EAST BURKE — Even in the fictional village of Collinsville, Vt., the setting of Lauren “Joe” Welch’s fourth novel, Conciliator, tensions run high during the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency.

When the tenant-side garage of Nate Blanchard’s duplex is torched early on a Sunday morning in May, he wonders if the destructive act could be either politically or racially motivated. Is it connected with his months-long war of words on Facebook with his father’s far-right-leaning parishioners at the Collinsville Evangelical Church of Christ, or the fact that he’d recently rented his apartment to an attractive Black divorcee and her two precocious, highly musically-talented children? Little does Nate suspect that the fire is but a prelude to even more tumultuous events which lie ahead, events that will dramatically reshape his life by year’s end.

Conciliator explores diverse themes, from crime to theology, from race relations to Trump-era politics, and from family dynamics and fatherhood to the healing power of music. Perhaps it is best described as an inspiring love story.

One reviewer at Onlinebookclub.org described it as “… an exciting read …” and went on to write, “I love this book and its storyline because it gives me hope … The author develops the characters well. They are endearing and distinctive … Another reason I enjoyed reading [it] was the beautiful way it was written …”

A second reviewer at Onlinebookclub.org wrote, “Exploring the themes of love, family, belief, racial prejudice, and crime, this book is suspenseful and engaging. I appreciate the author’s calm way of narrating events and commend him for creating an entertaining and enlightening story with a strong plot … it has rich descriptions of events and characters, which make it realistic … Lovers of crime fiction, which includes family drama, will be glad to read it.”

Available in both paperback and Kindle eBook format, Conciliator is expected to be available in paperback locally by Jan. 9, 2021, at Green Mountain Books and Prints in Lyndonville; Cafe Lotti in East Burke; and at Little Village Toy and Bookstore in Littleton, N.H.

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