Through grit and grace, Carolyn Fandel survives being raped by someone she knows and trusts. She will not accept defeat—even when confronted by her rapist a second time. Instead, she uses her tragedy to help hundreds of others, some of whom she will never meet. Set in the era of the Vietnam War and the new feminism, this book will have you crying and cheering for Carolyn as she navigates the challenges of life after sexual assault. Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval
#1 in Historical Fiction New Releases (May 2021)
WINNER! Close to the Soul won the Christian Inspirational category and was a finalist in the Religious Fiction category in the 2021 American Fiction Awards.
Finalist, Christian/Religious Fiction, 2021 IAN Book Awards
Catholic pro-life historical novel
With equal measures of heartbreak and joy, Close to the Soul is a gripping novel that strikes every emotional chord. Fans of Francine Rivers will flock to this one! Lori Nelson Spielman, best-selling author
When I started reading Close to the Soul, I wasn’t sure how Mary Jo would approach this difficult topic, especially from a young woman’s point of view. What I found was a beautiful and inspiring story written in such a refreshing way that celebrates life, faith, love, redemption, strength of spirit, and family amid a devastating challenge. I felt honored to read Close to the Soul’ and pray that many readers will share this story. Jim Sano, author of the Fr. Tom Series
What an uplifting and hopeful story! I have to admit that it brought tears to my eyes more than once while I was reading it. I loved the solid and unwavering faith displayed by the Fandel family. The story definitely brings out the truth of God’s wonderful and mysterious ways and his constant care of us even when we are going through rough times that we cannot understand. Through the story, Mrs. Thayer gave me an insight into what unwed mothers must go through, something I hadn’t ever considered before. The characters were so genuine I told my mom that it must be autobiographical to have come across so real. I loved all the Catholic practices and beliefs that were brought out and subtly explained in the story – what a great way to educate along with the telling of the story. The timeframe of the story parallels that of my own childhood and adolescence, so it was easy for me to place myself in the time period. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Linda Etchison, author, Sr. Aloysius Comes to Mercyville
Mary Jo Thayer has written an uplifting tale, dealing sensitively at each step with the challenges and trials faced by women raising their children alone. Mary Jo’s deep faith is obvious, shining through her main character, Carolyn Fandel. Carolyn’s resignation to the situation she finds herself in, along with the decisions she makes in the wake of her trauma, would certainly provide encouragement to any Catholic woman in any state of life, and indeed to anyone who picks up the book to read it. Veronica Smallhorn, author, A Channel of Your Peace
Close to the Soul is a beautifully written novel that weaves the story of redemption through every character on every page. Edith Schafer once wrote that our lives are a tapestry, we are looking at the backside which is often messy and confusing, but God sees the beautiful work of art, each thread precisely woven together. I have spent my life grappling with the questions this novel boldly addresses. Pam Stenzel, M.A. Enlighten Communications
This is a moving and powerful story set in the 1950’s. Life was different, and society was very different. But the story is of great value for readers today. I mentioned at the beginning that the book landed on my desk at a critical time. I had just found out I have a 25-year-old daughter I did not know about. Reading this, I could not help but think about this daughter and her mother. This is an amazing read. And an incredible debut novel. Christian fiction at its best. Excellent Catholic literature. Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More
She turned the corner into the kitchen, all but forgetting that this morning was her special time. Then she saw that the sewing machine had already been set up. The fabric choices and scissors were methodically laid out with the pattern they had previously selected. Her heart took an even deeper nosedive and dropped to the pit of her gut.
Her mom sat sipping her coffee, waiting with an enormous smile of Dana Fandel enthusiasm. Her rosary was lying on top of the Bible. It was cracked open to Romans, Carolyn’s favorite book of the New Testament. Carolyn heaved a heavy sigh. Lord, I can’t do this.
On the table was a plate of raisin bran muffins, pats of butter, and a prepared half-grapefruit with sugar on top—components of Carolyn’s favorite breakfast. Her throat gulped as she forced a smile of appreciation toward her mother.
It was unconvincing. Her mom took one glimpse at her face and could tell it was serious. “What is it, Doll?” As soon as Carolyn heard the term of endearment, she began to weep.
Her mother stood up and drew Carolyn into her arms. While she sobbed, her mom whispered, “No matter what it is, everything will be okay.” Her mom continued to hold her, peppering her with questions trying to get to the bottom of it. “Were you not able to get your classes for the fall semester?”
“Did you and Paul decide to call off your special friendship?”
She dreaded having to tell her mother. The longer the interrogation went on, the more Carolyn was tempted to turn away, bolt out the door, and never come back.
“Carolyn, something is wrong. I have known it since the night of the dance. You will feel better if you tell me.”
Oh, no, I won’t.
“Whatever it is, we can fix it.”
Oh, no, we can’t.