Jamie Langston Turner

Some Wildflower in My Heart

Opening of Chapter 1, “Secret Chambers”

I first saw Birdie Freeman at a funeral one hard winter day more than a year ago, but I did not meet her then. When she arrived in my life some months later, I had not the vaguest notion that I would one day write a book about her. Had someone suggested such a thing, I would have dismissed him as a fool.

Had I known that Birdie Freeman was to bring into my life drastic changes, I would have fled to a distant land. But I did not know. How misleading were her plainness and smallness, her quick smile and ready touch. When my eyes first lighted upon her face that January day, I could not begin to know the pain I was to undergo because of her.

From Chapter 2, “Weak and Beggarly Elements,” in which Birdie arrives for her first day of work in the elementary school lunchroom, where Margaret is supervisor

She offered her hand. “My name is Bernadetta Freeman, but my friends all call me Birdie. And you must be . . . ?”

“Good morning, Bernadetta,” I said, keeping my distance. I do not make a habit of shaking hands with people. Even as I do not imitate the speech of southerners, I do not participate in their loose frequency of physical touch. Birdie took a quick step toward me nonetheless and clasped my hand in a firm hold that I neither expected nor desired. Her hands were much smaller than mine, but they were surprisingly strong.

“Oh, please—it’s Birdie,” she said. As her smile broadened, I saw the severe extent of her overbite. “I know we’re not friends yet,” she added, “but I sure didn’t mean you couldn’t call me by my nickname. I’d feel a lot more at home if you would call me Birdie.”

She laughed, for no reason that I could see, and I noted that all of her teeth were unusually large for the size of her mouth. It was hard to imagine what she would look like without the conspicuous dental defects, for her smile completely overtook her features. It was as if a weed had suddenly produced a grotesque bloom. I nodded and pulled my hand from hers, quite forcefully, she told me later.

Just then Francine burst into the cafeteria whistling. She stopped when she saw Birdie and me. “Hey, hey, hey, everybody,” she said. Then she saluted me and spoke in the staccato fashion of a serviceman to his officer. “Here’s Francine, reporting to duty, sir! Ready to fill up the bellies of all the little starvin’ children of Filbert, sir! Forward, march!” Francine’s attempts at humor are invariably weak and ill-timed.

Birdie smiled at her, however, and said, “How do you do,” at which point Algeria wandered in, silent and surly as is her morning custom.

“Let us begin with the preliminaries,” I said, turning to lead the way from the lunchroom into the kitchen. I went into my office cubicle and picked up from my desk a folder, the tab of which bore the label Opening Staff Meeting, then went back out into the kitchen, seated myself on a tall stool at the big stainless steel worktable, and waited for the other three women to do the same.

Birdie pulled up a stool next to Algeria, who glowered darkly at her before flinging her keys onto the metal tabletop with a fierce clatter. Francine, smiling blithely, sat down heavily next to me and began picking from her black T-shirt what looked like hairs from a white feline. I leaned over to her and said, “Let me remind you, Francine, that a floor strewn with animal hair is not a clean floor. I will conduct my standard fall inspection on Friday.”

Francine looked at me blankly for a brief second, then carefully, with thumb and forefinger, pulled another white hair from her sleeve, stretched open the top of her T-shirt with her other hand, dropped the hair inside, patted her chest, and grinned at me. Francine has a vulgar streak. “There,” she said. She and Algeria exchanged glances, and Algeria grunted—a sound she often intends as a form of laughter. I chose to ignore these small acts of rebellion.

From Moody Magazine, Book Review by Andrew Scheer, Nov./​Dec. 1998

Wildflower achieves a literary excellence seldom seen in any novel. Like a rich dessert, this is not a book to devour, but to take one chapter at a time, with ample time to reflect and digest. The characters, the situations they face, and the decisions they make can leave no reader—believer or agnostic—untouched and unchallenged.”

From Greenville (SC) News, Book Review by Deb Richardson-Moore, December 1998

“Turner’s skillful touch comes alive in the domestic details, recalling the work of Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg. But she’s incredibly learned, too, and Margaret’s opinions on books and music and theater spice the prose with a range that bespeaks Turner’s own professorial background.

“Her gentle story loops back upon itself again and again, each pass shedding new light on a previously mentioned episode as she adds shading and humor to supporting characters. Her message is hope and redemption; her vehicle is some awfully good writing.”

From promotional flyer distributed by Bethany House Publishers, 1998

“Set in the town of Filbert, South Carolina, Some Wildflower in My Heart is the tale of two women and the extraordinary impact that companionship and love can have on a wounded, defensive soul mired in the past. The most touching book you will read this year, Wildflower has received heartfelt acclaim from readers young and old. It is a novel to be treasured.”

Endorsement by Carol Johnson, Publishing Consultant and former Editorial Director, Bethany House Publishers

“I have been a part of the Christian publishing world for over 30 years, and I have had the wonderful opportunity of working with scores of incredibly gifted novelists. So at this point in my career when I have a reading experience that utterly captivates my mind and emotions—and that stretches my understanding of God the Father—I am truly blessed. I am carefully planning the time and place for my next reading of Some Wildflower in My Heart—and it will be soon.”

Selected Works

Fiction
"As Turner weaves her tale with a wealth of vivid detail, she avoids both sentimentality and patness."
--Deb Richardson-Moore
The Greenville (SC) News, Dec. 31, 1995
"In a lifetime of reading, a handful of books stand out—this is one of them."
–Michelle Rapkin, Editor, Doubleday/Crossings Book Club
"This thoughtful, warmly humorous novel takes a fresh look at the age-old search for peace and joy in a troubled, temporal world."
--CBA Marketplace
September 1999
That February afternoon was equal parts joy and heartache, but it began a journey Elizabeth Landis would never forget.
"Besides the fact that he was a married man, it was clear as soon as he spoke that his mission was anything but romantic. 'Do you have a toilet plunger?' he asked."
“Genuine humor and well-crafted characters make this a memorable and inspiring novel.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"I love putting little pieces together to make something beautiful. In a sense I saw the structure of this book as a mosaic." --From an interview with the author
"You can't rush through Jamie's books any more than you can rush through life itself."
--Sheila Petre
Mercersburg (PA) Journal, July 9, 2014

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