Wednesday, November 30, 2011

EA West & The Key to Charlotte

Come on in and meet EA West, author of The Key to Charlotte--a book I can't wait to tell you about--but more on that later, in my review. Suffice to say, as an enticement, this book blew me away.

Here's a bit about EA:

E.A. West is a lifelong lover of books and storytelling. In high school, she discovered the wonders of sharing her stories with others through writing. She picked up her pen in a creative writing class and hasn’t laid it down yet. Her love of writing encompasses not only the romance genre but also a variety fiction and non-fiction styles.Born and raised in Indiana, she still resides there today with her family and a small zoo of pets that includes cats, dogs, and African water frogs. When she’s not writing or reading, you’re likely to find her working on her current crochet project or discussing current events.

Next, let me introduce you to this wonderful novella from White Rose Publishing by giving you some insight into the hero of the story--a remarkable man named Zakaria Rush. Here's what EA West has to say about him:

Silly Songs with Zakaria

I think all of us at one time or another have wished we were still kids. The hero of The Key to Charlotte, Zakaria Rush, found a way to make a living while still enjoying childhood. He went into children’s ministry.

One of Zakaria’s favorite parts of his job, aside from choosing awesome Sunday school curriculum and working with the kids, is the music. The goofy songs from Vacation Bible School and Sunday school bring a smile to his face and lighten his heart. I must admit, I share his love for those songs.

I have fond memories of learning all kinds of silly songs during VBS when I was a kid. While I wasn’t the most coordinated child and tended to get lost if the motions that went with the songs were too complex (they rarely seemed that complex to the other kids), I loved to sing those songs and dance with my fellow VBS attendees. Sunday school provided another set of fun songs (usually with simpler motions) to sing and enjoy.

One of my favorites from both Sunday school and VBS found its way into The Key to Charlotte. “Rise and Shine” tells the story of Noah and the ark in a fun way that kids love. As proven by a certain pair of characters in The Key to Charlotte (*cough* Charlotte and Zakaria *cough*) and myself, as well as countless others, adults love the song as well. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s a video of a group singing it:

I think the best part of all of these fun songs from a childhood of churchgoing is that they allow children to musically praise God with easy-to-understand lyrics. Kids love music and they love fun. If you combine the music and fun, plus throw in some praising of God, I consider that the perfect mix for any children’s ministry.

And now, I'm thrilled to introduce you to A Key to Charlotte--along with a request: GET IT. You won't be sorry.


Charlotte Harris can't speak due to a quirk in her autistic brain, but that doesn't stop her from
communicating with others. Unfortunately, it prevents her from achieving two of her dreams--to praise God through singing and to carry on a simple conversation with her own voice.

Zakaria Rush is the new Director of Children's Ministries at Charlotte's church, and he can't keep his thoughts off the partially mute blonde with a love for guitar music. Her innocence and love of the simple things in life intrigue him and make him long to give her what she wants more than anything: her voice.

Can Zakaria help Charlotte find the key to unlocking her ability to speak, or will his attempt to help her only lock away their chance for love?


Charlotte switched off the vacuum and breathed a sigh of relief. The silence in the small church was pure bliss. She pulled the plug from the wall and coiled the cord around the top of the vacuum, then returned it to the janitorial closet in the basement. Turning around, she pulled out her cell phone and checked for reminders.

Take the rag bucket home.

Yes, she needed to wash the rags and kitchen towels. She returned the phone to her pocket and grabbed the bucket handle. As she headed upstairs, she heard the sound of a guitar coming from the sanctuary. Was someone playing a CD? It sounded like live music, but she’d never heard anyone in the church play a guitar.

Drawn by the soothing strains of the strings, she turned right at the top of the stairs.

No one ever came in the church while she was cleaning. The entire congregation knew her schedule—Tuesday and Saturday afternoons—and they always made sure to come at a different time. Charlotte had never been sure if it was because they didn’t want to get in her way or if her parents had talked to them about the importance of routine for her. When she was little,
she’d gotten upset by people showing up unannounced, but now that she was twenty‐three,
she liked to think she could handle surprises a little better.

She peered through the open doorway and saw a man sitting on the edge of the platform by the plain wooden altar playing a battered acoustic guitar.

Her breath caught in her throat and her heart raced as she studied him. Not only was he a talented musician, he was gorgeous, more gorgeous than anyone she’d ever seen in this small Indiana town. His black hair was a little shaggy but stylish; his straight nose, high cheekbones, and tan complexion made her think of Native Americans and Italians; his lean build clothed in
faded blue jeans, an olive green T‐shirt, and worn‐in sneakers made him look laid back. Peace filled his face as he strummed his guitar. The corners of his mouth turned up slightly, making Charlotte wonder if the sound of a guitar brought him as much joy as it did her.

Suddenly, he stopped playing and looked up at her. She tightened her grasp on the bucket handle.

He studied her with the most beautiful, warm brown eyes she’d ever seen. His smile caused her heart to flutter. “Hi there. Are you Charlotte?”

She nodded.

He didn’t seem to mind that she shifted her weight back and forth. Just as well. If she didn’t rock to release it, the nervous energy building under his gaze would make her cry.

“Pastor Ed told me I might run into you if I came this afternoon. I’m Zakaria Rush, the new director of children’s ministries.” He laid his guitar across his knees and chuckled, a deep, rich sound that warmed Charlotte clear through. “It’s a fancy title for a guy who didn’t want to grow
up and found a way to turn it into a career.”

Marianne's Review:

This book, hands down, is one of the best I have read all year. It swept through my heart with so much power I found myself hating to see the story end.

In the pages of The Key to Charlotte, author EA West has deftly explored the top of autism, and how people who suffer from autism--in this case the lovely and musically inclined Charlotte Harris--are created in the image of God. They are more than worthy and capable of love, independence and the fulfillment of God's plan for their lives.

Charlotte works at a small church in Indiana. She's cleaning the facility when music comes to her unexpectedly from the sanctuary. Zakaria Rush, the new Director of Children's Ministries, is playing his guitar. Instantly, and instinctively, Zakaria treats Charlotte with respect and an easy sense of caring--caring that blooms quickly to an even deeper affection.

That affection is what leads Zakaria to take her gently under his wing, and lead her to her heart's desire--music and a sharing of her life, and the gifts God has given her. What could be more beautiful?

At no point is this love story mawkish or overdone. Therein lies its absolute beauty. With the same kind of artistry as Karen Kingsbury displayed in her novel Unlocked, EA West uses heart, God, and a straightforward approach to make Charlotte come alive and be completely relatable in how she sees the world and reacts to it. We understand her, and therefore, we love her and cheer for her. And all I can say about Zakaria is that in him, EA has created a hero worthy of Charlotte.

Don't walk, run to pick it up! Five stars.

Purchase The Key to Charlotte at or at Pelican Book!


  1. Welcome to the blog, EA - delighted you're here. As you can tell, this book touched my heart deeply - thank you for a wonderful read!!!

  2. Rise & Shine is such an awesome song for children to sing. I love that song and I really think it's incredible that it was used in a book. A lot of books are written about a child having Autism, but I don't recall a lot about adults surviving it. Thanks for sharing your review, Marianne. I will definitely be adding it to my list of books to purchase. Blessings, Susan<3

  3. Thank you, Marianne, for having me here today. And thank you so much for such an amazing review!

  4. Susan, "Rise and Shine" was one of my favorites as a kid, so I had to include it. :)

    The lack of books about adults with autism is one of the reasons I chose to write an autistic heroine. So much attention is given to children on the autism spectrum, which leads to wonderful assistance for them, but very little attention is given to what happens to those autistic kids once they become autistic adults. Adulthood brings a unique set of challenges that many autistics receive very little support for outside of family and friends, but that's another blog post entirely. LOL:)

    I hope you enjoy The Key to Charlotte!

  5. I used to play for the children's ministry in our church and we love that song too. As a matter of fact I used to sing that to my daughter to wake her up when she was younger.

    Wonderful book! I loved it!

  6. The book sounds great!! E.A. West is a wonderful author!!! Blessings - Kimberli

  7. Another wonderful story I don't have time to read

    Good luck & God's blessings.

  8. I can't wait to read The Key to Charlotte! Love the excerpt, E.A, and what an awesome review. Congrats!

    Lovely to visit with you, Marianne, as usual. You're such a charming hostess! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Don't you just love when a book moves you like this? Thanks for sharing the review...

  10. I just got this book, but have so many on my reader, it will be hard to chose where to go next. (I'm with you, Pam.) Enjoyed the interview.

  11. Thanks for the visits, crew! This book is extraordinary!! :-) EA-congrats and God's blessings on a wonderful release and continued success!! XO