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 Fiction Review    

Small Change: The Secret Life of Penny Burford
by J. Belinda Yandell
Cumberland House, 2002
Hardcover, $14.95 (139pp)
ISBN: 1-58182-304-5
  Each year there seems to be one book that stands out as the perfect holiday fiction for stocking stuffers or to add to the neighbor's goodie basket.  For Christmas 2002, I predict that book will be Small Change: The Secret Life of Penny Burford.

A nickel from her husband's loose change triggers happy childhood memories of penny candy from the five and dime for Penny Burford.  The daughter of a preacher also remembers her joy in creating Christmas baskets for the needy.  That joy ended for her when one gift was rejected by a ten year-old boy who would become her future husband.  That Christmas she learned about when charity is an object of shame for those with pride.

Her husband's pride was controlling for the non-working wife.  He gave her money for clothes at Christmas and her birthday, checked receipts for groceries and gas, and paid all household bills.  He was not an unloving husband, but he took his responsibility to provide to heart. 

Roy Burford has one habit that really annoys Penny -- his habit of emptying his pockets as he walks through the house.  Since he will not use the loose change or allow her to deposit it in the local bank, Penny starts collecting it.  After a time, the amount becomes too much to hide, and she drives to Valdosta to open a checking account with her deposit of $634.43.  She continues to make a monthly deposit for years.

Her untimely death leads to her family learning about her secret accounts.  Her husband Roy is not upset about the money as much as the fact that there was something that he didn't know about his wife of forty years.  As he meets the people she touched and hears of her good deeds from the interest earned from his loose change, Roy realizes that she found a way to provide Christmas charity and protect the pride of the needy.

The novella is set near Valdosta, Georgia, but certain names (Friedman's and Sipple's Mortuary) show a link to the author's hometown of Savannah. For this reviewer and native of the Fruit Cake Capital of the World, I must admit pride in that Yandell mentions Claxton Fruit Cake (and it wasn't being used as a door stop).

J. Belinda Yandell was winner of the 2001 Audio Book Club national competition for unpublished writers. A native of Savannah, Georgia, she is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and lives near Nashville, Tennessee.

Yandell has created a charming tale which shows the power of small change when collected over time, "its what you do with it that counts."

Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews

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