a novel by James Russell Lingerfelt
"This book will become a classic" - Julie Danielson, Barnes & Noble Review
"Beautiful, calm, captivating. The most beautiful novel I've ever read" - Julia Wilson, Avid Review
What if your old college roommate called, raving about a book someone sent her, calling it the most beautiful book she's ever read? "But," she said, "it's about you." The author is your college ex.
In The Mason Jar, Clayton Fincannon is a Tennessee farm boy raised at the feet of his grandfather. He and his grandfather leave letters for each other in a Mason jar on his grandfather's desk; letters of counsel and affirmation. When Clayton attends college in Southern California, he meets and falls in love with a dark, debutante, from Colorado. However, when an unmentioned past resurrects in her life and she leaves, Clayton is left with unanswered questions.
Clayton goes on to serve as a missionary in Africa, while he and his grandfather continue their tradition of writing letters. When Clayton returns home five years later to bury his grandfather, he searches for answers pertaining to the loss of the young woman he once loved. Little does Clayton know, the answers await him in the broken Mason jar.
A story about a girl who vanished, a former love who wrote a book about her, and a reunion they never imagined.
Written for the bruised and broken, The Mason Jar is an inspirational epic, romance which brings hope to people who have experienced disappointment in life due to separation from loved ones. With a redemptive ending that encourages us to love again, and written in the fresh, romantic tones of Nicholas Sparks, The Mason Jar interweaves the imagery of Thoreau with the adventures and climatic family struggles common to Dances with Wolves, A River Runs Through It, and Legends of the Fall.
(award-winning author of The American Heiress)
(award-winning author of My Sister Is My Best Friend)
This is one of the most relatable books I have ever read. This is the story of one mans way of dealing with unrequited love and disappointment by leaning on loved ones and learning from life.
This story is so sweet and uplifting and makes you think about the good in people in a world where we don't see much of it anymore. It's hard to find a good, solid romance these days with such substance and depth. This was an easy read, simple and sweet and beautiful. The Mason Jar will make you feel joy and hope and make you want to get out a pen and paper and write a letter to someone you love.
It's Finn's vulnerability and openness that really drew me into this book and then it was his storytelling combined with his grandfather's wisdom that held me until the last word on the last page. This is one that I wholeheartedly suggest that you find a copy, curl up with a mug of your favorite drink and lose yourself in its pages.
This book came in the mail yesterday and I finished reading it at midnight! My favorite parts were the letters of wisdom from the grandfather and the perspective that the author puts on romantic love at the end of the story. I feel like I could take things from this book and apply it to areas of my heart that needed healing from past hurts and disappointments. There is so much more I could tell you, but I don’t want to give away the whole story. You’ve got to read this book!
I was drawn in by the transparency and honesty of the main character, Finn, instantly! His journey in life, love, and family actually connected with me in such a personal level I felt I wanted to carry on hours of conversation with him face to face! I don't care who you are or what season in life you find yourself in, I am confident you will LOVE this story as much as I did! You will laugh and cry, you will feel encouraged and walk away with little nuggets of wisdom that will keep you pondering for days to come, and you will fall in love and find healing in the pages of this book.
There's so much in this book that speaks to me at this point in my life; lost love, dealing with a crushed heart, not knowing which direction life should go, getting lost in the middle of growing up, and stepping out on your own for the first time. I know James will have you crying and laughing at some point in the story. Definitely a must read for yourself and anyone that has ever been in love.
This is a beautifully written story about a first love that ends in heartbreak and how Finn heals by turning to family. I love the letters between him and his grandfather, there were tears in my eyes several times. Bits of wisdom are offered throughout, insight on the male perspective. I really enjoyed reading this uplifting book and finished in one sitting. A sweet story.
excerpts & interviews
//Complete Synopsis of The Mason Jar
//Read The First Chapter of The Mason Jar
The story opens with Eden Valmont in 2009, a widow in her late twenties and president of a veteran’s clinic in Colorado. She exits the clinic with a stack of papers, having just signed the last document to grant full authority of the clinic to the board of directors.
Selling her late husband’s clinic has taken years, and she’s overworked and exhausted. Eden wonders if her life would have been richer if she had made different choices.
Eden receives a phone call from her old college roommate from Pepperdine University, Joanna, who informs Eden that she has just read about Eden in a best selling memoir titled, The Mason Jar. The author is Eden's college ex-boyfriend, Clayton “Finn” Fincannon.
Joanna reminds Eden that she still hasn’t told anyone what happened at Pepperdine all those years ago, but that their ten year reunion is fast approaching, and Finn will be present as a keynote speaker. Joanna suggests that Eden attend and face Finn to bring closure on all that happened.
Eden rushes to her apartment and downloads The Mason Jar to her e-reader and the memoir becomes the majority of the story.
Written in first person, The Mason Jar opens in spring with Finn at his farm in Tennessee. Finn watches the sunset behind the horses and stretching fields, reminiscing about a girl he loved in college who vanished, leaving behind a Dear John letter.
In Finn’s memory are also treasures of his adventures in humanitarian work around the world, and the love for his parents and brother who were killed in car accident when Finn was just a boy. Finn recalls how he and his grandfather left letters for each other in an old Mason jar on his grandfather’s desk; a tradition they kept since Finn was just a boy.
Through Finn’s flashback, we live through the love story shared between Finn and Eden, ten years prior. Graduate student Finn (age 25) and sophomore Eden (age 19) meet through Joanna at a lacrosse game on Pepperdine University’s campus in Southern California. Their mutual love for world travel, education, and working with orphans, deepens their attraction.
Eden shares her love of nursing and painting while Finn shares his dreams of pursuing his Ph.D. at Vanderbilt in literature, serve as a professor, and continue his humanitarian efforts.
Months pass and Finn and Eden spend every waking moment together: studying, dancing, exploring the vineyards, and lying on the beach and watching the boats sail by. Every Saturday morning, Finn brought Eden breakfast and fresh flowers and they watched the sunrise together on her back patio.
At the peak of their love affair, Eden invites Finn to Colorado to meet her immediate and extended family, who will be gathering to celebrate her birthday.
They fly to Colorado for one evening only, and though all her family accepts and is kind to Finn, her father remains distant. Before dinner, her parents pull Eden into the kitchen for a private conversation. When Finn peeks around the corner to inquire of Eden, her back is turned to him, and she stands with her arms crossed. When Mr. Valmont spots Finn, he smiles diplomatically and shuts the door.
When Eden returns to the party, she acts distant from Finn. During dinner, as Finn answers questions from family members, the house phone rings. Mr. Valmont excuses himself to take the call in the kitchen. Moments later, he motions for Eden and returns to his seat. Eden excuses herself, and closes the door behind her to speak with the caller in private. Later, when Eden returns to the table, she wrestles with inner turmoil.
Back at Pepperdine, when Finn walks Eden to her apartment, he inquires again of the discussion in the kitchen and the phone call. Eden cries and says that it’s issues with her family, and tells Finn that no matter what happens, to never doubt her love for him.
The next day, Eden doesn't meet Finn for lunch as their custom. When Finn finishes class, he visits Eden and Joanna's apartment. There, Joanna hands Finn a letter from Eden, which Joanna found on the kitchen counter. Eden informs Finn that she returned to Colorado, and that if he ever loved her, not to try to reach her or find out what happened.
Days pass and Joanna, Finn, and friends seek answers. Pepperdine and City Hall in Colorado Springs refuse to give the Valmont's phone number to Joanna. Finn even visits Eden's professors, but they're as puzzled as everyone.
To deal with the grief, Finn returns to Tennessee. There, he and his grandfather share a lengthy conversation concerning brokenness, loss, and reasons to press onward despite a bitter past.
When Finn returns to Pepperdine, graduation approaches, and he grows depressed and fatigued. When he learns that hundreds of orphans flood the streets in Kenya due to a recent genocide, Finn joins a team of humanitarian workers to help.
Finn’s commitment is only for a summer, but he stays five years. Finn then receives a letter from his grandfather's physician, informing Finn that his grandfather's health is failing and that the farm must be sold. Finn returns home, nurses his grandfather back to reasonable health, and restores the farm to its former glory.
In the evenings, Finn begins writing a memoir to help him find healing from all the happened. He seeks further relief by writing a letter to his grandfather, seeking counsel in dealing with grief. Finn leaves it in the Mason jar.
Finn then visits Pepperdine to see old friends, and while there, Finn’s grandfather passes away. Meanwhile, Vanderbilt offers Finn a full scholarship to pursue his Ph.D. After Finn buries his grandfather, he finishes his memoir and sends it to the publisher. He then calls Vanderbilt, rejects the scholarship, leases the farm to neighbors, and packs for his return to Kenya.
The morning before Finn leaves, he explores the books in his grandfather’s study and notices that the Mason jar has fallen and lies broken on the floor. Beneath the broken pieces is a final letter from the grandfather, answering Finn’s questions about grief, why bad things happen to good people, and how we can find healing in a life that's been broken and torn.
(Upon reading the letter, author Diana Bold said in an interview that she sat Lingerfelt’s novel down, bursting into tears, then remained awake the rest of the night to finish it.)
One excerpt from the letter reads as follows: “We can love even when we know that love will never be returned. We are allowed to love someone even if that person is gone. What we miss is their presence, but that doesn’t mean we must stop loving them. Loving is not the same as holding on, because ‘holding on’ implies that we hope the loved one will come to their senses and return. Love is an action based on free choice despite the consequences. Love only becomes painful when it demands something in return. And though it may take time, you will find joy in loving those who might not even be aware of your love.”
The letter concludes the memoir.
Eden closes Finn’s book, and through another phone conversation with Joanna, we learn that Joanna and Eden have only recently reconnected. Joanna has invited Eden to Pepperdine for their ten-year reunion. Eden decides to attend, but Finn is unaware Eden has read his memoir, and that she’ll be attending the reunion.
Days later, Eden comes face to face with Finn, where they spend time together and discuss the occurances of years past. All secrets are revealed and themes of loyalty, forgiveness, and second chances permeate the story.
Hundreds of hot air balloons tiered through the evening sky, celebrating the 2009 Colorado Springs Balloon Classic. Purples, yellows, blues, reds, solids, striped, every balloon imaginable. Couples walked hand in hand, and children pointed to the air in awe. In the distance, the sun would soon be setting over the snow-capped mountains. At dusk, the pilots would tether the balloons to the ground and pull the gas, blasting the flame and illuminating the balloons. The bright colors would pulsate, drawing out the locals and people from all over the nation.
Eden left the veteran’s clinic with her stethoscope hanging around her neck, and with her arm full of copies of the contracts. Her last day at the clinic was finally over. She had been working toward that day for years, and provided the final signature to give the board full executive authority. Now, the clinic was no longer her concern and she could move on with her life.
For a thirty-year-old girl, being a widow, then burying her mother, and now taking care of her dad in his old age, life hadn’t been the easiest for her.
The clinic’s board had rewarded her a handsome paycheck for her work and part ownership of the clinic. They respected her a lot, as well as her late husband who founded the clinic. Eden did enjoy the work, but there’s a time in all of our lives when even if we want to hang on to the past, we know it’s time to close that chapter in our lives and move on. And she needed to move on. As a licensed nurse, Eden had saved lives, helped heal men and women with various illnesses, and even helped war veterans find new lives after they returned home.
Veterans and their families nodded and said hello as she met and passed them on the sidewalk. Some reminded her of Victor and the life they shared. But the younger men, the ones who came to the clinic alone, they reminded her of Clayton Fincannon, a boy she fell in love with in college. A boy she could never forget.
The sting of hurt and regret pained her stomach. She dropped her chin and closed her eyes, wondering if she could ever put her time with Finn behind her.
Her phone vibrated in her purse. Joanna flashed on the screen. Eden’s old college roommate. They hadn’t spoken in ten years, until last Christmas. I had to shut everything down, she reminded herself. Pretend none of it happened. Back then, that was the only way her nineteen-year-old heart could handle all that life had thrown at her.
“Hey,” Eden said into her phone.
“Hey, just checking on you,” Joanna replied. Eden had told her about Victor, his cancer, the depression pills her physician placed her on, everything.
“Thanks. How are you?”
“Good. I haven’t told anyone about us reconnecting. But I wanted to let you know that Finn wrote a book.”
“What?!” Eden exclaimed.
“It’s about your time together. It’s beautiful, Eden. He says wonderful things about you, lovely things. I even cried a few times. He changed your last name, though. I think it was to protect your identity.”
“How did you hear about it?” Eden asked.
“Ryan told me. It was written last year, and it just made The New York Times Best Seller list.”
“Oh, no,” Eden moaned. What had Finn written about her?
“Eden,” Joanna said, her voice softening. “Finn loved you. You needn’t worry.”
“What does he say?”
“You just need to read it. Do you have a Kindle?”
“Okay. Good. You can find it on there. I need to let you go, but we’ll talk later.”
“Oh, Eden, one more thing,” Joanna said. “Ryan said Finn’s presenting at Homecoming.”
Eden remained quiet on the other end, thoughts tumbling through her mind. She had never stopped thinking about him. The last she’d heard, he was living in Africa, dating a girl, and working with street orphans.
“Are you still there?” Joanna asked.
“Yeah.” Not once had she returned for a homecoming. And now, if she did attend this one event, her entire life could completely change. But for the better or worse? She couldn’t forget the pain she must have put Finn through. How could he not hate me for what I did, she thought. Fear of his hatred and lack of forgiveness was what had kept her from reaching back out to him. But now he’s written a book about me? It didn’t make sense.
“Okay,” Joanna continued, “I hope you’ll come to Homecoming. It really would be good to see you. I think there are others who’d like to see you, too. Promise me you’ll think about it?”
“Feel free to call after you finish the book, okay?”
“Okay. Thank you, Joanna.”
Fighting through the festival’s traffic, Eden sped home as quickly as she could in her car. Images of Finn played in front of Eden’s eyes like an old movie reel, memories of his soft brown hair and shy smile. She saw him stirring the honey and milk into their hot tea at Dietrich’s Coffee in Malibu. Finn looked over and smiled at her, his hazel eyes twinkling. He kissed her temple, and she remembered blushing. Warm feelings had swept through her body like an ocean wave.
Ten years had passed since those days, but when she thought about the good days with him, she still felt an inner twitching, the kind that made her both love and fear falling in love, all at once.
Her brief time with Finn had been lovely, but she couldn’t recall any details of those days together or even what they had talked about. She had hurt him, she knew that. She had never set out to hurt anyone. She feared Finn might seek retribution through his writings. But Finn wasn’t like that, was he? Not that she could remember. Besides, Joanna had said the book was lovely.
When Eden arrived to her apartment, she dropped her purse onto the sofa and grabbed her Kindle charging on the end table. She found The Mason Jar by Clayton Fincannon under the Romance genre and pressed the download key.
Eden walked to the jars of various teas sitting on the kitchen counter. She scooped out a helping of English Breakfast, which she had purchased at the farmer’s market. After dropping the tea leaves into the infuser, she turned on the water to boil in the kettle. When its whistle sang, she removed a mug from the cupboard and mixed the freshly brewed tea with milk and honey.
She took her mug into her hands, slipped off her shoes at the edge of the livingroom rug, and pushed them aside with her feet. A reprint of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night hung on the wall across from Caravaggio’s self-portrait, which he painted while living in Italy during the sixteenth-century.
Her livingroom window was a sliding glass door with a wooden balcony that overlooked the city. Streaks of pinks and purples painted the western sky and reminded Eden that nightfall approached.
She sank into the soft cushions on her couch, the file finished downloading, and she scrolled to the first chapter of Finn’s book and read.