Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
In Vinita Hampton Wright’s novel Velma Still Cooks in Leeway, the title character, Velma Brendle, operates the only restaurant in the small town of Leeway, Kansas. The regular crowd feels like family, and Velma prays for her customers. People’s stories and struggles weigh on Velma, so she works a few hours a week as janitor at Jerusalem Baptist Church seeking quiet. The past two years have been tough. She feels that God has not come through for her town, but she senses a revelation approaching.
In spring, 1996, Velma’s eighteen-year-old neighbor, Shellye Pines, “turns up” pregnant. Two months before, Shellye had come to Velma teary-eyed and bruised. Len Connor, the youth group’s golden boy, had taken her virginity. When Shellye names the father, “good ol’ boy” Pastor Jack Thomas (in whom Velma has never placed her trust) asks if she is sure. Riled, Shellye maintains that Len was the only man who could have caused the pregnancy and that he forced her. Len denies it.
Hurt that she is not believed, Shellye stops going to church. Her mother, Doris, unsettled since her husband’s desertion years ago, is emotionally absent, adding to Shellye’s stress. Velma often welcomes the girl into her home, offering her the emotional support that Doris does not. Cousin Howard calls in late May. Thirty-eight, fighting cancer, and without a job or insurance, he needs a place to live. He moves in and thanks Velma but seems removed...
(The entire section is 1053 words.)
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