Earth To Betsy
Earth to Betsy picks up right where Heavens to Betsy left off: with the reverends (and best friends) Betsy Blessing and David Swenson’s first date. The hitch is, David wants to get hitched. He proposes right there in the restaurant, and when Betsy accepts, he reveals two whole flocks of people hiding out right there ready to celebrate an impromptu engagement party.
So Betsy, who really just wanted a low-key evening out with her true love, ends up with a tacky engagement ring in the midst of plans for the cheapest wedding ever. You see, David’s mother runs Budget Bride magazine and has the theme already picked out – Low Cost Winter Wonderland. For a June wedding. In Tennessee. It’s your basic nightmare. And complicating matters is a generous limited-time only offer Betsy’s church has received for a buyout. Betsy is temporary senior pastor, so it falls to her to try and convince the church’s administrative committee to entertain the offer. Of course, it surely wouldn’t hurt Betsy’s career or reputation to lead a dying church into fertile and more lucrative new suburban territory. But is moving, or marrying, the right choice for Reverend Blessing right now?
Betsy is still the likable, self-conscious pastoral figure of Heavens to Betsy. It’s clear that Beth Pattillo knows a great deal about the ministry because she seamlessly works this calling into Betsy’s character. And Betsy isn’t terrible sentimental about her career choice; she’s perfectly aware of the pros and the cons of ministry and how she fits into it. The better moments of this book involve Betsy’s actual ministering to people and how she comes to learn more about herself seeing through the eyes of others.
Unfortunately, these moments take a general backseat to the melodramatics of Betsy’s wedding and the sale of the church. The book begins in April, and the wedding is in June, so as soon as David proposes, Betsy is swept into a whirlwind of decision making and meetings with her mother-in-law. All of which makes for some pretty frenetic pacing. Pattillo continually plays the thrifty wedding for laughs, but it grows thin quickly. She also includes some slapstick moments for readers who like the kinds of scenes in which absolutely everything goes wrong with domino-like effect.
The story’s main problem is Betsy’s general spinelessness. She allows people to force her hand over and over again, both with the wedding and with the church sale, all the while ignoring the red flags that are waving around her. Her decision to marry David, whom she has never even dated, is impulsive but understandable. She loves him. But allowing herself to be roped into paying for $600 of mismatched “shabby chic” china – that’s a little less so. She also allows her own ambitions to interfere with her judgment about what to do for her church. Most of the mistakes she makes could have been prevented by her refusing to be pushed or rushed into things. But she doesn’t stand up against the tide until the water is so high it threatens to flood everything.
Most of the book’s secondary characters are more annoying than lovable, and even Betsy’s main nemesis, the Judge, is not as interesting as the one she dealt with in Heavens to Betsy. And most missed are David and LaRonda. David has very little page time in this book; he’s so busy with emergency matters in his own church that for much of their engagement Betsy doesn’t see him at all. And LaRonda is in South Africa and has only a couple of phone conversations with our heroine.
For all of the above reasons Earth to Betsy succeeds or fails with the characterization of Betsy herself. The plot is rushed, the resolution a bit too easy, and the secondary characters are less interesting, but Betsy herself is a wonderful character who interacts with people as a caring and fully human minister would. I can only hope that the next book in this series showcases Betsy’s less dithering and pushover side and gives her a little more time with David, the hunky Lutheran.