A Longing Fulfilled is a Tree of Life: A Book Review of Amanda Cox’s “The Edge of Belonging”

If the story of my life could say one thing, I’d hope it would show the importance of venturing into the highways and the hedges to let invisible people know they’re seen and loved. To invite them in.

A breathtaking tour de force, Amanda Cox’s The Edge of Belonging tugs at the heartstrings and reminds readers that belonging goes beyond having a place to live to encompass the people who love us and, by so doing, help us to truly belong. Cox employs a split-time structure to tell Ivy and Harvey’s story, and what I love about this format is the short time lapse; the two main storylines take place in 1994 and the present day, creating a small generational gap that allows readers to follow the same characters from one period of time to another. For a debut novel, The Edge of Belonging hits the perfect notes, drawing all of the characters together in a symphony both heartwarming and bittersweet.

With this intricately nuanced cast of characters, Cox demonstrates her keen understanding of and insight into the human psyche. In the present: a broken 24-year-old young woman who does not know who she is anymore and wonders if she ever did. Twenty-four years prior: a homeless man with a sorrowful past who finally has solitude and routine until he finds a newborn baby. An older woman heartbroken from recent losses but with much love still to give. A couple aggrieved by their inability to have children. And the thread of hope and faith that binds them all together.

My favorite aspect of the characters is how they exemplify Jesus amidst their mistakes and brokenness and humanness. Pearl is a prime example of this, and she is my favorite character, despite my incorrect characterization of her when she is first introduced. As a result of this and of several scenarios in the narrative, I find The Edge of Belonging to be convicting. How often do we judge someone based on their behavior or appearance without making any effort to reach out to them or know them on a personal level? Pearl is one of the foremost characters who demonstrates openhearted compassion, which she sums up in a simple and beautiful way: “Nurturing is nurturing. It doesn’t take a blood relative. We’re all adopted into God’s family through Jesus. And I decided long ago that if it was good enough for God, it was good enough for me. So I set in my heart that I would love and mother anyone who crossed my path who needed that kind of love.

By far one of the best debut novels I’ve had the pleasure of reading, The Edge of Belonging gently speaks to many current issues, including PTSD, fostering and adoption, domestic violence, abuse, grief, and both platonic and romantic love. Most of all, it guides us toward the unconditional love of the One Who gave His life for us, and in Whose arms we will always find our place of belonging.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Buy your copy HERE

Texas Holiday Hideout Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Texas Holiday Hideout

Author: Virginia Vaughan

Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense

Release Date: October 1, 2020

When her identity’s exposed,

hiding on a lawman’s family ranch is her last hope.

After her mother is killed, Melissa Morgan’s shocked to learn she’s spent her life in witness protection. Now it’s US marshal Miles Avery’s job to keep her and her little boy safe. And with a mole in his agency, the only way to evade the killer is to hide Melissa on Miles’s family ranch…and pretend she’s his wife for the holidays.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Virginia Vaughan is a multi-published author of inspirational romantic suspense. Blessed to come from a large, southern family, her fondest memories include listening to stories recounted by family and friends around the large dinner table. She was a lover of books even from a young age, devouring gothic romance novels and stories of romance, danger, and love. She soon started writing them herself. A former investigator for the State of Mississippi, Virginia utilizes her criminal justice background with her love of writing to transform words into powerful stories of romance and danger.

More from Virginia

What if one day you discovered you were in the Witness Protection Program and didn’t know it?

This is the premise for my October book, TEXAS HOLIDAY HIDEOUT, which releases this month. My heroine, Melissa Morgan, learns she and her mother entered the program when Melissa was a child. Her mother never told her and, when Melissa witnesses her mother being murdered, she becomes the assassin’s next target. US Marshal Miles Avery steps in to protect the single mom and her son from a killer, but a leak in WITSEC leaves him with little options except to take his witnesses to his family’s ranch…and pretend she’s his wife for the holidays.

So, in celebration of TEXAS HOLIDAY HIDEOUT releasing this month, here are 10 things about the Witness Protection Security Program (or WITSEC) I learned during my research for this book.

  1. The program is voluntary. No one can be forced to enter.
  2. You can leave the program at any time—although it is not recommended.
  3. No person in the program, who follows the rules, has ever been killed.
  4. People entering WITSEC sometimes keep their same first name and/or initials so that if they mess up and start to sign their name, they have time to correct.
  5. Since WITSEC is a federal program, many states have their own programs to protect witnesses of gang or street-level crimes.
  6. If you get married while in WITSEC, you must lie to your new spouse to protect your true identity in the event the relationship doesn’t last.
  7. Protected witnesses are mostly criminals. Only about 5% are innocents despite the popular trope in movies and fiction.
  8. Local law enforcement may or may not be notified when a protected witness is relocated to their jurisdiction.
  9. Divorced, non-custodial parents have had their children hidden from them and now must agree to allow their children to enter the program.
  10. WITSEC protected witnesses are expected to eventually become self-sufficient. They do not get to live off the government for the rest of their lives.

Did any of these facts about WITSEC surprise you? I’d love to hear which ones. I had a lot of fun researching WITSEC for TEXAS HOLIDAY HIDEOUT. I hope you enjoy Miles and Melissa’s story! Look out for the next book in the series—middle brother Navy SEAL Paul Avery’s story—coming in TEXAS TARGET STANDOFF in March of 2021.

My Review

Book two in Virginia Vaughan’s Cowboy Lawmen series, Texas Holiday Hideout can easily be read as a standalone, although readers will not want to miss spending more time with the Averys in Texas Twin Abuction, which tells Lawson and his wife’s story. While I would not want my family to be comprised primarily of law enforcement agents due to the inherent danger, I do love reading about the Averys and how they band together and protect each other. Because they each serve in a different capacity, they have a range of knowledge and resources at their disposal, although this changes somewhat for Miles Avery when he is the US marshal assigned to keep Melissa Morgan and her young son safe within the witness protection program (WITSEC). Unable to trust his own agency due to the interference of a mole, Miles takes his two charges home with him under the guise of having married Melissa. What could possibly go wrong?

For some reason, I didn’t find this story quite as absorbing as the first book. I think that I was expecting there to be more about Christmas, given the title and official description, and the extent of the incidents occurring in the narrative became a bit numbing after a while. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Texas Holiday Hideout, because I did. I learned quite a bit about WITSEC, including that the majority of people in it are criminals and that no one who has followed the rules has ever been killed. I love the Avery family and how compassionate and openhearted they are, and Silver Star Ranch is idyllic. Vaughan skillfully demonstrates the emotions and internal conflicts of her characters, particularly noting how lying is part of witness protection and the implications this can have. Subsequently, trust is also a substantial issue. This scenario provides a unique opportunity for interweaving the faith element, which ultimately points to God’s sovereignty and to the precious truth of Romans 8:28 when Melissa proclaims, “If I’ve learned anything through this entire ordeal, it’s that, even though I couldn’t see God’s plan, He was working for me all along.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Through the Fire Blogs, October 8

Genesis 5020, October 8

Hallie Reads, October 8

Artistic Nobody, October 8 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Through the Lens of Scripture, October 9

Texas Book-aholic, October 9

reviewingbooksplusmore, October 9

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 10

deb’s Book Review, October 10

The Cafe Scholar, October 10

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, October 11

KarenSueHadley, October 11

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, October 11

Older & Smarter?, October 12

Inklings and notions, October 12

Simple Harvest Reads, October 12 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

She Lives To Read, October 13

Hebrews 12 Endurance, October 13

For Him and My Family, October 13

Betti Mace, October 14

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, October 14

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 14

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 15

lakesidelivingsite, October 15

Lighthouse Academy, October 15

To Everything There Is A Season, October 15

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 16

Blogging With Carol, October 16

Book Love, October 16 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Tell Tale Book Reviews, October 17

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, October 17

Batya’s Bits, October 17

Emily Yager, October 18

Labor Not in Vain, October 18

HookMeInABook, October 18

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 19

Mary Hake, October 19

Daysong Reflections, October 19

For the Love of Literature, October 20

Bigreadersite, October 20

EmpowerMoms, October 20

Blossoms and Blessings, October 21

Splashes of Joy, October 21

Pause for Tales, October 21

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Virginia is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of Texas Holiday Hideout!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/101f3/texas-holiday-hideout-celebration-tour-giveaway

Light in the Mountain Sky Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Author

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Book: Light in the Mountain Sky

Author: Misty M. Beller

Genre: Christian Historical Romance

Release Date: September 29 , 2020

This epic journey may seal her fate forever.

Determined to prove her worth, Meksem fiercely fought to earn her place among the warriors in her Nez Perce camp. When her half-sister is captured by an enemy tribe, she refuses to trust the rescue to anyone else. But her new friends insist on joining her mission, and she battles between relief and frustration at their presence. Especially the white man who peers at her as if he can see through the face of the warrior she struggles so hard to maintain.

Spaniard Adam Vargas thrives on adventure wherever his travels take him. He’s fallen in love with this Rocky Mountain wilderness, as well as the spotted horses the Nez Perce tribe raise. His fascination with this Indian maiden-turned-warrior catches him off guard though, including the way she seems to be fighting for more than her sister’s safe return.

The journey proves more perilous than any of the group expects, and the secret Meksem hides becomes impossible to conceal. If they live through this mission, the life they knew will never be the same again.

From a USA Today bestselling author comes another epic journey through breathless landscapes and intense adventure.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Misty M. Beller is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love.

She was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and children now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

More from Misty

Early Nez Perce Business Women

As I’ve been researching for my current Call of the Rockies series, I’ve had the pleasure of diving deep into the culture of the Nez Perce tribe. I found it interesting that one of the primary food sources of The People (as they called themselves) was camas roots.

But what really drew my notice was how the women would cultivate entire fields of camas root, store what they needed for their family through the winter, then use the extras for bartering. Some savvy women would become quite wealthy from their business dealings!

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The bulbs of the camas plant are full of calories and nutrients, and each fall, Nez Perce families would travel to their particular camas meadow (a section of land whose camas rights had probably been passed down from generation to generation within their family). Many of these meadows were located near present-day Weippe, Moscow or Grangeville, where the onion-shaped bulbs grew thickly.

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Women used pointed wooden tools to harvest the bulbs, and could often gather over 50 pounds a day, satisfying their full winter’s supply within just a few days.

Native American peoples who ate camas include the Nez Perce (Nimíipuu), Cree, Coast Salish, Kalapuya, and Blackfoot, and Yakama, among many others. Not all of these people groups harvested camas themselves. Instead, many relied on trade in order to procure it. Trade networks were established all the way from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean, and a shrewd businesswoman who tended her camas meadows well could provide everything her family needed and more!

My Review

Once again, Misty Beller pens a heartwarming historical romance novel, Light in the Mountain Sky, book 3 in her Call of the Rockies series. While it can stand alone, I would highly recommend reading these books in order; doing so will provide background information about and connections between the characters. This third book takes place in 1831, in future Idaho territory, and it highlights the conflict and warring amongst the Native American tribes. In this story, some of the Blackfoot have stolen several women and a child, among them a young woman named Telipe, whose sister Meksem is determined to rescue her.

Often it seems difficult to believe that an author can write an entire story about a desolate wilderness trip and still make it interesting enough to keep the reader engaged, yet Beller always accomplishes this with aplomb. There are enough action scenes to increase a reader’s heart rate, but they are not overdone and seem plausible given the circumstances. Tesoro stole my heart from the start! Descriptions of the Rocky Mountains, through which the group in this story travel in their quest, demonstrate its natural beauty while also warning of its pitfalls. Given that the setting is during winter, these hazards with the weather will continue throughout the narrative, and I now have a deeper respect for those taught to read the land.

Unsurprisingly, the best part of Light in the Mountain Sky is the characters, who are familiar from the previous book in the series. Primarily focusing on Meksem, a Nez Perce and formerly Salish woman who will not rest until she brings back her sister, safe and sound, this novel is a fascinating character study. In an effort to insulate herself against the pain of relationships and lost loved ones, Meksem has trained herself to become a warrior and has disavowed romance, but she begins questioning that decision around Adam Vargas. I think that Adam is my favorite character, largely due to his special way with animals but also because he is very intuitive when it comes to Meksem. “But something more was missing. A purpose she’d been created for. Maybe, if she sought hard enough, she would finally find that missing piece.” They both experience a spiritual metanoia during their journey, and while this could be very cliched and melodramatic, Beller crafts it skillfully to be both meaningful and natural. “Hope slipped into her chest. She’d heard of the white man’s Bible but hadn’t realized the book contained directions from God Himself. This way she could learn about the One she’d committed her life to.” Just as with Meksem, God yearns for us to draw close to Him, and when we do, we truly experience our heart’s desire (Psalm 27:4).

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Through the Fire Blogs, October 13

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 13

Splashes of Joy, October 13

A Baker’s Perspective, October 14

deb’s Book Review, October 14

Blessed & Bookish, October 15

Connect in Fiction, October 15

lakesidelivingsite, October 15

For the Love of Literature, October 16

Betti Mace, October 16

Texas Book-aholic, October 17

21st Century Keeper at Home, October 17

Inklings and notions, October 18

Adventures of a Travelers Wife, October 18

jeanette’s Thoughts, October 18

Older & Smarter?, October 19

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, October 19

For Him and My Family, October 20

Mary Hake, October 20

She Lives To Read, October 21

Writing from the Heart Land, October 21

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 22

Simple Harvest Reads, October 22 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)

Artistic Nobody, October 23 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Blossoms and Blessings, October 23

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 24

reviewingbooksplusmore, October 24

Bizwings Blog, October 24

Connie’s History Classroom, October 25

Book Love, October 25 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 26

Bigreadersite, October 26

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Misty is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/101f7/light-in-the-mountain-sky-celebration-tour-giveaway

Brought to Book Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Brought to Book

Author: Barbara Cornthwaite

Genre: Christian cozy mystery

Release Date: June 24, 2020

There’s nothing in Emily Post about dealing with murder.

Katrina just wanted to spend time among the books at Frank’s Bookstore. Yes, that’s an unimaginative name for a store, but Frank’s an unimaginative guy–or he was.

Now he and his murder are the reason Katrina is spending her spare time with Wilkester detective, Todd Mason. Or, that’s what she tells herself.

Why would anyone want to kill Frank Delaney? Who would do it? And is Katrina herself even safe?

Mixing faith, literary humor, sweet romance, and a cozy mystery that will keep you guessing, Barbara Cornthwaite’s first Wilkester Mystery has everything you want for a cozy read.

Begin your investigation of Brought to Book today.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Barbara Cornthwaite lives in the middle of Ireland with her husband and children. She taught college English before “retiring” to do something she loves far more; her days are now filled with homeschooling her six children, trying to keep the house tidy (a losing battle), and trying to stay warm in the damp Irish climate (also a losing battle). She is surrounded by medieval castles, picturesque flocks of sheep, and ancient stone monuments. These things are unappreciated by her children, who are more impressed by traffic jams, skyscrapers, and hot weather.

More from Barbara

Meeting of the Minds

A Wilkester Mysteries Introduction

Detective Todd Mason knew Katrina was the one the first time he met her. The woman had witnessed a murder—if not with her eyes, at least with her ears. She’d seen the man dying and called for help, afraid all the while that the killer would return for her. So much he’d been told before he went into the interrogation room.

“How’s she handling it?” he asked the officer who had arrived first at the scene and escorted her to the police station.

“Not too badly,” said Gary. “She’s in shock, of course, but she’s trying to hold it together. Katrina Peters. She’s in Room 2.”

He’d gone in then and gotten his first look at her. Late thirties or early forties. Brown hair that fell to her shoulders in loose waves. Brown eyes that were red-rimmed from crying. Hands clutching a tissue. She managed a faint smile when he walked in.

“Hello, Ms. Peters. I’m Detective Todd Mason. I need to ask you some questions, if that’s all right.”

“Miss,” she said, almost as a reflex.

“I beg your pardon?” Todd wasn’t sure he’d heard her correctly.

“It’s Miss Peters.” She said it firmly, repudiating the term Ms. even at such a stressful moment. Something made her blush then, and he saw her glance at his left hand. “Never mind,” she murmured.

She’s afraid I’ll think she’s trying to advertize her availability. It amused Todd to see the blush—if only she knew how refreshing it was to see a woman who would even be conscious of such a thing. Old fashioned, he thought. In a good way.

She answered his questions as calmly as she could, and even apologized for the tears that insisted on coming out now and then. When she alluded to Daniel in the lion’s den, he knew she really was out of the ordinary, and it took all his self-control not to offer to drive her home himself.

To join the investigation, read your copy of Brought to Book today.

My Review

In general, I don’t gravitate toward romances, and while I love a good mystery or suspense, cozies tend not to make my to-read list. So how did I end up requesting to review Barbara Cornthwaite’s Brought to Book? Through the recommendation of fellow readers who have highly praised this novel. There are so many interesting points that make this story memorable, and as such, it will appeal to a broader audience than it may have otherwise.

As book one in the Wilkester Mysteries series, Brought to Book introduces readers to Katrina Peters, an adjunct English professor at Wilkester College. Her faith in God has brought her to this current place in her journey through life, in more ways than one, and I felt an empathetic connection with her character. She is definitely multi-dimensional and dynamic, and I delighted in her triumphs and also sympathized with her losses. Battling a mid-life crisis of sorts, she wonders what God would have her do with the rest of her life, and the options that she considers are all godly and fruitful, but until true and complete surrender occurs, no decisions will be clear. Murder and other crimes increasingly affect her life and come closer to her as she finds herself running the gamut from suspect to witness to victim.

Cornthwaite’s skill at creating characters finds expression in Katrina’s self-doubt while wrestling with her ordeals and uncertainty: “How can anyone as ineffectual as I make an actual difference in anyone’s life?” This is a question that we all ask in some form or another at some point in our lives. However, the answer lies not in our ability but in the already-accomplished work of Christ on the cross and His ministry while on earth. As Todd tells Katrina, not taking chances or leaps of faith may be sins, “Especially if you think following the rules will keep bad things from happening to you.

Brought to Book offers many such spiritual truths and nuggets of wisdom, none of which feel forced, as well as multiple topics that are so common today, including the victories and the tears of foster care, serving as missionaries, marriage and divorce, second love, small town history and its secrets, and literature. This last one is my favorite because I have a great love for literature through the ages and of language in general, and I love how Cornthwaite implements so many literary techniques. I am now eager to read book two!

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, October 10

21st Century Keeper at Home, October 10

The Avid Reader, October 10

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 11

Remembrancy, October 11

For the Love of Literature, October 12

Worthy2Read, October 12

Genesis 5020, October 12

deb’s Book Review, October 13

Blogging With Carol, October 13

Robin’s Nest, October 13

Texas Book-aholic, October 14

Losing the Busyness, October 14

April Hayman, Author, October 14

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, October 15

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 15

Inklings and notions, October 16

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, October 16

Daysong Reflections, October 16

Older & Smarter?, October 17

For Him and My Family, October 17

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 18

Just Your Average reviews, October 18

Lis Loves Reading, October 18

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 19

As He Leads is Joy, October 19

Emily Yager, October 19

Sodbusterliving, October 20

Artistic Nobody, October 20 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Labor Not in Vain, October 20

She Lives To Read, October 21

Bizwings Blog, October 21

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, October 21

Godly Book Reviews, October 22

Mary Hake, October 22

Vicky Sluiter, October 22

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, October 23

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 23

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Barbara is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a paperback of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10210/brought-to-book-celebration-tour-giveaway

At Heaven’s Edge Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: At Heaven’s Edge

Author: Andrea Jo Rodgers

Genre: Christian Nonfiction

Release Date: October 1, 2015

Veteran EMT Andrea Rodgers has helped hundreds of people in their most vulnerable moments.
Some of the victims faced their mortality head-on and cried out to God for help. Many experienced fleeting but life-changing connections with their first responders. Often these crises became unexpected sources of inspiration.
Now Rodgers shares brief, real-life stories of heroic courage in the face of fear. In times of intense suffering, she has repeatedly witnessed signs of God’s quiet intervention and healing presence.

  • A man is resuscitated after Rodgers was able to repair a defibrillator–with her teeth!
  • Several bystanders help rescue a young girl who is accidentally buried alive in sand.
  • Rodgers also experienced some lighthearted moments, including the time she arrived at the scene of a crime only to find herself in the middle of a mystery dinner theater.

Experience the miracles, the life-and-death drama as you look at life from heaven’s edge.

Featured on the Catholic Corner Television Show, Telecare TV, Domestic Church Media, and Shalom World.

Click HERE to get your copy! 

About the Author

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Andrea Jo Rodgers is the author of award-winning Christian middle grade fiction as well as inspirational adult nonfiction novels. She holds a clinical doctorate in physical therapy and specializes in women’s health, orthopedics, and lymphedema. She has served her community as a volunteer emergency medical technician for over thirty years, responding to more than 8,200 first aid and fire calls. She lives on the east coast with her husband, two children, and their two fur babies.

 

More from Andrea

I’ve always loved writing. In fact, I wrote my first “book” when I was in the first grade. It was about how my mother and brother rescued an injured baby duckling from our town’s lake, so I suppose writing about rescues has been in my blood from a young age.

Several years back, my son and I were in a terrifying elevator accident that event made me step back and take a close look at my life. I thought about my relationships with God, my family, and my friends. I also thought about my goals and my dreams. The accident inspired me to start writing.

I decided to write about my experiences as a volunteer with my town’s first aid squad. I hoped that people might be inspired or comforted by my stories. When I was finished the first draft, I thought that it needed something to pull it all together. That’s when I decided to explain the source of my inspiration for writing the book by including my own 911 call.

When I first joined the first aid squad, I was seventeen and was just starting my senior year of high school. I’ve been a volunteer EMT ever since. Over the years, I have served in many offices, including Captain and President. Currently, I’m the Lieutenant, a trustee, and treasurer of our foundation.

During my time with the squad, I have been fortunate to witness some utterly amazing things. At Heaven’s Edge: True Stories of Faith and Rescue describes inspirational and memorable first aid calls from my early years with the rescue squad, from my school years when I spent summers working as a beach cop through my first years as a physical therapist. Some of the stories in the book are what I would consider to be miracles, some are sad, but faith-filled, and a few humorous. I invite you to join me in experiencing what it is like to serve as a first responder.

My Review

Prior to reading this book, I was not familiar with volunteer first aid squads, at least not by that title. I find it fascinating that some emergency service workers are volunteers and go through training but perhaps not formal schooling. In all areas of the population, but especially in more rural and undeveloped areas, these squads are vital in initiating life-saving measures until they can get the patient to the hospital. Many times, lives are saved thanks to the early efforts of EMTs.

An interesting and poignant collection, At Heaven’s Edge by Andrea Jo Rodgers is a collection of true stories by the author, pointing toward divine intervention and the sacred beauty of life. Each case involves the author; Rodgers has served as a volunteer EMT for over 30 years, and she holds a clinical doctorate of physical therapy, the former accomplishment being the basis for this book. As a result, readers are treated to firsthand accounts as well as the author’s thoughts in the moments of a rescue and those of the patient(s) involved in the case. Not only that, but in most cases, the ultimate outcome for the patient is shared, which naturally enhances the reading experience and whets one’s interest.

Each chapter is titled and opens with an epigraph in the form of a Bible verse. These are all steadfast reminders of who God is and of who we are in Him; some of the pairings with the chapters, though, did seem slightly haphazard and not entirely fitting to the chapter’s context. Included also in each story is the dispatcher’s message to all of the volunteers, telling them where to go and what type of emergency was occurring. These details augment the authenticity of At Heaven’s Edge, but nonetheless, I am glad that Rodgers also tells some of the sadder stories that did not have the desired happy ending, all while remaining inspirational and always pointing to the Lord as the ultimate Healer. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book for those with an aversion to the medical field, this is a clean read in the traditional sense and also in the sense that there are no graphic details. Readers who enjoy Chicken Soup for the Soul and have an interest in either medicine or EMTs will doubtless be inspired by these stories of faith, hope, and resilience in the face of medical emergencies.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 3

Texas Book-aholic, October 4

For Him and My Family, October 5

Stories By Gina, October 6 (Author Interview)

deb’s Book Review, October 6

Inklings and notions, October 7

Sodbusterliving, October 8

For the Love of Literature, October 9

Simple Harvest Reads, October 10 (Author Interview)

Jeanette’s Thoughts, October 10

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 11

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 12

Beauty in the Binding, October 13 (Author Interview)

Artistic Nobody, October 13 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, October 14

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 15

Spoken from the Heart, October 16

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Andrea is giving away the grand prize package of signed copies of At Heaven’s Edge: True Stories of Faith and Rescue and On Heaven’s Doorstep: God’s Help in Times of Crisis-True Stories from a First Responder as well as a $25 Amazon gift card!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10198/at-heaven-s-edge-celebration-tour-giveaway

Forsaken Island Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Forsaken Island

Author: Sharon Hinck

Genre: Christian Romantic Epic Fantasy

Release Date: September 15, 2020

On an uncharted world, happiness is effortless and constant … but can true joy exist without sacrifice?

The people of Meriel have long believed their island world floats alone in the vast ocean universe, so they are astonished when another island drifts into view. With resources becoming scarce, Carya and Brantley quickly volunteer to search the new land for supplies.

After navigating a barrier of menacing trees, the pair encounter a culture of perpetually happy people who readily share their talents and their possessions. But all is not what it seems. At the core of the island is a horror that threatens everyone, including Brantley and Carya.

Freeing the villagers of the bondage they’ve chosen may cost Carya and Brantley more than they could have imagined. Even if the two succeed, they’ll have to find a way to return to Meriel quickly … or be cut off from their home forever.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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Award-winning author of The Sword of Lyric series, Sharon Hinck writes “stories for the hero in all of us” about women on extraordinary adventures of faith. Her novels are praised for their authentic characters, strong spiritual themes, and emotional resonance. For this series, she drew on her experience as a ballet teacher, dancer, and choreographer.

More from Sharon

Inspiration Behind Forsaken Island

In the first book of The Dancing Realms series, we learn about a floating island world guided by the work of dancers. The assumption of everyone on Meriel is that their island IS the world—the only existing place on a vast empty ocean.

But in this second book, currents have pushed a new island into view. Our intrepid dancer Carya, and her stenella-riding friend Brantley, set off to explore, hoping to find resources for their world of Meriel.

The story was influenced by some of my favorite classics in the adventure/exploration genre. Jack London (particularly The Sea Wolf), or Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. Or anything by Jules Verne or Robert Louis Stevenson. As the characters explore a new world, we experience both wonder and danger with them. I love that sort of story, so I set my two beloved characters of on an adventure to see what they would discover.

But of course, the book is also about the developing relationship between Carya and Brantley, and the conflicts they confront. And once again, an undercurrent (no pun intended) of spiritual themes is at play. The island holds dark secrets, and time is running out for the opportunity to find their way home.

I love the verse from Psalm 94:14. “For the LORD will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance.” Even on a “Forsaken Island” – the Maker of His people finds a way to reach out and bring hope.

My Review

Forgotten, forgetting, forsaking.

With characteristic prowess, Sharon Hinck brings readers another intriguing fantasy with Forsaken Island, book two of The Dancing Realms series. Carya and Brantley’s story continues where Hidden Current left off, a sighting of another island in the previously-considered uninhabited ocean sparking hope for finding supplies to replace Meriel’s dwindling reserves. The duo arrives to a seemingly-impenetrable wall of tree branches, and once they enter this strange new world, everything becomes increasingly off-kilter. Paradise becomes a nightmare as the island’s secrets are revealed and the truth behind the façade of the inhabitants’ happiness comes to light. All is not as it appears…

Faced with the threat of the island’s core and the possibility of never being able to navigate back to Meriel, Carya and Brantley work to liberate the islanders from the prison they’ve created for themselves. Their fight becomes a parallel to humanity’s ongoing battle against sinfulness, and Carya learns to trust the Maker more while contending against her own wounds. Including the internal battle of allowing herself to love someone after being indoctrinated for years regarding her life as one set apart from society. Forsaken Island may fall into the fantasy genre, but it contains many truths for the soul. Surrender to the One who made the heavens and the earth and who watches over and guards those who are His is the only way to true freedom and joy.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Through the Fire Blogs, September 30

Fiction Aficionado, September 30

Wothy2Read, October 1

Texas Book-aholic, October 2

deb’s Book Review, October 2

Inklings and notions, October 3

For Him and My Family, October 4

April Hayman, Author, October 4

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, October 5

Daughter of Increase, October 5

For the Love of Literature, October 6

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 6

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 7

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, October 8

Blogging With Carol, October 8

Adventures of a Travelers Wife, October 9

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 9

Artistic Nobody, October 10 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Simple Harvest Reads, October 10 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 11

Little Homeschool on the Prairie, October 12

Emily Yager, October 12

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, October 13

Pause for Tales, October 13

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Sharon is giving away the grand prize package of a Forsaken Island book bag, a personalized and autographed hard cover copy of Hidden Current, book marks, and some decorative goodies on a plant-life theme!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10195/forsaken-island-celebration-tour-giveaway

Phoebe’s Secret Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: Phoebe’s Secret

Author: Sydney Tooman Betts

Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Mystery

Release Date: June 20, 2020

In April of 1843, Phoebe’s family hears about a murder while they are traveling to their new home in the Shenandoah Valley. They arrive to learn the victim attended the church her father has agreed to pastor and the crime took place on a leading church member’s plantation.

Eager to make new friends, Phoebe forms a unique relationship that propels her into the middle of the mystery, and she begins to question several acquaintances’ motives. Will she uncover their secrets before the plantation owner’s charming son discovers hers?

Click HERE to get your copy today!

About the Author

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Sydney Tooman Betts resides with her husband near the extensive cavern system that inspired the setting for several chapters in her series The People of the Book.

While single, Ms. Betts (B.S. Bible/Missiology, M.Ed) took part in a variety of cross-cultural adventures in North and Central America. After marrying, she and her husband lived in Europe and the Middle East where he served in various mission-support capacities. Her teaching experiences span preschool to guest lecturing at the graduate level.

Before penning her first novel, A River too Deep, she ghost-wrote several stories for an adult literacy program.

More from Sydney

Proverbs 25:11 says, “Words spoken fitly are like apples of gold in settings of silver.” I was not a great reader as a child, but I loved stories. We remember stories, whether told through movies, good sermon illustrations, parables, or simple novels.

Think of something you’ve read in the Bible. Did an instructional verse, a narrative, or a parable leap to mind? Stories have power because we can relate to them. We see ourselves in the shoes of the main character and ask what we might do in the situation. Mysteries, a new genre for me to write, are a little different. You are in the puzzle with the main character, working out the solution as you both come across the clues. I hope you will enjoy joining Phoebe in her first mystery as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Recipe:

Sally Lunn Bread

1 cup water
1 cup milk
¼ pound unsalted butter
8 cups of high-gluten or bread flour
⅔ cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt
¼ cup yeast
6 eggs

In a saucepan, combine water, milk and butter. Heat until the butter is very soft.

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients with half the flour. Add the warm liquid, and mix well to form a smooth batter.

Add 3 eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Add another cup of the flour, and mix well. Add the second 3 eggs, one at a time. Add the remaining flour, and mix until the flour has been incorporated and the batter has formed a smooth ball. The dough should be less firm than bread and more firm than a batter.

Put the dough in a clear bowl with a little oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Proof until double in volume. Divide the dough between two bund pans or two loaf pans, or one of each. Proof again until risen and doubled in volume. Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes. Makes 20 servings.

My Review

“Changed hearts change habits.”

Sydney Tooman Betts initiates her Phoebe’s Mysteries series with Phoebe’s Secret, a historical fiction novel that revolves around relationships and faith as much as it does mystery. Set in the Shenandoah Valley in 1843, the story opens as 17-year-old Phoebe and her family arrive at their new home, where a murder has just occurred. Due to her own mother’s illness, Phoebe’s mother leaves to take care of her for a few weeks, leaving the running of the household to Phoebe. This burst of action in the beginning somewhat belies the majority of the narrative, in my opinion. Aside from a few brief scenes, the rest of the story follows the pattern of antebellum historical fiction, without the intrigue of suspense. I did enjoy it, but I think I would have appreciated it even more had I not been anticipating a frightening mystery element as the core of this tale. This is not to say that the institution of slavery, present in this novel that takes place in the South, is not a frightful and abhorrent practice.

What truly characterizes Phoebe’s Secret is the interpersonal relationships as they relate to the mystery and to the everyday lives of the characters. As readers will discover, there are actually two mysteries, and both also involve relationships between people. Being the newcomers and the pastor’s family, Phoebe and her younger brother Augie are uniquely positioned to find out what may be going on as more mysteries unfold. I was overwhelmed by the amount of characters and could not keep the subsidiary ones straight, nor could I remember who was in which family; this may well have been a personal issue that might not affect other readers, but speaking personally, I would really have benefited from having a character list that detailed who was in each family.

To return to the major social issue of the time period, Betts does not shy away from addressing slavery, and this part of the book touched my heart the most. An otherwise mostly secondary character, this is where Reverend Ernest Farrell, Phoebe’s father, shines, gently but firmly holding to his anti-slavery views while serving as pastor to a town of slave owners. His line of reasoning comes straight from the Bible and informs our twenty-first century perspective on how to live for the Lord: “It’s all about a change of heart—being born from above, born into His kingdom—and anyone born of God takes joy in pleasing Him. He is a kind and loving father and king. Therein lies the trouble. Most people would rather rule their own kingdom, circling us right back to those men in the book of Judges.” Considering these contentious times we live in, these are words to take to heart as we examine our own hearts. Are we living as monarchs of our own kingdoms, or as servants of the only eternal Kingdom?

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, September 29

deb’s Book Review, September 30

Inklings and notions, October 1

For the Love of Literature, October 2

Blogging With Carol, October 2

For Him and My Family, October 3

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, October 4

Mary Hake, October 4

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 5

Artistic Nobody, October 6 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Pause for Tales, October 6

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 7

Connie’s History Classroom, October 8

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, October 8

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 9

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 9

Splashes of Joy, October 10

Lighthouse Academy Blog, October 10 (Guest Review from Marilyn Ridgway)

Betti Mace, October 11

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, October 11

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, October 12

Maureen’s Musings, October 12

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Sydney is giving away the grand prize package of $25 Amazon gift card and a softback copy of Phoebe’s Secret!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/10194/phoebe-s-secret-celebration-tour-giveaway

King of Tennessee Review and GIVEAWAY!

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About the Book

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Book: King of Tennessee

Author: David Alan Shorts

Genre: YA/Teen Fiction

Release Date: July, 2020

It was an ordinary day in Tabersville, Tennessee, until nearly everyone in town disappeared. Middle-school trouble maker, Stewart Rainquest, soon turns this nightmare into a dream come true as he sets about living like a king in his small southern town. Things take a turn for the worse as members of the biker gang Stewart idolizes commit murder before his eyes. While doing his best to keep his distance from the killers, Stewart learns how to drive a car and meets Gina, a high school student battling cancer. Their friendship leads them through wild adventures, but only time will tell if Stewart will learn the truth about what happened to everyone in his town.

Click HERE to get your copy!

About the Author

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David Alan Shorts has a passion to teach kids things which matter for a lifetime, rather than just the next test or Sunday School lesson. He has written many books, short stories, and magazine articles, along with musicals, plays, and songs. His three children keep him busy and constantly evaluating life through the eyes of youth. He has taught music to thousands of kids in Northern California for more than twenty years. When he’s not doing what matters most, he enjoys flying model airplanes and working out.

More from David

My son and I had just finished watching a Mad Max movie when a conversation began about post-apocalyptic movies and what the Bible has to say. The Apocalypse is real and is described in some detail in the Bible. So, why aren’t all apocalyptic stories told from a Christian world view? That was when I began creating King of Tennessee as an attempt to give depth in today’s contemporary post-apocalyptic stories. It combines action and adventure while still keeping the life-changing message of God’s salvation in the novel.

I would like this to be the book the makes “apocalyptic” a Christian word again. This can be the book that gives some kids a second thought about God, when they might have dismissed Him as meaningless otherwise.

My Review

David Alan Shorts’ King of Tennessee is a young adult novel that seeks to impart wisdom and life lessons through a strange occurrence and its aftermath in the life of a 12-year-old boy named Stewart Rainquest. Stewart, a self-proclaimed punk, is a modern-day Tom Sawyer with a mile-long rap sheet for petty offenses, and he lives with his Grams until one fateful day when suddenly almost everyone in his podunk town of Tabersville, Tennessee vanishes. For a while it’s a dream come true, but it quickly morphs into a nightmare when a biker gang terrorizes what remains of the town, including Stewart’s new friend, Gina, a teenage girl battling cancer. For all of Stewart’s delinquent behavior, he does begin to see himself in a new light when he is more or less alone in the world, and later through Gina.

Confronted with mortality for the first time, Stewart has to look within himself and make decisions that will impact his future now and for eternity. For much of the story, Stewart is a rather unlikeable character, and intentionally so. He represents the sinful part in all of us that rebels and wants us to put ourselves first at the expense of others. His friendship with Gina, however, sparks a consuming flame within him to seek out meaning beyond his own desires. The book of Revelation opens his eyes to the spiritual battle raging around us and illuminates how vital our faith and our salvation in Jesus truly are.  A survival tale that extends beyond the physical realm, King of Tennessee raises questions that teens and adults alike need to consider. At the end of the day, who and what are we living for, and are we prepared to spend eternity according to that decision? “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥

Blog Stops

For the Love of Literature, September 28

deb’s Book Review, September 28

For Him and My Family, September 29

Girls in White Dresses, September 30

Library Lady’s Kid Lit, October 1

Through the fire blogs, October 2

Texas Book-aholic, October 3

Blogging With Carol, October 3

A Reader’s Brain, October 4

Inklings and notions, October 5

Locks, Hooks and Books, October 6

Artistic Nobody, October 7 (Guest Review from Joni Truex)

Ashley’s Bookshelf, October 8

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, October 9

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 10

Sara Jane Jacobs, October 11

Nancy E Wood, October 11

Giveaway

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To celebrate his tour, David is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and signed copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

https://promosimple.com/ps/1018c/king-of-tennessee-celebration-tour-giveaway

Mind Over Matter: A Book Review of Rachelle Dekker’s “Nine”

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“This time she would break the rules. Even the ones she’d set for herself.”

By turns dark and intriguing, Nine by Rachelle Dekker explores what makes us human and how much choice, if any, we have in what we become. Through a trio of main characters, Dekker presents a narrative that is as timely as it is terrifying, given the current direction of science and military weaponry. Lucy, a young amnesiac, bursts into Zoe Johnson’s carefully-constructed and reclusive life, and the metaphorical house of cards comes crashing down. Part one contains third-person narration, but in part two some of the chapters are narrated in the first person by Lucy, a shift that adds depth and insight. Each girl’s backstory is revealed slowly as the story progresses, and their similarities are essential to the plot. Both have been brainwashed, in a manner of speaking, and their trauma draws them together: Lucy from scientific studies and Zoe from her mother’s cult. Agent Tom Seeley seemingly walks the fine line of double agent, but in this story trust is a quality that gets you killed.

While there is a discernible interplay between goodness and darkness (evil), manifested through a myriad of topics, I am conflicted as to whether I would classify this as a Christian novel. It is marketed as such, and while I can extrapolate a general Christian message from the overall content, I still do not feel quite comfortable labeling it as such. I personally don’t think that if a non-Christian were to pick up this book and read it, they would consider it a Christian work without being told so. There is no profanity, just allusions to people cursing, and none of the characters demonstrate any kind of faith in God that I could see. The bits and pieces of the former cult are the only religion demonstrated in the narrative, and naturally Zoe has a bitter and negative view of such, which was reinforced after leaving the cult. I think that with the storyline, Dekker could have really turned this into a fantastic Christian inspirational novel by the last third of the book, and I’m disappointed that it didn’t happen.

Delving into the shadowy realms of military experimentation, neuroscience, and ethics, Nine is not for the faint of heart. There are scenes of and descriptions of torture that I could definitely have done without; while I am not naïve enough to believe that such things don’t happen, a sentence or allusion to the events without details would suffice, for me at least. The topic of abuse in the story is handled better in this regard, and I think that the questions Dekker raises about ethics are important and need to be considered, especially as we are rapidly entering into a new era of digital dependency and artificial intelligence. As we move forward, we, like the characters in Nine, have to determine who we are and wherein our identity lies. Otherwise, we open ourselves up to being controlled by whomever our community—be it small or large—says we should. From a Christian perspective, we have two choices: follow Jesus or follow Satan: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥

The Still Hunt: A Book Review of Jane Kirkpatrick’s “Something Worth Doing”

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“To move forward, she’d have to believe that something was worth doing no matter how it turned out.”

Compelling and thought-provoking, Jane Kirkpatrick’s Something Worth Doing presents a fictional but reality-based depiction of suffragist Abigail Scott Duniway. In all honesty, this is the first that I recall ever hearing about her, despite her decades of work toward women’s enfranchisement. Kirkpatrick mentions in her author notes that she chose to focus more on Abigail’s personal life, and this is what gives the book its distinctive tone, in my opinion. It actually took me much longer than usual to read, and I think that the complexities of Abigail’s character and the extraordinary details of her life’s journey are the reason. Even though she is clearly modeled after a famous historical figure, I have to credit Kirkpatrick with truly tapping into Abigail’s personality and lifting her from the pages of history—faults, assets, and all.

In a larger context, Something Worth Doing applies to struggles beyond that of women’s suffrage and women’s rights. Whereas most historical fiction includes a happily-ever-after preceded by a standard plot structure, this one diverges. The solemn tone throughout reflects the hardships of life, and particularly women’s lives, in the nineteenth-century, highlighting their inability to own property, influence laws through voting, and have careers outside the home and their subsequent status as dependent on the men in their lives. Many of the controversies in the novel remain prevalent today in some form, emphasizing how progressive Abigail and her compatriots really were. In my opinion, part of the reason that she was able to retain her reputation in the midst of her outspoken platform was in her approach: “My way is a ‘still hunt.’ Quiet coercion of men in power and men in general to be less frightened by women.” I was intrigued by her speculation about how equality between men and women would have been the result had Columbus landed on the West Coast, rather than the East, and her persistence through so many setbacks and even outright failures is quite remarkable.

Abigail’s story as told by Kirkpatrick invites reflection and contemplation, aided by engaging chapter titles and a set of discussion questions at the end of the book. While I admire Abigail’s tenacity and dedication to the cause, I also feel a great deal of sadness for her because she sacrificed tenderness and stronger relationships with her family on behalf of her suffrage work, a forfeit that she did choose willingly. She acknowledges as much by noting that “The married women and mothers working in the cause bore an extra burden to make sure their own daughters weren’t set aside for the larger effort. Advocacy had its price, even with occasional privileges.” Such is the case with any passion or cause that we take up today as much as it was a century ago, and thus this story resonates so profoundly. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Ben’s supportive presence so much, reminding us all that “Things didn’t always turn out well, as Ben proposed, but some things were worth doing, regardless.”

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.

My rating: 5 stars ♥♥♥♥♥