Home is such a tricky concept. Some people never feel as if they belong in their surroundings while others feel as if they can never leave that special place they’ve made all their own.
Oh, I definitely had my Harmony (the main character from A Fresh Start) period growing up. I hated the small Michigan town I grew up in and could not wait to leave it behind for bigger and better things. Only each time I ventured out toward the big city, I found myself running back for the state that had always fit me perfectly, just like a… mitten.
Like Harmony, the real person I was running from was myself. Sometimes it’s easier to look outside and say, “This is the reason I’m not happy. This is the reason I can’t find peace.”
It’s only when we learn to look within, to our hearts, to God, that we can truly find where we’re meant to be.
And despite my adolescent wanderings, I’m proud to say that I settled with my Alaskan husband in my home state of Michigan and, until recently, I couldn't picture myself anywhere else in the world.
Sometimes we run so fast, we don’t realize we’re moving in a circle… but that’s exactly what happened to me. Thankfully I loved where I ended up for the last several years. I loved that I raised my daughter close enough to my old haunts to take her for a visit. I loved that my roots ran deep and my home state had become a part of who I am.
But my daughter has inspired me to embrace a kind of wanderlust. Unlike my previous travels which allowed me to go where the wind took me with no real plan or destination, our new adventures have purpose. I'll always have roots, family, friends, and warm memories in Michigan, but for now, our family has made the leap to Alaska where we'll live closer to Mr. Storm's family.
Don’t get me wrong, I also love visiting all of the places mentioned in the books I write, like Charleston and Sweet Grove, and I visit so many more in the books that I read as well. And if I get homesick for Michigan, I can always return to visit our loved ones who still live there.
How has your hometown defined the person you’ve become?
Whether you are a product of your upbringing or turned out the exact opposite of how you were raised, take a moment to be grateful for its role in helping you turn into the person you were meant to be.
They call it home sweet home for a reason.
And even when it’s more bitter than sweet, there truly is no place like home.
A Fresh Start
Harmony King disappeared from Charleston as soon as she aged out of the foster system. Ten years later, she returns with just as many secrets as she had back then.
As her past threatens to overwhelm her, she seeks mercy at the local church. There, the pastor finds her praying like her life depends on it and decides to entrust one of his tiny therapy dogs to her care.
Will this special Chihuahua’s love be enough to help Harmony discover her own worth, and can it protect her when the dark past she tried so desperately to leave behind finally catches up to her?
Don’t miss this powerful story about family, faith, and the special everyday magic of the South Carolina Lowcountry from New York Times bestselling author Melissa Storm.
Harmony King had been running for a long time. At first, she was always running toward something—more specifically, toward freedom. Growing up in the foster care system would not be how she’d chosen to start life, and she definitely wouldn’t have elected to remain a slave to that system until her eighteenth birthday finally set her loose.
But that’s exactly what had happened, anyway.
All those years as a little girl with no home to call her own, she longed to live life her own way, to be the master of her own fate. Somehow, though, she’d only managed to continue her lifestyle of drifting from one place to the next without feeling any real connection.
It made her wonder: was she born broken, or had that just happened along the way?
Because, no question about it, something was majorly wrong with her.
That was part of why she’d returned to Charleston. As much as she’d fought to escape the Holy City as a teen, truth be told, it was the only place she’d even come close to belonging.
Her homes had shuffled about faster than a magician preparing his cards, but a kindly agent at Child Protection Services had fought to keep her in the same schools growing up. It was the only constant she’d had up until that point.
When she could, she would sneak away to the Eternal Grace Church and listen to the pastor regale his congregation with tales of fortitude, forgiveness, charity. Jesus had been a poor wanderer, too—and Harmony liked that. It made him relatable, although when she’d mentioned this to her foster mother at the time she’d earned a cold, hard slap on the cheek and her fastest reassignment to date.
This experience strained her relationship with the church, but she still managed to attend services at least once per month by scraping together any spare change she could find to purchase a bus ticket that would deliver her to the service and hopefully, one day, salvation.
Sometimes she’d even pretend the pastor was her long-lost father and that one day they’d realize their relation and hug each other, sobbing big, ol’ tears for all the time they’d already lost. But Harmony knew this was just a dream. She knew nothing of her birth father other than that he could have been any number of men. Her mother, who had been the very worst kind of junkie, died when Harmony was just four. But sometimes, if she clenched her eyes shut real tight, she could call up the memory of her mother’s face.
And some other times she’d wish her mother had died much earlier. Because if she had, baby Harmony would surely have been adopted. Angry, dramatic four-year-old Harmony had tempted no one into taking such an action.
Of course, she often wished that she’d never been born, but then immediately prayed for forgiveness to the Almighty. As far as she was concerned, God had put her on this earth for a reason, and it was her failing—not His—that she hadn’t figured it out yet.
Most recently she’d been living in Alabama, but when she’d lost her job and gotten evicted by her landlord, she knew her time was up in that particular locale.
It was always her tongue that got her into trouble. Harmony could put the fear of God into just about anybody, which had been a necessary skill to fight off the unwanted advances of foster brothers and fathers, along with a fair-sized collection of schoolyard bullies, too. But it was also a skill she couldn’t control even now. If someone made her angry, they were going to hear about it—and with colorful language to boot.
She was sure God didn’t mind. The two of them had an understanding when it came to these things, but Harmony still wished she could learn a bit of discretion. It certainly would make her life easier. At least a little bit, anyway.
There was little she could depend on in this world, but God always came through in some way or another.
That was another reason she’d returned to Charleston now—to the church where she’d first discovered her faith, to the pastor she’d liked to imagine was her father, to the only place she’d really stayed long enough to form some good memories along with the bad.
And, oh, did she need those good memories now. She needed answers, too. Some kind of direction she’d yet to find in her nearly twenty-eight years.
Harmony dipped her head in reverence as she stepped into the sanctuary of Eternal Grace. After a quick glance around to confirm that she was alone, she did the only thing left to do. She dropped to her knees and prayed like her life depended on it. Dear God. I need you. I’m so afraid…