I’m from small town southern Illinois. Though Carbondale has Southern Illinois University to make it more recognizable, the small village of Makanda can only boast of being one of the places where the 2017 eclipse could be seen for the longest amount of time and for Vulture Fest. Yes, Vulture Fest. No, I’ve never been. Though that’s really not surprising. Makanda is actually very large in area, and as most residents do, I end up in Carbondale more often than the tiny strip of eclectic stores making up Makanda’s business district.

Being from a small, rural town surrounded by other small, rural towns has its advantages. It also has drawbacks. One of these is the country drawl prevalent in the area. It’s not a pretty southern drawl or the twang of the southwest. It’s less refined. Hick is the term most often used.

As a kid I fought that way of speaking. I worked hard to make sure my pronunciation and vocabulary were not filled with the southern Illinois vernacular. I thought I was doing a great job, until I went to summer camp in Peoria, Illinois. Peoria is about 4 hours north of where I live. Kids came from all over Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, and other states for camp.

Imagine my surprise when all the work I’d done to distance myself from the southern Illinois sound was repeatedly met with, “Are you from the south?” Every northerner I met decided I was not just from the south, but from the deep south. Over and over I explained I was not from Mississippi or Alabama or any other southern state. I was from Illinois just like most of them. So much for my efforts to conceal my vocal heritage.

Adulthood has brought perspective. I’m more appreciative of the benefits of small town life, and the downsides don’t bother me as much. (I admit I still cringe when I hear myself say “fer” instead of for, but I’m working on it!) I love where I grew up, bad grammar and all. I try to bring that to my writing (the love, not the bad grammar!). That same attitude is part of the reason I enjoyed Pepper Basham’s Just the Way You Are.

Eisley Barrett grew up in the Appalachian region, but the story starts with a trip to England to find answers to a family mystery. In addition to meeting wonderful new friends,Eisley has a real life adventure on her quest to find answers her dying uncle needs to finish the book he’s writing.

Though initially drawn to her due to a cynical nature that insists Eisley is a gold digger out to take his family fortune or ruin their good name, Wes Harrison finds he’s drawn to her for other reasons as well. As their friendship progresses, Wes enjoys the opportunity to solve the mystery with Eisley.

As their relationship progresses, it’s time for Eisley to return home. She and Wes have enough emotional baggage from the past to make the distance between England and Virginia seem like child’s play. This baggage comes back to wreak havoc on their relationship and threatens to tear them apart.

This is the first book by Pepper Basham I’ve read. She does a wonderful job of telling an entertaining story. The differences in how Eisley and Wes were raised and currently live are explored and alternately provide helpings of drama and comedy for the reader.

Respect for both ways of life are easily seen. Pros and cons of each are laid out for the reader to enjoy. In the end, it’s a great reminder that our differences can bring us together or tear us apart. It’s all in how we want to look at them.

By the Book: We’re all different. Think of someone you’ve had trouble working or ministering with and pray for God to show you how to celebrate your differences to make the job/ministry stronger.