Tending Fences Book Reviews

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

Tending Fences: Building Safe and Healthy Relationship Boundaries; The Parables of Avery Soul is a series of parables written by Terry Barnett-Martin and illustrated by Susan Eberhardt. The stories are about a rancher named Avery Soul and how he learns to build fences in his ongoing relationships with his neighbors. Underlying these stories is the message that we are all Avery Soul, and each one shows how fences can keep those people we have relationships with within boundaries we can be comfortable with. Sometimes, we need fences to keep from encroaching on our friends' boundaries as well. The parables show how, rather than being a nuisance and an unwanted burden, building these fences can actually be a joy and bring unforeseen benefits. At the end of the day, Avery looks out over his lands and sees the fences he’s built, and he realizes that they are things of beauty and have made him and his neighbors contented and pleased with their relationships.

Terry Barnett-Martin’s Tending Fences is a whimsical series of parables that delight and instruct all at once. I cringed as Avery is deluged by cow plops from his neighbor Bubba Bueser, and how all his attempts to communicate with Bubba fail to stop the Dung Rain. The fence he built to stop the dung was the perfect solution, even if Bubba kept on flinging dung, and that which had already been flung provided an excellent fertilizer for Avery’s trees. What a marvelous way of showing people how to navigate the ins and outs of relationships with those in their lives. Many of us are afraid of building these fences and spend much time and energy trying to explain viewpoints and change minds. Tending Fences shows a much better series of solutions to relationship problems; solutions that can make life and those relationships even better. I smiled as I read each parable and then I thought about how it was relevant to my life and my relationships. Tending Fences is captivating and funny, with brilliant illustrations and even more brilliant insights scattered on each page. It’s a book to be read and re-read as your ranch and lands need tending, and it’s highly recommended.

Reviewed by Diane Lunsford

Terry Barnett-Martin’s Tending Fences is a body of work that places the focus on relationship boundaries. She enlisted the talents of Sue Eberhardt’s whimsical sketches throughout the book and introduces Avery Soul, her character ‘sage.’ Through a series of chapters devoted to a multitude of circumstances for the reader to consider, Barnett-Martin imparts Avery’s wisdom and knowledge of navigating life’s waters and the necessity and importance of establishing boundaries along the way.

Before getting into the meat of the matter, Barnett-Martin presents a definition of fences and how her interpretation equates to the concept of boundaries we humans establish: “A fence is defined as a 'barrier that encloses,' with synonyms that include: to protect, fortify, and secure. Fences also represent connectors that provide healthy conjunctions and most importantly, a sense of security. Built with self-respect and regard for self and others, fences are the cornerstones to healthy relationships and deep peace of mind...” Without further adieu, Barnett-Martin opens with her first chapter titled “The Roof.”

In the first chapter, the author takes the reader through Avery Soul’s dilemma of living in a home that has a roof in extreme disrepair. He’s all but run out of buckets to catch the water that leaks from every orifice of his roof. The greater concern is if he doesn’t come up with a solution, the interior of his humble abode will be ruined by the constant deluge of falling rain. Avery attempts repairs on his own to no avail. When his neighbor calls out to him he is startled and nearly falls to a catastrophic landing. It would seem his neighbor has a solution for Avery. She hands him Theo Sage’s business card-a man experienced in roof repairs and general construction. Avery gratefully accepts the offer and between the two, not only does he learn the intricacies of roof repair, but the skills needed to repair the interior damage sustained from the faulty roof. The greater lesson he has learned, however, is the concept of accepting help when it is offered. As the series of chapters unfold, Barnett-Martin guides the reader through a myriad of situations ranging from coping with opinionated people to accepting unexpected tragedy. There are lessons to be learned in each chapter, but not in a preachy fashion.

Terry Barnett-Martin’s approach is a simple and logic-based body of work. She sets up each chapter with a situation her character, Avery Soul, must not only face head-on, but he must also engage his mind and senses to navigate the challenge in order to arrive at the solution. With each problem Barnett-Martin presents, her voice is established as one that is nurturing and encouraging; willing the reader to process alternatives and possible solutions to arrive at a place where he or she is content and able to move on to the next ‘test’ in life. Barnett-Martin’s tone affirms the premise we live in a time when humans are faced with either conflict or challenge at every juncture in his or her life. Her astute training in relationship counseling and intuition resonates throughout this body of work. She provides sublime assurances to her audience with a plethora of useful tools and suggestions to use in order to navigate the complexities and demands day-to-day life is capable of presenting.

Quill says: Tending Fences is a quick read filled with guidance and tools to use in building healthy fences that can provide a lifetime of balance and inner strength.