In Recognition of National Foster Care Month: Overcoming Adversity in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch”

     Previously published in Catholicmom.com August 6, 2012

“Then why are we here?” Eva asked.
“You are here…” he began to say, and then wondered how much should really be said.
“You are here because God sent you to me.”
“Oh David!” Benedict protested and was about to walk away.
“It’s true,” David insisted, looking back at the boys. “Your mothers and fathers, for some reason or another, couldn’t do it right.”
“Do what right?” Tommy asked.
“Take care of you…they just didn’t have it in them. They weren’t strong enough.”
“Smart enough,” Tommy muttered.
“Sober enough,” Sebastian said.
“Stop,” David said gently. “Don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what? Be mad at them?” Benedict asked. He could feel his face reddening.
“No…no, you can be mad at them,” David said. “You can be mad all you want, but at some point, you need to let it go. You need to tell yourself that it doesn’t matter anymore. You need to forgive them for what they did and did not do, and you need to move on.”
“What if I can’t do that?” Tommy asked.
David thought a moment before answering. “If you can’t forgive and move on, then your feelings will grow and fester and they will eat you alive.” (The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch)

This is a snippet of the dialogue in a pivotal scene from my novel, The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. It comes in the middle of the book and is between David and five of his foster-children, Sebastian, Eva, Tommy, Benedict, and Micah.

It was a heart-wrenching scene to write, and I confess that I cried a little as it played itself out. But it needed to happen. Recognizing the children’s cynicism is essential to the story. My hope is that young readers find the exchange emotionally stirring, although tears are optional.

Equally, I hope readers share the feelings of anguish and sorrow as each character expresses these sentiments. Why? Because if they allow themselves to feel the depths of hurt, then the opposite feelings of hope and exhilaration will be enhanced in all the moments of joy and love and relief.

My desire in this novel and future books is to capture the hearts and minds of all my readers, especially those who have experienced past adversity or those currently dealing with it. In The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, I had to offer feelings they can relate to. And tweens and teens experience so many emotions as they transition from child to adult. Imagine the additional torment that a foster child experiences, or a child dealing with loss or abuse or neglect.

It’s possible that many of my readers will recognize themselves, or a fraction of themselves, in one or all of the characters. If they’re able to form such a relationship, they can tag along as each character journeys through the trials and tribulations that eventually deliver them to God and His unconditional love.

I’m an advocate for overcoming adversity. It’s not an easy endeavor, even in the least extreme circumstances. But nothing is impossible with God. And the premise of this novel is based on, Philippians 4:12-13, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”

My prayer is that The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch is an inspirational read and that each young reader gets from it what they need. So far, I’ve had positive feedback. One reviewer, author, Holly Michael recently wrote:

“This heartwarming novel leads readers, along with the characters, on a route toward God, toward His love, and toward healing and the hope of living a fulfilled life. And for those already rooted in Christ, the novel will surely be a faith-strengthener.” (Writingstraight.com)

Another reviewer, homeschool mom, and blogger, Catherine wrote that this novel has worthy teachable moments. I concurred in a post titled, The Many Teachable Moments in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch,” and listed them out. They include finding strength in God, staying pure in love, and accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Catherine added:

“In addition to a delightful read, there are a few uplifting messages revealed in these pages.  For me, the most important was that faith is the only sure anecdote for anxiety.  Coming in closely behind were the ideas that God waits – and that where there is life, there is hope.” (Ourvillageisalittledifferent.com)

One thing I didn’t expect when writing this novel was that it would be inspiring to adults. I’d intended the story to be for tween, teens, and young adults, but grandparents and parents alike have voiced their positive feedback. Additionally, homeschooling parents have praised the book.

I had many hopes, prayers, and dreams when writing The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, and I believe that the final story exceeds my ultimate expectations. This was primarily because many of the scenes, although inspired by me, came to life and directed themselves. I didn’t know the whole story until it was written. I didn’t know the characters until they introduced themselves to me. I didn’t even know how God would make His appearance within the story, until He revealed Himself in my words.
It was a pleasure to write this novel, and I hope that it’s as much a pleasure to read.

If you loved this, then you’re sure to like…

“Saving Faith” Featured on Catholicmom.com Book Notes

Catholicmom.com: Sharing Christ’s Way in a Sexualized Culture, One Novel at a Time

The Many Teachable Moments in “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch”

Visit me on social media for more news and reviews on my Catholic fiction or just to say hi:
Facebook: facebook.com/TMGaouette
Twitter: @TMGaouette

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Saving Faith-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

*Note to youth leaders and teachers: You can pick and choose the questions depending on the purpose of your instruction and the age group of your students/readers.

Character development:

Characters-specific: Determine which characters you wish to discuss, either from the list given or others- Gabriel, Faith, Christian, Nina, Adam, Miss Ruth, Tanner

How important was self-control in this novel?

Compare and contrast the characters Faith and Nina.

Explain the relationship transition between Faith and Christian.

Compare and contrast how Gabriel and Christian used Kung Fu.

In what ways did Gabriel struggle with his own advice?

Describe how Christian’s lack of control was destructive, specifically when it came to kung fu and his relationships with his father and Faith.

Describe the struggles of each of the following characters and how they relate to each other and the theme of the book as a whole- Faith, Gabriel, and Christian.

Why was Faith’s transition so difficult for Nina to endure?

Do you see any similarity between Faith’s struggle with her faith and Gabriel’s? Explain.

How do you feel about the return of Tanner Rose?

Which character was your favorite and why?

Which character do you feel was the strongest emotionally and why?

Characters-general:

Were you able to relate to any of the characters portrayed and in what way?

Were the characters believable?

Was there any experience in the novel that you feel you can apply to your own life experience?

Do you find this novel valuable? Explain your response.

Which character made the biggest transition, in your opinion?

Which character made the smallest transition, in your opinion?

Spirituality:

How is the verse Romans 12:2 reflected throughout this story?

In your opinion, how well does the author portray the presence of God in the everyday lives of the characters?

Is the author successful in presenting faith in a relevant and relatable way?

Give an example of each of the following Catholic values and explain where they were best presented in the novel: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, humility

 

Book Structure:

Discuss some of the narrative devices that the author uses? E.g. Flashbacks, foreshadowing, third person narration, plot twists, dialogue, and imagery. Do they work?

Do these narrative devices help move the story along or are they just distracting to the story?

Style:

What can you say about the author’s writing style?

Discuss the narrative style.

What are some of the noticeable themes in the book? How did the author develop these themes? Were these methods effective?

The Author:

How well did the author take you into the story?

Was the use of description effective?

Could you envision each character?

Could you envision the setting?

Did you find this novel enjoyable?

Would you recommend it to a friend? Explain your response.

Does this book prompt you to want to read more from this author?

 

Quotes:

Which character quote did you find most effective?

Which character quote do you feel is the defining message in the novel?

 

.PDF VERSION of book study for Saving Faith

Image Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

You may also be interested in:

Freeing Tanner Rose-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

Freeing Tanner Rose-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

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*Note to youth leaders and teachers: You can pick and choose the questions depending on the purpose of your instruction and the age group of your students/readers.

Character development:

Characters-specific: Determine which characters you wish to discuss, either from the list given or others- Gabriel, Tanner, Miss Ruth, Alicia, Nina, Faith, Adam

How did temptation affect each character?

How was temptation dealt with as the character developed?

How important was modesty in this novel?

In how many ways was modesty presented?

Compare and contrast the characters Miss Ruth and Miss Alicia.

Explain the relationship transition between Gabriel and Tanner.

Explain how kung fu helped Gabriel remain focused on his faith.

Why was Gabriel not interested in competing?

In what ways did Gabriel live his faith?

Did Gabriel ever struggle with his faith? Explain.

Why do you believe that Gabriel continued to have a recurring dream about his father?

Why was it so difficult for Tanner to return to Hollywood?

Do you believe that Tanner could continue in her career without compromising her new found faith?

Which character was your favorite and why?

Which character do you feel was the strongest emotionally and why?

Characters-general:

Were you able to relate to any of the characters portrayed and in what way?

Were the characters believable?

Was there any experience in the novel that you feel you can apply to your own life experience?

Do you find this novel valuable? Explain your response.

Which character made the biggest transition, in your opinion?

Which character made the smallest transition, in your opinion?

Spirituality:

In your opinion, how well does the author portray the presence of God in the everyday lives of the characters?

Is the author successful in presenting faith in a relevant and relatable way?

Give an example of each of the following Christian values and explain where they were best presented:
forgiveness, strong faith, honesty, loyalty, perseverance, purity, charity, compassion, tolerance

 

Book Structure:

Discuss some of the narrative devices that the author uses? E.g. Flashbacks, foreshadowing, third person narration, plot twists, dialogue, and imagery. Do they work?

Do these narrative devices help move the story along or are they just distracting to the story?

Style:

What can you say about the author’s writing style?

Discuss the narrative style.

What are some of the noticeable themes in the book? How did the author develop these themes? Were these methods effective?

The Author:

How well did the author take you into the story?

Was the use of description effective?

Could you envision each character?

Could you envision the setting?

Did you find this novel enjoyable?

Would you recommend it to a friend? Explain your response.

Does this book prompt you to want to read more from this author?

 

Quotes:

Which character quote did you find most effective?

Which character quote do you feel is the defining message in the novel?

.PDF VERSION of book study for Freeing Tanner Rose

Image Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

You may also be interested in:

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

Including T.M. Gaouette Novels in Your Teen’s Home-school Reading Program?

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This is a note to all homeschooling parents looking to include my novels in their home education program. Surprisingly, many parents don’t take the time to read first the books they assign to their children. I feel that this is a great disadvantage to them and their children. My suggestion before assigning any of my teen novels to your children is to take the time to read them yourself for the following reasons:

  1. You can determine whether the novel is appropriate for your child. All my novels are great learning tools for teens, but some do introduce controversial themes. I’m not graphic in descriptions of controversial topics, but I do touch upon those issues enough to get necessary perspective. And so, I do feel that only a parent can decide if their child is ready to learn about certain issues. For example:
    • Themes for The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch include: Past adversity, emotional abuse, and loss.
    • Themes for Freeing Tanner Rose include: Addiction, loss, immodesty, and purity.
  2. You can set up a lesson plan that meets your current curriculum. Because of the many themes intertwined in each book, it offers many opportunities for learning. Whether you want to introduce a topic or work on writing techniques, you can establish a plan that’s unique to your child’s personal needs.
  3. You know what your children are reading and can respond to their questions accordingly. This would go hand in hand with number two. In setting up your lesson plan, you should also have the answer to the questions that will inevitably arise.

If you’re looking for feedback from readers and information to help set up your reading curriculum, check out some of the following links:

THE DESTINY OF SUNSHINE RANCH:

What Are People Saying About The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch
Amazon Comments
Author Profile 
Book Reviews and More (also posted on Catholic Dads Online)
Guest Post @ CatholicMom.com
Interview @ProjectInspired.com

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch- Chapter 1
The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch-Book Study Questions for Youth Groups, Schools, and Book Clubs

FREEING TANNER ROSE (Bk. 1-Faith & Kung Fu Series)

Review @Ourvillageisalittledifferent.com
Amazon Comments
Guest Post @ CatholicMom.com
Interview @ProjectInspired.com

I will try to keep this page updated. And don’t forget to “Like” me on Facebook for updates, news, and reviews of my current and upcoming novels…just click the “like” button on the right panel!

If you have the time, please share your feedback on lessons for any or all of my books in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Best and blessings, and happy homeschooling. TMG

Image Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch-Book Study Questions for Homeschooling, Youth Groups, and Book Clubs

*Note to home-school parents, youth leaders and teachers: You can pick and choose the questions depending on the purpose of your instruction and the age group of your students/readers.

Character development:

Characters-specific: Determine which characters you wish to discuss, either from the list given or others- Benedict, Micah, Isabella, Sebastian, Tommy, Eva, Faden, Roy, David, Martha, Mr. Jones.

How did adversity affect each character?

How was past or current adversity resolved as the character developed?

Why did Benedict have such a difficult time letting go of his past?

Why did Micah have such a strong faith?

Why was Isabella really called “mama Bella”?

Why did Sebastian resent his father?

What was Tommy most afraid of?

Why was Eva so afraid to sing?

How well do you think Faden handled his feelings for Tommy?

What do you think David’s biggest challenge was?

What was Martha’s biggest fear?

How important was Mr. Jones’ character and why?

How did Roy demonstrate that an adverse past can create a positive future?

Which character was your favorite and why?

Which character do you feel was the strongest emotionally and why?

Characters-general:

Were you able to relate to any of the characters portrayed and in what way?

Were the characters believable?

Was there any experience in the novel that you feel you can apply to your own life experience?

Do you find this novel valuable? Explain your response.

Which character made the biggest transition, in your opinion?

Which character made the smallest transition, in your opinion?

Spirituality:

In your opinion, how well does the author portray the presence of God in the everyday lives of the characters?

Is the author successful in presenting faith in a relevant and relatable way?

Give an example of each of the following Christian values and explain where they were best presented:
forgiveness, strong faith, honesty, loyalty, perseverance, purity, charity, compassion, tolerance

Book Structure:

Discuss some of the narrative devices that the author uses? E.g. Flashbacks, foreshadowing, third person narration, plot twists, dialogue, and imagery. Do they work?

Do these narrative devices help move the story along or are they just distracting to the story?

Style:

What can you say about the author’s writing style?

Discuss the narrative style.

What are some of the noticeable themes in the book? How did the author develop these themes? Were these methods effective?

The Author:

How well did the author take you into the story?

Was the use of description effective?

Could you envision each character?

Could you envision the setting?

Did you find this novel enjoyable?

Would you recommend it to a friend? Explain your response.

Does this book prompt you to want to read more from this author?

Quotes:

Which character quote did you find most effective?

Which character quote do you feel is the defining message in the novel?

.PDF VERSION of Book Study for “The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch”

Image Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net