Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Side by Side by Jana Kelley

This is a powerful novel. It is based on actual events so the reader gets a great understanding of what is really happening in Africa among Muslims.

Kelley spent thirteen years in North Africa and the Middle East. She wanted to share her experiences of living among and loving Muslim people. She wanted to craft a story that would grab the hearts and hands of women in both worlds. The result is a very good novel.

There were several aspects of this novel I really liked. One is the humanity of Mia, the wife of the man working for an NGO in North Sudan. She stays home with their children while her husband gets all the glory of working for a Christian organization in a Muslim country. Understandably, she gets discouraged and wants to go back home. I really felt for her. She had agreed with her husband to go and do this work but it turned out to be different than she had expected. A lesson from Mia's experience is that it is important for the “missionary” to not neglect the spouse and children. Sometimes the work may seem so important that home life is neglected.

Another aspect of the novel that was very informative was the plight of women in a Muslim country and family. In this area of Sudan, the Muslims still circumcise their women. It is a painful and dangerous practice and Kelley really helps us understand the entire process and its meaning.

Kelley has done an excellent job in describing the ceremonies and celebrations of Muslims. She did well on putting us into the setting, giving us descriptions of the clothing, the customs and activities, and the food that was eaten. Wow, the food served is a challenge to western people.

It is illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity in this country and the novel portrays very well what happens when one does. The reaction of the family can be deadly. Being disowned may be just the lightest reaction. The government may be used to capture converts so house churches are essential. It was encouraging to read how Jesus appears to some in dreams, bringing a Muslim to faith in Himself. A Muslim gives up much when they become a Christian. Also part of the spiritual nature of the area was the demonic oppression Mia fell during a Muslim celebration. Demonic activity is sensed much more in such countries.

At one point Mia wishes her mother could understand why her daughter was in the Sudan, so far away from family back in the United States. If you would like to know why families leave the comforts of home and move to a Muslim country and what it is like for them to go about their daily life, this is an excellent novel to read. I highly recommend it.

You can read an excerpt here.
I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

Jana Kelley was raised in Southeast Asia and developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. She attended college in Texas and married soon after graduation. Before their second anniversary they were living in a remote African town. After thirteen years in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live. You can find out more at

New Hope Publishers, 224 pages. You can purchase a copy here.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Litfuse for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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