Did I Expect Angels? is the intense first novel by Kathryn Maughan. This is a story that will require a nearby box of Kleenex, but it is ultimately an uplifting novel about the effect one person can have on another’s life. Kathryn Maughan’s book has inspired others to talk about unexpected angels who have helped them on her book’s website. In a way, the idea reminds me of the concept in Pay It Forward – the book and the movie, but rather than focusing on a wide range of people, Did I Expect Angels? focuses on the lives of two people – Jennifer and Henry. While the storyline discusses faith and angels, this is not a novel to be dismissed due to your own beliefs; there is no preaching, just two beautiful stories.
When we first meet Jennifer, she’s despondently walking through the drug store, planning to buy 2 bottles of aspirin. Henry is the greeter at the drug store, a friendly guy with whom she has chatted frequently; Jennifer had visited Costa Rica, where Henry was born. Henry picks up on Jennifer’s desperation that evening, and asks her to come with him for a few minutes. Reluctantly, Jennifer agrees, and she joins Henry and his daughter Rosita for a hot chocolate at a local diner.
The story within Did I Expect Angels? happens at one table at the diner, in one evening. However, the story transcends time and space, recalling forty years of an older man’s life, and the love and loss of a younger woman’s life. Sitting with her at the diner, Henry tells Jennifer about his childhood in Costa Rica, how he and his family immigrated to the United States, and the joys and hardships in his life. As Henry tells her his story, Jennifer’s attention fades in and out; she listens to him, but also starts remembering her own story.
Kathryn Maughan skillfully weaves together Henry’s tale with the story of Jennifer’s love for her husband and daughter, and her profound grief after the loss of her husband. The reader is pulled into the lives of both characters, and needs to know what has happened to them, and how they will be helped. I had to put down Did I Expect Angels? a few times so that I could find tissues, but I did not want to put it down; I needed to know what would happen next for both Jennifer and Henry.
Maughan was inspired to write the novel after reading articles about the first Christmas September 11, and the grief of the widows and widowers as they coped through their first holiday.
As I read and listened to all these stories, I thought, “What about next Christmas? Is that going to be any easier? And the one after that? Will the newspeople talk about it next year?”
In our society, grief is given a time limit – if you are still grieving after a few months, it’s gone on for too long. Unfortunately, human minds and hearts are unique, and each of us heals in our own time. I am very impressed with not only how Jennifer’s debilitating grief is treated in Did I Expect Angels?, but also how sensitive Maughan is to those who continue to struggle. Jennifer and Henry share their grief, but they are also linked together with hope as their unexpected angels assist them.
I have been dealing with chronic pain for over two years, and have had my fair share of friends who couldn’t cope and thought I was too upset for too long. However, I’ve also been lucky enough to have a few unexpected angels who helped me when times were toughest. At the end of the novel, I found myself with tears in my eyes and an uplifted heart.
Did I Expect Angels? is a beautiful book that will deeply affect you. If you are looking for a beautiful and intense read, look no farther – this is your book. If you are surviving grief, Did I Expect Angels? can offer some hope. Be sure to check out the book’s website, and leave a video message about the unexpected angels that have helped you. I recommend Did I Expect Angels?, but though it is ultimately hopeful, I would still recommend a cheerful book as a follow-up to this one!