Julia's Chocolates - Cathy Lamb The book opens as Julia leaves her wedding dress hanging on a tree. "I left my wedding dress hanging on a tree somewhere in North Dakota." She flees to her Aunt Lydia's farm in Golden, which was the only place of escape for her during summers of her childhood fraught with abuse from the hands of her mother and her mother's boyfriends.The book quickly portrays 'Psychic Night' in which a group of women come together to find their strength..while sitting around with no shirt on to get in touch with their boobs, etc. This was just a little over the top for me, and I had a difficult time with what I initially construed as just plain weird. However, by continuing to read the book, I believe this was the author's intent, to take us over the top in order to realize the power women have inside.The characters in this book were both endearing and infuriating. Endearing with their love and kindness; infuriating because of their seeming lack of strength and self image...but it all came together in the end! Katie-has four children and is married to JD who both physically and emotionally abuses her.Lara-who is the kind minister's wife but puts on a front as the person she believes the congregation and her husband want her to be while totally burying her artistic side.Carolyn-who is a psychic with a gift of being able to see into the future but also lives a life of poverty trying to escape the trappings of money.Aunt Lydia-whose farm is a delight with her 'ladies' the chickens, her pig Melissa Lynn along with the piglets, her outbuildings and barns always being painted a different loud color, and her seeming hatred of men; "Men are all pricks."Then we have Julia; a broken mess of a woman whose memories of abuse are so very hard to read about but who manages to find her life in the little town of Golden; her paper route, her job at the library which leads her to the two children, Shawn and Carrie Lynn, whose abuse at the hands of their mother seems to mirror her own abuse, her chocolates which she builds into a successful business, and she eventually finds the strength to love again. Her kind heart and giving nature were what endeared me to her even though the 'dreaded disease' that she kept railing about frankly got a little old but once again I believe this was the author's intent-to take us 'over the top' of normal to bring us a message about the strength of women to survive and prosper after abuse. And this book was a story of abuse not only of women but also of children which was just heartbreaking.My thoughts are that any woman who is dealing with abuse may be helped by reading this book and may be able to relate enough to just one of the characters to be able to do something about their own situation; to find strength. I believe this book carries a powerful message about the strength of women who overcome terrible situations to prosper. A message that should be shared. "Life is beautiful...do your part, make it happen!"