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Intersection Column | Can a Novel Help Us Master Our Fears?

by Patricia Raybon


My dad drove a big Chrysler Newport back then. As he piled into our family car with my mom—both of them waving goodbye—I felt tears sting my eyes.


Standing in front of my college dorm on a Big Ten campus, watching them leave for our Colorado home, for the first time in my life I was alone. I’d dreamed of this day for years. I was finally old enough to strike out on my own and take on the world. That’s what the dream told me, anyway.


Instead, I stood crying in the flagstone courtyard outside my dorm. Why? I was afraid.


I’d spent every day of my life with “my” people—these strict, Bible-believing, churchgoing, hardworking, God-loving, Jesus-following parents who would spend every day over the next four years laboring to pay my college costs, from tuition and books to my silly mod-style mini dresses.


My dad even paid for a lecture series so I could hear top leaders of the day in person, expanding my knowledge and understanding of the world.


I never went to even one of those lectures. My efforts that year consisted of unraveling the mysteries of how to make friends. College kids from “back East” and “down South” and other faraway places seemed sophisticated and worldly.


I was an eighteen-year-old from a town near Denver who struggled to tolerate teasing about being a Colorado cowgirl who rode a horse . . . but I didn’t. One big-city upperclassman crowed “Giddy up” every time he saw me.


I tried to laugh it off as I struggled to find my way on a massive campus where every fall weekend seemed devoted to fraternity parties and football. How would I find my way? In truth, I struggled. College life was a mystery.


On my first Sunday, I looked in the phone book for the nearest Methodist church and walked through their doors. The reception wasn’t cold, but it was awkward. I’m Black. That church was white and we were living in the sixties. Then, as now, folks across America were struggling to master cross-racial harmony, even in church.


I didn’t go back. They didn’t reach out. Still, I look back with empathy for all of us. With no social rule book to follow, or so it seemed, we struggled to live out Jesus’ plea to love one another. And “love your neighbor as yourself.”


But how could I achieve that tough task? Love myself? Love God? Then make sense of a world with young men who teased me? That world felt like a mysterious puzzle, but how would I solve it?


I ask those same questions in my fiction. My latest novel—a romantic “history mystery” series set in 1920s Colorado—features an earnest young woman, Annalee Spain, who’s a fan of Sherlock Holmes. Annalee has recently left a midwestern college and returned home to face the mysteries of her life. The first—who killed her estranged father, and what will solving the crime mean? That was the story of book one, All That Is Secret. In Double the Lies, the second book in the series, another curious puzzle draws Annalee in.


In Truth Be Told, the third book, Annalee finds herself embroiled in another sticky riddle, including a difficult truth from her hidden past. But she isn’t alone—her sidekicks are a feisty band of church ladies, other faithful friends, and a handsome Black pastor who’s inclined to tease her.


The result, one reviewer said, is stories “rich in spiritual searching” but infused with the struggles and triumphs of faith, hope, and love. My readers send me grateful notes, recalling their own youth when social confusion was made right only by searching for clarity in God.


“I’m rooting for her!” readers tell me. They want Annalee to solve her mysteries, but also her questions about love and life. I cheer her on, as well. If she has breakthroughs while unraveling puzzles and tackling her past fears, then I can, too. So can we all, not fearing new paths in Christ.


When I graduated from college, my dad had retired and drove a Volkswagen Beetle. Going with me to the final meeting of my last class, he didn’t just listen to the class debate, he took part in it. Book clubs near and far now join me for similarly rich talks, supporting Annalee as she approaches God with her problems and deep mysteries. And always, we marvel that He is always our answer.


About the Author

Patricia Raybon is a Christy Award–winning Colorado author who writes devotionals for Our Daily Bread and authors the Annalee Spain Mystery series. Truth Be Told, the third book in the series, releases June 11.


About the Book

In a taut, heart-gripping narrative driven by secrets, romance and lies, amateur detective Annalee Spain must unravel a case with higher stakes than she imagined—one where answers about a lovely woman's death point to truths and tensions still throbbing today.


Did You Know?

In the United States, June 14 is Flag Day, commemorating the adoption of the first U.S. flag on June 14, 1777, by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. Here are a few interesting facts about our nation’s flag.


  • The colors and design of our flag were carefully chosen. The founding fathers wanted each element of the flag to have meaning. The thirteen stripes represent the original thirteen Colonies, and the stars represent the fifty states of the Union. Seven red stripes symbolize hardiness and valor. Six white stripes symbolize purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

  • Six U.S. flags have been planted on the moon by the Apollo astronauts. Most everyone has seen the 1969 photo of Neil Armstrong of Apollo 11 standing next to the flag he planted on the moon. Five more flags were set by astronauts of Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17.

  • The U.S. flag flies over distant shores. The first American flag flown overseas was in Libya, over Fort Derne in 1805 on the shores of Tripoli. In 1909, Robert Peary placed a U.S. flag sewn by his wife at the North Pole. Barry Bishop placed the American flag atop Mount Everest in 1963.


Won’t you join me on June 14 by honoring the most iconic symbol of our great and powerful Nation?

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,

and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God,

indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.


-Annette O’Hare, Search Light


Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore

“Shopping in a bookstore is exciting because you know you're going to find something special and lovely to get lost in. It's like searching under the tree at Christmas for the presents with your name on them—and what's more fun than that?”


-Linore Rose Burkard, Forever Lovely



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