Author Annette Smith finds a new voice, tells a solid story

By TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

Part of the joy of reading is discovering new authors. It’s especially satisfying to find someone who might not have best-seller status, but who  speaks with a fresh voice, true talent and a passion for telling great stories. 

A Bigger Life
By Annette Smith
278 pp. NavPress. $12.99

Recently, a friend dropped a book on my desk and said, “You might like this.”

The book was “A Bigger Life,” by Annette Smith, who grew up in Sulphur Springs and now lives in Quitman.

Smith, a hospice nurse, is the author of 12 books, including “Whispers of Angels,” which enjoyed great success.

�A Bigger Life,� released in January, tells the story of Joel Carpenter, a single father juggling a career and part-time parenthood while� trying to reunite with his ex-wife.

There’s a real-life back-story to Smith’s book. The inspiration for “A Bigger Life” came from listening to Paul, her hairdresser, pour his heart out to her while cutting her hair. 

However, Smith is quick to point out that the book is not Paul’s life. 

�It [the book] is his voice and his spirit, but not his life,� the author said. �He inspired the character. He is not the character.�

Joel’s early life was anything but easy. He was raised by his father, a gay hairdresser, in a small East Texas town. Joel had no desire to attend college and drifted for a while, finally becoming a barber. 

As the book begins, Joel is entertaining a bunch of his single father friends. Joel’s helping his ex-wife Kari raise their young son, Colton. It’s not a perfect arrangement, but Joel’s playing the hand he’s dealt himself.

Smith uses flashbacks to tell how Joel and Kari fell in love, married, and had Colton.

It seems Joel had a brief affair with one of his high school classmates during a stressful time in their marriage. Kari found out about the affair and left the marriage, taking Colton with her.

Joel wants Kari back, but she is having none of it. Just as has settled into the single father lifestyle, he is dealt another blow, this one coming from left field, bringing incredible sadness with it.

How Joel reacts to this challenge is a testimony to his character, his desire to get Kari and Colton back, and to his innate goodness.

The book brings a message about compassion, forgiveness,  and the healing power of God’s love.

Smith’s books are considered Christian fiction, but “A Bigger Life” transcends the genre. Joel’s story is one for the ages. It’s about going the distance; about being true to your heart’s desire; about making sacrifices; and, finally, about unconditional love.

I read “A Bigger Life” in one sitting and will revisit it again soon. Smith’s ability to tell this story from Joel’s point of view is stunning.

In a recent interview, Smith said, “Joel’s world is not white bread like mine. My life has been very neat and tidy.” 

How Smith was able to find Joel’s distinctly male point of view and to make it believable is clear proof of her considerable writing talent.

Smith is an author to watch. Her storytelling skills and her ability to create memorable characters will serve her well when she hits the big time.

Smith will be the featured speaker at the Friends of the Sulphur Springs Public Library’s Annual Gala and Luncheon, to be held Friday, March 9, in the large meeting room at the library.

Tickets are $10 and should be purchased in advance. Call 903-885-4926 for more information.

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