Friday, January 31, 2014

In Broken Places by Michele Phoenix

This is a novel that draws you in and invites you to become emotionally involved.

Shelby, in her mid-thirties, is a survivor. She and her brother survived their violent father and meek mother. Shelby's crafted a life for herself – a safe life. But her well crafted life begins to crumble when she find out she has been asked to be the guardian of a four year old girl. That crumbling of her safe life is the beginning of the healing she has needed, yet run away from, for too long.

The major theme that drew me into this novel deals with how much of an influence our childhood is on who we are as adults. Shelby is terrified that she will become violent like her father. She fears it is in her genes.

The author deftly combines the current life of Shelby with short vignettes of her childhood. We see how her current actions have grown out of childhood experiences.

As a reader, that really made me think about my own adult life, my childhood experiences, and how the two are related. In another book I read recently the author said our brains are generally hard wired by the age of six. The experiences we have in early childhood are very formative. As we see the adult Shelby act in response to childhood experiences, we have to ponder our own lives and actions.

Right along with the theme of childhood influence on adulthood is the theme of healing. How do we heal those broken places? God does the healing, of course, but how do we make ourselves available for Him to do it? What are the areas where we have not allowed those scars to be healed? Essential to that healing is forgiveness, another element of this novel.

This novel is very well written. It is so well written I was immediately drawn into the story. I was a captive reader from beginning to end. But I had to stop several times and think about what I had just read. This is a thought provoking novel as well as a captivating one. It is one I'll be thinking about for some time.

There is a discussion guide at the end of the book. This would make an excellent book for a reading group. There is a great deal of thoughtful material in it.

You can find out more about the novel, including a trailer, photos and an interview with the author at

Michele Phoenix is a graduate of Wheaton College and spent twenty years teaching at Black Forest Academy, a school in Germany for missionaries' children. Michele fought two kinds of cancer in 2008. Changing the direction of her life, she came back to the States to launch a new ministry for and about missionary kids. She lives in Illinois, serving with Global Outreach Mission as a missionary children's advocate. Her first novel was Tangled Ashes, released in 2012.

Tyndale House Publishers, 384 pages.

I received a complimentary galley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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