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Susie Finkbeiner is a CBA bestselling author who has mastered the skill of writing stories that tug at the heart of every reader. In her newest novel, All Manner of Things, Finkbeiner invites readers into the hearts and home of the Jacobson family during a time in which the chaos of the outside world has shaken their lives and their community in ways they never imagined.
When Annie Jacobson’s brother Mike enlists as a medic in the Army in 1967, he sends Annie a letter with the address of their long-estranged father, Frank Jacobson. Mike instructs Annie to contact their father if anything should happen to him in Vietnam.
When Frank’s father dies, Annie reaches out to her father, who returns home to face the tragedy. Frank’s return adds an extra measure of complication to an already tense time. As they work toward healing and pray fervently for Mike’s safety overseas, the Jacobsons must find a way to pull together as a family, regardless of past hurts. They grapple with the tension of holding both hope and grief in the same hand, even as they learn to turn to the One who binds the wounds of the brokenhearted.
Award-winning author Jocelyn Green states, “Susie Finkbeiner evokes a mood, an ambiance, a tide of emotions just below the surface of the printed page.” This is never truer than in All Manner of Things. Readers will fall deeply in love with the endearing Jacboson family as they join them on their tumultuous journey.
When I was younger I was a bit of a tomboy. If given the choice between playing catch or Barbies I’d run and grab my baseball and mitt. If asked if I wanted to put on makeup or ride bikes, I’d push up the kickstand of old Dusty Rose and pedal away as fast as I could.
What? Even a tomboy can have a fancy pink bike.
I was the kind of girl who wasn’t afraid of getting a little dirt under her nails or giving a much-deserved punch in the gut to an older kid in my dad’s Boy Scout troop. I was scrappy. I was spunky. I was a little toughie.
What else could one expect from a girl who watched Annie on repeat and read her Ramona Quimby books until they fell apart?
One of the best spots for a girl like me in Lansing, Michigan was a place called Fenner Arboretum. It was a nature preserve with acres upon acres of untouched woods, hiking trails, and even a prairie. When spending time there, one could no longer hear the rush of traffic or feel the draw of the busy city. While at that preserve, it was easy to feel like the rest of the world was miles away.
My dad took us there often, even letting me tag along on Scout trips. I remember most vividly one of the first days I spent there. It was the summer of 1988 and I was ten years old. It was blisteringly hot and achingly dry. We were smack dab in the middle of an uncommon, historic drought.
I was glad that my dad had reminded us all to fill our canteens before we left.
Under the cover of ancient trees, we enjoyed relief from the sun, feeling cool enough to sprint between the trunks and leap over undergrowth. We might have played Capture the Flag that day or a wild game of hide-and-seek. I don’t remember.
What I do remember is when we finished the game, one of the older scouts said he wanted to show us something. We followed him off the trail and into a restricted zone.
“There’s something in that fenced in area,” he said.
“What is it?” another of the boys asked.
“You’ll just have to see for yourself.”
The fence was covered with shrubs, too thick to see through. The boys and I shushed each other and tried walking toe to heel, the way we’d been taught that Native American scouts might have.
Rounding a corner, we reached the gate. And, standing on the other side of the chain link fence, stood a beast that took my very breath away.
The way I remember it, the bison was as large as a house. I know that can’t be true. But at ten, everything seems bigger. Horns curved up out of his scruffy head. Mats of tightly curled fur hung from his flanks. His bearded chin touched the tops of overgrown weeds at the fence line.
“Is it real?” one of the boys whispered.
“Of course it is, dummy,” the boy who led us there answered.
The boys did as they often will. Ribbed each other for being scared and dared the younger ones to touch it through the space in the gate.
I ignored them, letting their voices fade into the background. Nearing the gate, but not getting too close, I saw right into the animal’s eyes. They were deeply brown, the color of his fur. I wanted so badly to reach through the fence — I knew my hand would fit — and touch the spot between his eyes. I wondered if he was soft or rough. I thought maybe he’d feel wooly.
If only I’d had the courage to try.
The boys moved on, looking for the next adventure that — if memory serves — involved finding a garter snake.
I lagged behind just a minute longer, facing down the bison, in awe of something so powerful, so wonderful, so enormous. And in that moment I realized how very small I was.
For years after, I looked for the bison every time I visited the nature center. Sometimes he was grazing far out in the field. Others he stayed in his structure. Never again did I encounter him so close like I did that dry day in the summer of ’88.
It was a moment laced with magic.
The kind of magic a summer day holds for a spunky little tomboy.
Susie Finkbeiner is the CBA bestselling author of A Cup of Dust, A Trail of Crumbs, and A Song of Home. She serves on the Breathe Christian Writers Conference planning committee, volunteers her time at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and speaks at retreats and women’s events across the state. Susie and her husband have three children and live in West Michigan.