This was a very hard book for me to read. It got off to a very slow start and the subject matter is very difficult. The story line contains a child abduction, spousal abuse, and other family tragedies. For me, it was really tough going, and I don't even have any children.
This kind of fiction might be called “reality” fiction. It is not light and fun and people don't always live happily ever after. It is also a novel that weighs heavy on the thinking of people and their growth. While there is some action, I though it was actually played down. Very meaningful action near the end of the book happens “off screen,” so to speak. We only hear of it second hand when I would have thought we'd be right in the center of the event. It was not the kind of book that kept me on the edge of my seat, nor one that compelled me to turn pages.
There were two aspects of the character development that bothered me. One was Sarah, the twelve year old girl who is abducted. We get to read some of what she writes while she is being held and used as a sex slave. What she wrote, indicating her mental attitude, just seemed unrealistic for a girl her age. The impression I got was that she was basically psychologically healthy during (and after) her abduction. That did not seem right to me. I would have been very traumatized in her situation and I think she should have been too.
The other character that troubled me was Amanda. She's the mother chaperon who wasn't hoovering over her own daughter and Sarah when Sarah was tricked into being abducted. She's a counselor helping women identify and survive spousal abuse. Yet she refuses to accept that her own husband is abusing her. She exhibits all the characteristic excuses she must have heard from others hundreds of times and tried to correct. It just seemed very ironic to me.
I did appreciate the support that was seen by church and friends when tragedy struck. I appreciated the strength that faith ultimately provided. And I liked the idea of the feather. Corsets used to be made of whale bone and wouldn't bend. Women suffered. Then a fellow had the idea of using feather bone. It bends and so could the women. That has great significance in the survival theme of the novel.
If you like a novel with lots of description and ruminating by the main character, you'll like this one. If you like novels where the heroine suffers tragedy one hopes to never encounter and ultimately manages to rise out of it, you'll like this novel. If you like a book that will draw out emotions of guilt and grief, you'll like this novel.
If you've lost a child in a tragic way, I'd skip this novel. I think it would be too hard to read without reliving all the pain and heartache again. Cantrell does say in a Note From the Author that she wrote this book for every person who has ever felt alone, unloved, unsafe, or unvalued. “It is written to remind us all that we are loved, we have worth, and we are never alone.” I didn't find that message loud and clear but others might.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Julie Cantrell is New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her Into the Free won the 2013 Christy Award Book of the Year. Her second novel, When Mountains Move, won the 2014 Carol Award for Historical Fiction. You can find out more at http://www.juliecantrell.com/.
Thomas Nelson, 384 pages.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.