitation to join this wonderful Fifth Avenue Story Society!
If you relish a good story or excellent Christian fiction, then THE FIFTH AVENUE STORY SOCIETY by Rachel Hauck is for you! For myself, I definitely will be checking other and future books by this master storyteller. Enjoy!
An invitation to join The Fifth Avenue Story Society gives five New York strangers a chance to rewrite their own stories.
Executive assistant Lexa is eager for a much-deserved promotion, but her boss is determined to keep her underemployed.
Literature professor Jett is dealing with a broken heart, as well as a nagging suspicion his literary idol, Gordon Phipps Roth, might be a fraud.
Uber driver Chuck just wants a second chance with his kids.
Aging widower Ed is eager to write the true story of his incredible marriage.
Coral, queen of the cosmetics industry, has broken her engagement and is on the verge of losing her great grandmother’s multimillion-dollar empire.
When all five New Yorkers receive an anonymous, mysterious invitation to the Fifth Avenue Story Society, they suspect they’re victims of a practical joke. No one knows who sent the invitations or why. No one has heard of the literary society. And no one is prepared to bear their deepest secrets to a roomful of strangers.
Yet curiosity and loneliness bring them back week after week to the old library. And it’s there they discover the stories of their hearts, and the kind of friendship and love that heals their souls.
Well this was a fine mess. Spending the night in Central Booking for instigating a fight at a wedding reception. What was he thinking?
He glanced at his sore hand through the dull light beaming in from the hallway fluorescents and flexed his fingers, wincing at the pain of his bruised f lesh.
He hadn’t thrown so many punches since he was a boy in Chappaqua wrestling with his brother.
The next time he got an invitation, especially a wedding invita- tion, he’d RSVP with a big fat no.
Though he could hardly blame the invitation. He alone earned this all-expenses-paid night in holding. For defending a bridesmaid from a drunken groomsman.
Yet he was no hero.
Jett Wilder, associate professor of English at the prestigious New York College, lover of words and literature and the occasional ride through class-five rapids, was a criminal.
Perhaps criminal was an exaggeration. Nonetheless, he’d been cuffed, read his rights, hauled off in a paddy wagon, and thrown behind bars, where he spent a long, odiferous night with drug dealers, pimps, drunks, petty thieves, and civil violators.
So he, too, was counted among the transgressors.
What happened to him? He deplored violence, prided himself on diplomacy and statesmanship.
Rising from the bench, where he sat next to the big guy who had also jumped into the fight, Jett made his way to the iron bars.
The cell’s shadowy confinement robbed his sense of time.
Had he been here for one hour or five? The booking officer took every time-keeping device he owned—watch and phone—before leading him away to rot.
However, by the rumble in his belly, the hour was well past breakfast.
He gripped the bars and fought a wave of claustrophobia. He wanted out. But he deserved to be here. In fact, for the rest of his life, anything that came his way, he’d deserve.
Divorced? Deserved it. On the rocks with his boss? Deserved it. Tense relationship with his parents? Deserved.
What was it about being locked up that made a man assess his life? Besides the jailhouse smells and chorus of snores and moans?
“Hello?” Jett pressed against the gray, flaking bars. “Hey, does a guy get a phone call around here?” If he had used his, he’d forgotten.
Last night was not one for the memory books.
“You refused your phone call.” The big guy came alongside and threaded his arms through the steel squares. “Nice punch you threw at the Harness-Neville wedding.”
“I’d say thanks for giving me a hand, but look where we landed.”
Big Guy offered his hand. “Chuck Mays. Uber driver. Civil offender. The dude had it coming.”
Jett clapped his palm against Chuck’s. “Jett Wilder. Associate professor of English, NYC. Civil offender.”
“If I need a witness that you started it, can I count on you?” Chuck’s somber request was accented by his swollen and protruding lower lip. “Even though you were pretty lit?”
Jett pressed his fingers to his throbbing temple. “I don’t drink much.”
“Then why were you knocking them down like water last night?” “I’m not a fan of weddings.”
“Same.” Chuck linked his thick fingers together around the bars. Jett glanced at him. “You a friend of the bride or groom?” “Groom. Went to high school together in Jersey. You?”
“Bride. She’s a colleague.”
The men jutted chins toward each other as some sort of grunted acceptance.
“So, if you don’t like weddings and you don’t drink, what hap- pened last night?” Chuck said.
“Long week. What about you? Why’d you jump in?” Weddings agitated Jett as much as alcohol. The two together? Disaster.
Jett laughed. “Eight days?”
“Without the Beatles singing background.”
“I’m on the same calendar.”
“This will cost me.” Chuck gripped his hands into fists and the
line of his jaw was taut with tension.
“Both of us. I expect a bill from the bride’s father.”
“That? So what? This will cost me more than . . . Did they read
you the charges?”
Jett pointed to his head. “Took me a minute when I woke up to
figure out why I was in here.”
Chuck relaxed his hands. “Disorderly conduct. Public intoxication. Assault.” His composure changed as he rattled off the charges. His voice thick with anger. “Stupid, stupid, stupid—”
Stupid was one word for it. Jett should’ve stayed home. Apologized to the bride, Jenn, after the fact.
“I wanted to come, but weddings—”
But weddings what? Reminded him of what he’d lost? Awakened the heartache he’d finally put to rest?
Yet he couldn’t go through life hiding from the happiness of others. Besides, being on faculty at the illustrious, private, elite New York College came with certain obligations. He’d be considered aloof and unsupportive if he avoided Jenn’s nuptials.
And he sort of owed her. She had listened to his sob stories when his wife walked out, and she had rallied the rest of the faculty around him. Attending her wedding was the least he could do.
It was any man’s guess how much the reception damage would set him back. A lot more than a humble apology.
“That groomsman was a piece of work.” Chuck paced in tight circles, muttering to himself. “The bridesmaid told him to leave her alone, what? A dozen times? This will ruin me.”
Jett recognized the underlying darkness in Chuck’s expression, shadowed even more by his dark, hooded eyes.
“Ruin me.” His reply came fast and hot. “She’ll find out. She will. I’ll lose them.”
Chuck sat on a bench someone had vacated for the toilet and covered his face with his wide hands.
“Seems ironic, doesn’t it?” Jett walked over and patted his stone- hard shoulder. “The two of us behind bars for defending a bridesmaid’s honor while the offender walks free. What happened to chivalry?”
The big guy never raised his head.
“You okay?” Jett angled forward to see his face.
“No.” Chuck stood, rising to his full height. Hard to believe he
folded himself into an Uber job all day. “I’ve probably ruined my life.” “Come on, can’t be as bad as all that, man. A tussle at a wedding reception?” He cheered himself as much as Chuck. “Nothing more than a civil violation.” Surely such a petty crime wouldn’t ruin any-
one’s life. “We’ll pay a fine and go home.”
“You don’t understand. I can’t afford anything like this.” Chuck
touched a laceration on his cheek. “You throw a mean punch.” “Sorry, man.”
“Don’t be. I should’ve kept my nose out of it.” Chuck pointed to his knuckles, then Jett’s. “You’re pretty banged up. Will this get you in trouble with your college?”
“Not sure.” Jett extended his fingers once more against the swelling and aching.
His knuckles were scraped and bruised, and when he ran his hand along his jaw, he grazed one cut, then another. When he touched the area around his eye, he winced.
With that Chuck returned to his hunched position, head in his hands.
What else could he say to the guy?
“Yo, Mr. Police Officer?” Jett peered down the corridor for a sign of deliverance.
A fellow inmate roused with a laugh. “You stuck here until they come for you.”
“What happened to swift justice?”
With a sigh, he sat next to Chuck, his ripped tuxedo collar dangling over his shoulder. He noticed two coat buttons were missing. And his shirt was torn and stained red. Wine. Not blood.
He needed to get home, showered, and to work. Put last night behind him. In the annals of yesterday.
He also had two classes this morning, papers to grade, a dissertation to finalize for publication and present to the Roth Foundation Reception in November. His boss, Renée, the literature department chair, had finally put her foot down. Her words, not his.
“The publication of that dissertation means a great deal to the Roth Foundation and the college, Jett.”
Showing up on campus meant he’d have to face Renée. Maybe the English department dean. He hadn’t read far enough in the faculty handbook to know what happened to delinquent professors. Especially ones who ruined another professor’s wedding.
So, this was life at thirty. A divorced man who couldn’t quite find his footing, his excuses no longer able to belay him.
Losing his brother, Storm, that day on the Eiger mountain was hard enough. But when the one person who made his very breath worthwhile walked out . . . well, sometimes it was just too much.
Jett sat back against the wall and succumbed to the fatigue of the past two years.
Could he be tired? Just for a moment?
As he exhaled, his eyes drifting closed, a buzzer sounded. A steel door opened and closed.
Jett sat forward, gently rousing Chuck. “Wake up, Sleeping Beauty. I hear footsteps.”
“John Wilder and Charles Mays.” A uniformed officer swung open the door. “You’re free to go. No charges.”
Jett shot out with a curt nod. “Thank you, Mr. Jailer.”
“You’re welcome, Mr. Prisoner.”
In the precinct house, another officer walked him out, handed
him an envelope containing his things—imagine, his most prized possessions fit in a manila envelope—and he bolted for daylight. For freedom.
“Jett Wilder.” Chuck followed him down the courthouse steps, his smile burning away his former despondency. “That was lucky. No charges.”
“I’ll take it.” He offered the big man a hearty handshake. “Until the next wedding.”
“May it be a long time away. And about back there, in the hold- ing. I got a bit emotional.”
Jett raised his palm. “No need. It was a long day.”
Chuck shot him a sideways grin and turned to go. “By the way,” he said, coming back around. “Are you any relation to Bear Wilder, the adventure guy?”
“He’s my father.” Jett walked backward toward the curb.
“Your father. What was that like growing up? And didn’t your brother—”
“Chuck.” Jett stepped into the street to hail a taxi. If he hurried, he could make his first class. “We spent one night together. Let’s make a note in our diaries and in years to come, we’ll look back on it fondly.”
“Just asking, man.” The big guy started off in the opposite direction.
“Sorry, but I’m in a hurry.” A cab pulled to the curb. “I have a class in two hours.”
“I was going to offer you a ride home. On the house.”
“Thanks anyway.” Jett slipped into the back of the cab, rattling off his Greenwich Village address.
He dumped the envelope’s contents onto the seat, and a thick, cream-colored card dropped out. He ignored it while he checked his phone for messages—there were forty—and fastened on his watch.
After tucking his wallet into his inside jacket pocket, along with his keys, he examined the card, expecting to find an inventory of the envelope’s contents.
Instead, he found an invitation.
YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO THE FIFTH AVENUE STORY SOCIETY.
THE FIFTH AVENUE LITERARY SOCIETY LIBRARY THE BOWER ROOM
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9 @ 8:00 P.M.
Jett laughed. An invitation? He flipped it over and back. There was no RSVP or return address. This wasn’t his.
He’d never even heard of the Fifth Avenue Literary Society Library. And in light of his night in a holding cell, he had no plans to say yes to any invitation any time soon.
What do you think about this review?
1 comment posted.
Re: A compelling and compassionate story of support, faith and love!
What a lovely review and excerpt. This is going to be a
(Kathleen Bylsma 3:46pm March 13)
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