Cover image for Lullaby
Orcutt, Jane.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House, [2002]

Physical Description:
193 pages ; 19 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Merrilee wants only the best for the child she cannot keep. Nora dreams of being a mother to a child of her own. Lullaby is a tender story of a courageous teenage girl and a woman who longs for a baby. A stirring novella that explores the depths of a mother's love. Perfect for gift giving at Mother's Day.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Someone at Tyndale must be fascinated with unwed mothers. Orcutt joins the company of Francine Rivers' Atonement Child (1997) and Lori Copeland's Child of Grace (2001) with her tale of 15-year-old Merrilee Hunter, a poor trailer-park girl who comes to an agreement with the wife of a physician to give up her baby for adoption. Orcutt is a good writer (The Living Stone, 2000) but veers into the recklessly sentimental in this outing. Stock up on Kleenex. John Mort.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Unlike most Christian fiction with prolife themes, this sweet, inspirational novella gently unfolds a tale of how God redeems tragedy for three people in difficult circumstances, without resorting to heavy-handed proselytizing. We learn through flashbacks that the pregnant 15-year-old Merrilee Hunter was raped by a man she now presumes is dead. Her father abandoned Merrilee long ago, and her promiscuous mother recently committed suicide, leaving her alone in the world. Although Merrilee is determined to give up her child for adoption, she comforts herself by writing poignant letters to her "Baby Girl" in her journal. As the story opens, the poverty-stricken and heartsick Merrilee leaves her trailer in the small town of Palmwood, Tex., and travels to Austin to live in Adoption Lifeline's residential home for unwed mothers. There, she selects Steven and Nora Rey, a wealthy older couple struggling with infertility, as the adoptive parents for her baby. The Reys are immediately drawn to Merrilee, although the adoption agency cautions them not to become too emotionally involved. A surprising plot twist causes all of the characters to re-evaluate their plans and their assumptions about each other. The book's strong prolife themes, Orcutt's solid writing and the appealing character of Merrilee should satisfy readers in the CBA market, especially those who have experienced infertility or who are prolife advocates. Orcutt's fellow Christian writers should take note that a message-driven novel can be much more than just a sermon. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Teenager Merrilee Hunter heads for Austin, TX, to place her baby up for adoption with a couple she chose from the Internet because their dog's name is Lucky. Merrilee is a strong believer in luck, and she feels that God's hand is guiding her choice. Steven and Nora Rey tried for years to conceive a child, only to fail and then watch younger couples chosen as adoptive parents. Nora can't understand why God is punishing them when they have so much love and faith to offer a child. Merrilee is the answer to her prayers, but is she really the answer to Merrilee's? Orcutt's (The Fugitive Heart) latest novella bears a striking resemblance to Tracie Peterson's The Long Awaited Child; libraries already owning Peterson could pass on this. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Merrilee Hunter dug into the pockets of her ragged maternity cutoffs and laid the haul on the drugstore's glass counter: a provisional driver's license, one quarter, one dime, two nickels, a piece of string from the hem of the shorts, a half-empty tube of Avon lipstick, and a scrap of paper with a phone number. The paper she hurriedly stuffed back into her pocket, as though the saleswoman on the other side knew exactly what it was. In a bony ninety-degree angle, the woman leaned over the counter, sifting the money from among Merrilee's possessions, pushing each coin with the pad of her index finger into a pile. "Twenty-five, thirty-five, forty-five." She raised her eyes, then folded her arms against the glass. "You ain't got enough, Merrilee," she said, her voice quivering with triumph. "Popcorn'll cost you forty-nine cents." Merrilee bit her lip. She slid her open palm across the counter to gather her things, but old man Kenner stepped up beside her and stopped the motion with his gnarled, white-haired hand. Four pennies plunked against the glass. "I'll spot her the rest, Paula Jean. Just go get a bag from the machine before her bus gets here." Paula Jean bustled toward the other end of the counter, fixing Merrilee with a wrinkled frown as she shoveled the popcorn into a red-and-white-striped bag. Merrilee eased her hand out from under the old man's, ducking her head. "You didn't have to do that, Mr. Kenner," she mumbled. "I can do without." "Let's just call it one of them bone voyagee gifts, okay, girl?" His gaze dropped to her extended belly, which pressed up hard against the glass counter. He caught her glance and smiled, a leer she recognized well. "Ain't ever' day a girl like you runs from town, tail tucked. Now your mama, I coulda seen her doing something like this, but not you. Thought you had more spunk." Merrilee's face warmed, but she didn't respond. One, two, three ... take deep breaths, Merrilee. Don't let anybody see how you feel. The baby poked against the counter as if to break free. Merrilee stepped back. Mr. Kenner squinted. "You headin' out to look for that baby's daddy? None of the boys round Palmwood here have fessed up, and they generally brag on accomplishments like you're displayin' so proudlike." Merrilee didn't answer. He didn't really want to know the truth; that was devoured by gossip in this small town as easily as the Laundromat dryers ate up the precious quarters Mama used to hoard in her tip jar. "Here's ya popcorn." Paula Jean shoved the bag across the counter, her hands stopping well shy of Merrilee's. "Thanks." Merrilee lifted the bag, then looked Paula Jean and Mr. Kenner square in the eye, hoping for some sort of friendly sign, some expression of farewell. They stared back at her, eyes cold and hard as the iron gates of Palmwood's cemetery slamming shut. "Well ..." She gestured toward the door. "Guess I'll wait outside for the bus." "You do that, hon." Paula Jean wiped down the counter. "Say, Ed, what do you think about the Gophers' chances this fall with their new quarterback? That kid can throw a mighty long pass, I hear." "Well, now ..." Mr. Kenner leaned on the counter and launched into a verbal assault on the upcoming team. Merrilee hefted Mama's battered blue hard-sided suitcase and headed outside. A bell chimed as she exited. Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. She smiled wryly as she eased down on the wooden bench below the ancient metal Greyhound sign. Mama would've said the bell was some sort of omen-but good or bad? Her superstitions didn't always make sense, and as far as Merrilee could tell, had no basis in any folklore other than that of her own creation. "I'm tellin' you, Merrilee," she'd said, pointing with her freshly lit Marlboro for emphasis. "Our lives are ruled by chance. Luck. The best we can do is watch for signs." "Oh, Mama." "It's true, girl. Heed the bad ones and grab on to the good ones." Merrilee decided to humor her. "But how will I know the difference?" "You'll know." Mama had taken a long drag of the cigarette, blown out the smoke, then ruffled Merrilee's hair. "You'll just know." It seemed to Merrilee that up until the past seven months, all her knowing had been pretty easy. She'd found, if not all her answers, then most of her peace, at the ramshackle Gospel Fellowship Church building just up the road from the trailer park. When Merrilee was big enough to buckle her own patent leather Sunday shoes, Mama walked with her every week to the church. She'd smile down at Merrilee over an ancient hymnal the Baptists and Methodists had handed down. Merrilee would tuck her hand in Mama's and prop her own hymnal against the back of a splintered pew, gaping at the giant wooden cross down front. Pastor Luke gestured at it every week, at the end of the last hymn before he launched into his sermon. "Can you hear him, brothers and sisters?" he might say, after the final verse of "Softly and Tenderly." "Oh, sinner, he's calling you home!" After a few years, Merrilee grew to understand why the wooden boards were prominently displayed up front and why some church members danced and clapped their hands with joy during the hymn singing. Mama always just rolled her eyes and smiled smugly, still believing in luck and good versus bad signs. One Sunday morning after a long night out with one of her boyfriends, Mama cracked her bedroom door, a washrag at her forehead, just long enough to pronounce herself a retired churchgoer. From then on, eleven-year-old Merrilee walked the dusty path alone every week to the Gospel Fellowship. One Sunday, when Pastor Luke gave the altar call and the choir sang "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus," she also walked alone down front and accepted the significance of the wooden cross into her life. The members of Gospel Fellowship accepted her as well. They never asked about Mama but welcomed Merrilee as family. Her new brothers and sisters walked and talked with her along the spiritual road, pressing a Bible into her hands, prayers into her ears, and hope into her heart. Another kick from the baby, and Merrilee's smile faded to a frown. She set the striped bag aside, fluttered a hand over her belly, then reached for the suitcase. Instead, she settled back, folding her hands in her lap. Later, on the bus. When it's quieter, and I can think a bit. "Merrilee!" Sylvie Ponds, Palmwood's only librarian, huffed and waddled her way across the gravel parking lot. Face flushed with exertion, she fanned her hand against thin bangs slicked with sweat against her forehead. The sleeves of her polyester polka-dot blouse strained at her doughy biceps. Merrilee smiled. "Mornin', Miss Ponds. I told you there wasn't any need to see me off." Sylvie heaved herself down on the bench, sucking in gulps of air like a landed catfish. Merrilee grabbed the popcorn and scooted all the way to the end of the bench, till one hip hung off. She braced her feet hard against the ground and held on to the edge of the seat, between her knees. The baby kicked, but she ignored it. "I was ... afraid I'd miss you, Merrilee." Sylvie drew one last gulp, then laid a hand over her ample chest as her normal breath returned. "I couldn't have you leave without my saying good-bye, now could I?" "I'm glad you came." Merrilee glanced at the drugstore's entrance, then back again. "Truth to tell, I'm kinda scared, Miss Ponds. Mama always said someday we'd get to travel, but I never figured I'd be doing it like this. I feel like I'm sneaking out of town." Or being run out on a rail. Sylvie patted her hand. "This is a good Christian place where you're going. They'll take fine care of you. I'll miss you over at the library every week, but the books'll be waiting for you when you get back." She cleared her throat. "And if not those at the Palmwood Library, why, those at another one. Just you keep reading, hear?" "I will, Miss Ponds," Merrilee said solemnly, though she could no more stop reading than she could stop the birth of this baby. Reading library books took her beyond the dingy trailer she had shared with Mama, but reading the Bible took her even further-beyond herself. Of all the Gospel Fellowship members, Sylvie Ponds had encouraged Merrilee the most in this direction. In quiet moments at the children's table at the library, they had huddled in undersized plastic chairs to study passages of Scripture. Especially the ones about God's love and mercy, which Merrilee clung to, even now. Sylvie squeezed her hand. "What you're doing-" She blinked hard, then tried again. "What you're doing is about the most selfless thing I ever knew anybody to do." Embarrassed, Merrilee looked away. A large silver bus pulled into the parking lot, splaying gravel, its destination shining plainly above the driver's head: Austin. Merrilee thought it might as well have said Exit. She rose, gripping the worn handle of the suitcase in one hand and the popcorn bag in another. "I guess this is it," she said, trying to smile. Sylvie rose too, shading her eyes against the sun. "You have a safe trip, okay?" She paused, lowering her voice. "You're a good girl, Merrilee. Don't let anybody tell you different." Merrilee nodded, but her heart sank clear to the bulge in her belly. She tried to speak, but the words caught in her throat. Where would she have been the past few years without Sylvie Ponds? She couldn't have made this difficult decision without her guidance and love, especially now that Mama was gone and nearly everyone else had turned away. The doors to the bus hissed open, and the weary-looking driver trudged down the stairs. He held out his hand for Merrilee's suitcase in a gesture of bored impatience. Sylvie patted Merrilee's shoulder, then pulled her into a quick hug. They'd never touched before, and Merrilee felt the awkwardness between them as wide as the baby that separated them from a full embrace. Sylvie stepped back quickly as if she felt it too, then smiled lopsidedly. "Go on with you, then. Go see what they got to offer in Austin. Try to make it to the capitol if you can." Merrilee nodded. "And drop me a postcard!" The driver stepped forward. "Miss? Your bag?" Merrilee clutched the handle tighter. "I'll just carry it with me, thanks." He shrugged and headed for the bus. "All right, but we need to get going." Merrilee followed, then turned. "Bye, Miss Ponds. Thank you for ..." Sylvie smiled. "It's okay, Merrilee." Her voice softened. "It'll be okay. I'll be praying for you. `Where two or more are gathered ...,' remember?" Merrilee glanced over her shoulder and saw Paula Jean and Mr. Kenner standing in the drugstore doorway. Neither waved; neither smiled. There goes Faye Hunter's daughter, their faces said. Merrilee turned away and boarded the bus. She bumped and jostled her way down the narrow aisle, past four other souls who stared listlessly out windows with no latches. She took the seat farthest back, next to the bathroom, then cradled the suitcase and popcorn bag against herself. She closed her eyes and didn't open them even when the bus shifted from gravel to pavement and lumbered down the two-lane road. When she knew they must be well out of town, she propped the popcorn bag against the armrest of the adjoining empty seat, then balanced the suitcase on her knees. She popped open the rusty clasps, then pulled out a ragged pastel cloth journal and a pen. Making a desk of the closed suitcase, she opened the book to the next white page, blank and crisp. Nipping the cap off with her teeth, she poised the pen over the paper for a moment, then wrote slowly and carefully, the way Miss Percy had taught her all the way back in second grade. Dear Baby Girl, In all my fifteen years of growing up, I never once thought about what it'd be like for a new mama to leave the hospital with her baby in another pair of arms. I guess I've always fancied the notion of a perfect family, with the daddy beaming over his wife and new child, maybe even a grandma or two hovering nearby, knitting booties or something. I don't know why I think like that, since I never even knew my own daddy. All Mama ever said was that he'd loved her, but not enough to stick around. Except for times like father-daughter banquets, I never really missed having a daddy, though. I had Mama. Or at least I always thought I'd have her. I've prayed a lot about what I'm doing, and this seems to be God's answer. Pastor Luke thought so, when I talked to him about it. So did Sylvie Ponds. They're the only two folks in town who don't look sideways at me for carrying you. Even Mama had her druthers about your life ... Merrilee paused long enough to scoop a left-handed fistful of popcorn into her mouth. She started to write more, but the achy place inside her heart simmered like water on a back burner. She carefully placed the pen in the journal's gutter and set the suitcase and book in the next seat, then wiped her greasy hand on her shorts. Tucking her legs up under herself awkwardly, she curled up into the seat and stared out the window. Her face reflected back in the fingerprint-smudged glass, and she glanced away. Anyway, the prairie grass and scrub cedars looked the same as they did around Palmwood and probably wouldn't give way to anything prettier before the bus got to Austin. Mama had been to Austin several times, she'd told Merrilee. Once when she was in a high school track meet-she'd been pretty good back in her day at jumping the hurdles and running sprints, she'd bragged. Another time with some man for a weekend, just for a lark. Mighta been my daddy, for all I know. Maybe that's where they brought me into being. Wouldn't that be funny, me bringing this baby back to be born where I came from? Merrilee popped open the suitcase again and slipped her hand inside the frayed elastic side pouch, fingers digging for the carefully trimmed photo she'd downloaded at the library. The paper was already worn around the edges from too much handling, even though she'd never shown it to anyone, not even Miss Ponds. She squinted at the photo, trying to pretend she'd never seen it before. As if she'd just turned the page of a picture album and come across this couple with their dog-which is exactly how she'd found them on the Internet through the Palmwood Public Library's lone computer. Continues... Excerpted from Lullaby by Jane Orcutt Copyright © 2002 by Jane Orcutt Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.