Reviewed by Vernita Naylor for Readers’ Favorite
Life doesn’t always turn out the way that we planned, but it does prepare us for each new adventure. In Miami Morning: A Leila Payson Novel [revised and reissued with new title: The Horizon Seekers, 2021] by Mary Clark, Leila Payson is also known as “Miss Pacer,” which her friends fondly called her because she was always on the go. Leila later became known by the name Miss Pacer as well by her students. Leila was a Social Studies teacher. Leila loved the essence of her life, but one day she decided that she wanted to make a difference in life. The difference that Leila decided to add was a stint in an NGO in South Africa in the Health and Education industry. Little did Leila know that her life would change forever. Her time in the NGO will set the stage for how Leila will live the rest of her life. What Leila will learn during this stint be the catalyst that enables her to help someone in the most profound way.
Leila’s interaction with characters Skye, Dov, Ron, Raoul, Maria and the mysterious man with the book became a part of her development. Each of these characters played a big part in helping Leila to become this vessel to provide comfort and guidance to someone who would need her in the most unusual way. I enjoyed how Miami Morning: A Leila Payson Novel by Mary Clark was developed because it displays how the ebb and flow in one phase of our lives helps us to walk through and navigate another part of our lives. All parts of our lives and pathways are not only interchanging, but intermingle to help strengthen our being, character, and our self-discovery.
From the beginning, Jo Robinson’s world of fantasy and harsh psychological realities in Echoes of Narcissus in the Gardens of Delight held me in thrall. This is a story of an interior life, as Donna, the main character, struggles to break free. She is trapped in a loveless and emotionally abusive marriage by a narcissistic husband. For many years she has poured her love and hope into her garden. And it is in her search for seeds for her garden that she meets Elvira, an extraordinary woman, who shares her interest. These gardens flow from the spirits of the women into land-shaping, and life-shaping, manifestations. They are touchstones, as the story evolves, for many lives. Elvira visits Donna, which very few others have managed to do, and sees Donna’s fantastic garden. Elvira has an impressive garden of her own, in town, with a café catering to people who are in transition from divorce, job loss, or death of a loved one. One of the ways they heal is by working with elderly people who live alone.
Donna begins to connect with Elvira and her friends, and gradually reveal to them what she has been creating for so long in the icehouse of her isolation. But her husband has other ideas. Will she succeed? Her story is a testament to the resourcefulness and tenacity of the human spirit in its drive for freedom, and the greatest human act and experience of freedom, which is love.
Leila Payson, known to her students and friends as Miss Pacer, is always pushing the boundaries of her experience, to become a better teacher and human being. She enjoys her work as a high school Social Studies teacher, her adventures with her diverse friends, and her volunteer work at a local playground. But Leila is at a midpoint in her life.
When one of her students begins to lose his hearing, she immerses herself in learning about people with disabilities and the challenges they face. This takes her back to an earlier time when she spent a year teaching in South Africa. There she saw an occupational therapist at work, and met others working in the disability community. Now, years later, when the student asks for her help, she begins a pivotal journey.
Besides this, a mysterious man keeps appearing at her favorite places. Her friends keep her on her toes. And at Leila’s high school, a young guidance counselor sees Leila as a mentor, while the other counselor views her as a rival. Trouble is brewing in the paradise of South Miami. But are there new possibilities as well?
Publication date: Spring 2016. Publisher: All Things That Matter Press.
Posted in The Horizon Seekers
- Tagged 21st Century culture, autonomy, birding, disability issues, fiction writing, Florida, high schoolteacher, intergenerational friendship, love story, occupational therapy, people with disabilities, romance, Social Studies, South Africa, South Beach, South Miami, women characters, women's fiction