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Smoke River #2

Pocketful of Pearls

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Written with beauty and grace, award-winning author Shelley Bates pens the compelling story about the unstoppable force of the emergent self.

Dinah Traynell is trapped in a life that is not her own. Raised in a toxic church, she is forced to surrender mentally and physically to her sociopathic pastor’s every demand. Even while mourning the loss of her father, Dinah must hold strong to this role she’s reluctantly played all her life. And though she dreams of escape, this is the only world she’s ever known. When Dr. Matthew Nicholas appears on Dinah’s doorstep in the dark of night, he’s burdened with troubles of his own. Leaving behind his university position, Matthew has been traveling to escape the trauma of his old life--that is, until he’s robbed of what means he has left for his journey. Stranded, penniless, and still ill-at-ease with his life’s turn of events, he’d rather lend a helping hand on a stranger’s ranch than go home. Instantly drawn to Dinah, Matthew is torn between his desire to help her and the fear of getting too involved. But as Dinah struggles with the realization that the faith she grew up believing in is not real, and an abandoned baby is unexpectedly dropped into their lives, they must learn to open up and trust one another--if either ever hopes to break free of the past.

276 pages, Paperback

First published August 24, 2005

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About the author

Shelley Bates

10 books9 followers
Shelley Bates holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania, where she teaches as adjunct faculty. She was the winner of RWA's RITA Award for Best Inspirational Novel in 2005, a finalist for that award in 2006, and, writing as Shelley Adina, was a Christy Award finalist in 2009. Three of her books have shortlisted for the American Christian Fiction Writers' Carol Award for book of the year.

A transplanted Canadian, Shelley returns there annually to have her accent calibrated. Between books, she enjoys traveling with her husband, playing the piano and Celtic harp, and spoiling her flock of rescued chickens.

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5 stars
41 (27%)
4 stars
51 (34%)
3 stars
40 (26%)
2 stars
13 (8%)
1 star
4 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews
Profile Image for Michelle Robinson.
616 reviews9 followers
April 4, 2010
Whew, this book is HARD to read.

There are some serious, difficult to digest, issues of sexual abuse in this book. From my limited experience with this genre, this book is a definite departure.

This is not a pat Christian love story.

Dinah Tryanell's father has just died, when we meet her she is about to encounter Matthew Nicholas a former University professor who is basically walking cross country as he tries to dwal with some personal issues that have arisien in his life.

Dinah has been terribly abused by a person in spiritual authority in her and her familiy's life.

This book deals with A LOT of issues in a brief period of time.
I literally could not put this book down and read it straight through in one sitting.

So many things that were said, in this book, felt so blaphemous to me that it was hard to absorb however, that was to be expected to some extent being that the book deals with what we would think of as cult behaviour.

I enjoyed Shelly Bates and will read her again.
Profile Image for Shana.
101 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2008
Christian based. OMG. You're not human if you don't grab for the Kleenex box while reading this one. Well written, highly engaging, detailed character development, and the main character is inspirational, faithful, and unforgettable.
Profile Image for Meg Mims.
Author 22 books114 followers
March 25, 2011
Most Christian authors soothe their readers with what they want to read - inspiring words and a struggle or two that wraps up nicely in the end. Few would tackle the subject of a "toxic church" and its affects. Shelley Bates is one.

Her first novel, Grounds to Believe, won a Rita from Romance Writers of America. It laid the foundation for the second book in the series, Pocketful of Pearls. Bates allows the reader to interface with this strange world of the Elect, both with the heroes from outside and the heroines inside who face tough, faith-shattering choices.

The reader feels each sharp pain of Dinah in Pocketful of Pearls, as if they themselves were enmeshed in the tight web of the Elect. This is a gripping novel, difficult to put down, and heart-wrenching. Have a box of tissue ready as you cheer on the heroine's brave attempts to deal with the inconsistencies of her world and fight to survive.

I'm not a fan of spoilers, so trust me when I say this book is so good it's on my shelf next to LaVyrle Spencer, Sharon Kay Penman, Margaret Lawrence, Judith Merkle Riley, Jane Austen and Margaret Mitchell.

The third and last in the series, A Sounding Brass, wraps up the series. Bates' tightly written prose is emotional and fulfilling, so don't miss any of her books!
27 reviews1 follower
June 21, 2008
I didn't notice that this was a Christian book until I was a few pages in, but kept reading just to see how it was. Not bad, but not great. The premise was interesting (from an outsider's standpoint) as it's Christians vs. Christians, determining whose denomination is better. No complete heathens (like me) were saved, which would have been the book's death knell from my standpoint. Anyway, I'm unlikely to pick up another, unless, like this one, I just don't notice until I've got it home from the library.
Profile Image for Jenni Adkins.
58 reviews3 followers
July 21, 2008
Started out as a creepy religious cult molestation story, but ended up being a Christian themed message that ended great. Sad, but good.
10 reviews
January 1, 2010
Didn't realize this was #2, will have to try to find #1. Enjoyed this, different, not as easy as some I have read.
Profile Image for A. R..
Author 3 books44 followers
September 30, 2017
"Pocketful of Pearls" is a love and rescue story. Dinah is a young woman raised in a strict and unsavory religious group. They are led by "The Shepherd" who is anything but a loving leader. The order has more rules of behavior than true Christian teachings. Along comes Matthew, an unemployed university professor who has had a troubled past of his own. He's hired by Dinah to be a ranch hand after Dinah's father's death.

I enjoyed the story. Was happy that the ending, although happy, wasn't saccharine or easy. The characters grew throughout the story and the plot moved at an even pace. There were a few little things about the plot that didn't ring true (the mother's new business) and there were also moments of predictability. But I loved the moments when I wanted to cheer the characters on, when they stood up for themselves and that moment when evil is revealed. Overall, I enjoyed reading Dinah's path out of abuse and erroneous Christian teachings.

Profile Image for A.D. Lawrence.
Author 1 book157 followers
February 11, 2021
Another Winner!

I didn’t think it was possible for book two to hook me like book one did. I was wrong. Amazing characters and an engaging plot kept me turning pages.
Profile Image for Melissa (Catch Up Mode).
4,574 reviews1,881 followers
May 22, 2019

Dinah Traynell has a dark secret. As a member of a strict religious organization, the Elect, she weighs every move and decision in light of church rules. Even at twenty-four, living on her own seems like a dream to Dinah, especially since her father has just died and she must help her mother run the farm. Phinehas, the chief Shepherd of the Elect, is both revered and feared. Families are deeply honored when he graces them with a visit, and since Dinah's family is favored, Phinehas stays with them often. He has sexually abused and raped Dinah for over ten years, pushing it all off as her spiritual sacrifice to God.

On the day of Dinah's father's funeral, a drifter shows up at their back door desperately seeking food. Although it goes against the church rules, Dinah hides him in the barn and feeds him. She learns his name - Matthew - and bits and pieces of information about his life, that lead her to believe there's more to this man than meets the eye. Dinah takes Matthew on as a hired man and slowly the two learn to trust each other. When events begin to spiral out of control, can Dinah finally stand up for herself or will she remain loyal to the Elect?

The novel has a unique plot with intriguing characters. Not having been in a similar situation, it's difficult to identify with Dinah, but it's easy to sympathize with her pain. It's frustrating as a reader to be a spectator to such horrific events and feel helpless to do anything about them, except to turn pages. Dinah's gradual transformation from membership in a toxic church to independence is slow but very believable. The storytelling is straightforward and fascinating. Supporting characters, such as Matthew, Dinah's mother, and other members of the church, add dimension and realism.

Although God's true hope is eventually revealed to Dinah, a sense of heaviness pervades most of Pocketful of Pearls. It's not entirely clear until the last pages whether justice will prevail or if there will just be closure to the horror. With such a heavy theme, a thread of levity would have helped to make the novel more readable. Overall, Shelley Bates forges bravely ahead with a topic many would shy away from, shining light onto a religious situation that looks, on the surface, like truth but in reality is a giant lie.
Profile Image for Megan.
21 reviews3 followers
February 9, 2011
After picking this up on a whim (and for a good price), I was blown away by the storytelling and the volatile, emotion-evicting setting focused around a country cult. With my own turbulent past with Christianity and organized religion in general, I really identified with the themes and issues addressed in this book, like the power that a figurehead holds over his/her followers, the pressures that family imposes on one's actions, the moral dilemmas encountered when living in a closed religious setting, and the struggle that is involved when breaking free of it all. Even though it's been a while since I read this, I remember finding Diana to be a believable character to follow. Her struggles with sexual abuse and the all-too-trusting nature of her family became a source of frustration with me outside of my reading time. I empathized with her and celebrated with her when she began breaking free through the course of the story; and when it was all over, I was left with a sense of satisfaction with Diana's victory as well as a lasting frustration with the establishment that had caused her troubles in the first place. It's stories that stick with me, like this one, that define my standards.
Profile Image for Cindi.
652 reviews1 follower
May 23, 2016
Ever start a book and hate what you are reading yet you cannot put it down? That's how this one. The subject matter is heartbreaking but the writing is superb.

I found myself totally engrossed in the storyline and kept hoping things would improve for Dinah. There is so much I want to say about this novel but I don't want to give anything away. Let's just say that I'm thankful that I never got involved in a cult nor have I gone through what some of these folks have.

I strongly recommend this story for anyone who has suffered any type of abuse. It really shows God's redeeming qualities and how faith can get you through more than you can imagine.
Profile Image for Ann Miller.
Author 7 books40 followers
June 9, 2013
A deep and satisfying read. The book is mufti-faceted, tackling a tough topic--sexual abuse within a cult--dysfunctional family relationships, and romance. Her writing makes me wish for a shelf full of her books. I'm impressed with her writing skill as well as her storytelling. I have only kudos and no criticisms. Bates has since jumped genres to YA, writing as Shelley Adina, and I miss her adult writing. Her teen novels are excellent, but she's left me hungry for more grown-up books. I can't believe I've let so much time slip by without reading her other three adult books, a lapse I plan to rectify.
Profile Image for Tiffany.
30 reviews
September 1, 2008
This is totally NOT the type of book I normally read, as I prefer to get my religious philosophy from more....eastern sources. But I picked it up off the shelf in the living room where my mom had laid it after buying it off the bargain rack at B&N, and started leafing through it. The story, once I got past the rather preachy parts, was decent, and the book was well written. And the over all message is something that I agree with- no matter how damaged you might be, if you put your faith in whatever higher power you believe in, you can be healed. Overall, not a bad read.
Profile Image for Tammy.
199 reviews35 followers
July 28, 2017
I liked the fact that the pace of the story was quick. I have read many books that have emotionally troubled characters. Lots of times the character stubbornly spends 85% of the book refusing to change/heal even though that metamorphosis is crucial to the plot of the book. In this novel the author keeps the story moving along by having her heroine progress all along the way. Dinah is slowly changing and healing. And you can tell by how she is handling things.
Profile Image for Dani Moore.
308 reviews2 followers
July 26, 2010
The story of Dinah as she travels through her way out of sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of those who claim to be messengers of God. She is blessed with help from matthew, who has scars of his own. Togeather they work through a maze of lies and fear.
I think many people will think this is about groups like the FLDS. Maybe it is but it cautions against giving any one person the caveate to "Speak for God". Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Profile Image for Judie Dooley.
298 reviews49 followers
January 15, 2014
Excellent story line. Almost impossible to put it down. The story of a young lady who was raised in a very unorthadox chuch. The church was her whole life. it owned her body and soul. Her only way of rebelling against it was to become Bulimic. A stranger comes to her door asking for food and becomes her savior,helping her to see how wrong her life was. I don't want to tell the whole story, so you'll have to read it for yourself.
Profile Image for Karen.
105 reviews
August 31, 2016
Bought it off of title alone, as I often do. I applaud tackling some very difficult topics but the "big reveal" was predictable and its wraps up too tidily and too hastily after really a lot of re-hashing through out the book. I've done better, I've done worse.
12 reviews
July 26, 2008
I really liked it, easy read, somewhat hokey at times but a good story with a few twists!
Profile Image for Carol B..
21 reviews
October 1, 2008
I am starting this on the recommendation of my mom. I'll let you know.
5 reviews2 followers
September 8, 2010
this was a suprise for me. It was good but I wasn't expecting it to be!
27 reviews2 followers
May 4, 2012
I re-read this a month or so ago. Even for a re-read it was good, although a tad depressing at times. It was interesting to revisit, but I don't plan on reading it again, so I gave it away.
Profile Image for Lorene Evans.
49 reviews
July 22, 2013
Decent, but not great. I picked it up at the library and didn't know it was a religious book. Still, readable, and definitely interesting.
11 reviews2 followers
July 17, 2007
Started out great, got a little predicatable, still enjoyable
100 reviews
April 30, 2017
Didn't realize this was like an Amish book, which I don't like reading, but it was OK. Wouldn't read it again.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 31 reviews

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