Count the Night by Stars by Michele Shocklee
Count the Nights by Stars Book Cover Count the Nights by Stars
Michele Shocklee
New Adult, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Tyndale House Publishers
March 8, 2022
Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback

Count your nights by stars, not shadows. Count your life with smiles, not tears. 1961. After a longtime resident at Nashville’s historic Maxwell House Hotel suffers a debilitating stroke, Audrey Whitfield is tasked with cleaning out the reclusive woman’s room. There, she discovers an elaborate scrapbook filled with memorabilia from the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Love notes on the backs of unmailed postcards inside capture Audrey’s imagination with hints of a forbidden romance . . . and troubling revelations about the disappearance of young women at the exposition. Audrey enlists the help of a handsome hotel guest as she tracks down clues and information about the mysterious “Peaches” and her regrets over one fateful day, nearly sixty-five years earlier. 1897. Outspoken and forward-thinking Priscilla Nichols isn’t willing to settle for just any man. She’s still holding out hope for love when she meets Luca Moretti on the eve of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Charmed by the Italian immigrant’s boldness, Priscilla spends time exploring the wonderous sights of the expo with Luca―until a darkness overshadows the monthslong event. Haunted by a terrible truth, Priscilla and Luca are sent down separate paths as the night’s stars fade into dawn.

Count your night by stars, not shadows; count your life with smiles, not tears.” – Italian proverb

Count the Nights by Stars is an immensely captivating historical fiction work infused with nuggets of Christian faith that not only entertains with a suspenseful story but challenges and encourages people to live a life without regret and make the world a better place. To actually “see” people. Audrey and Priscilla, while good of heart, never imagine they would push the norms of their day to stand up for those “who are beneath the pain. Beneath the sin. To see them as God sees them: a beautiful creation, with plans and purposes only he knows.” These two young women, while separated by generations, find their lives intertwined by a series of events and discoveries that change their lives and the lives of many others.

Michelle Shocklee transports her readers to two bygone eras at the famed Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, TN; the close of the 1800’s during the extravagant Tennessee Centennial Exposition and the civil rights movement of 1960s. The knitting back and forth of two distinctly different tales with a common thread storyline that is surprising chapter after chapter, reveals the skill she has as storyteller. Her beautifully detailed descriptions norms and scenes of each era, especially the Centennial Exposition, reveal her passion for history and made the Count the Nights by Stars a wonderful read. I could stop right now and give this five stars but then I would be forgetting the part of the experience that really touched me.

While I was intellectually impressed with this book I was most surprised by how moved I was emotionally as I followed the events that shaped Audrey and Priscilla. From gut-churning and heart-wrenching to the thrill of a new attraction or a deep abiding sacrificial love, Count the Nights by Stars had me feeling all of it (which would not have been bad had the waterworks not started while I was reading in a waiting room). This book truly encapsulates the roller coast of highs and lows, good and bad that life dishes out, with the caveat that “we cannot live in regrets. Choices were made that cannot be unmade.” While we would all like to understand many of the “whys” of the struggles and hurts in our lives we are “simply asked to trust in the One who does” to see us through. Count the Nights by Stars is a literary example of that faith, providing a much needed dose of inspiration and encouragement that you definitely don’t want to miss.