Category Archives: Christian

Review: Life After by Katie Ganshert

Title: Life After by Katie Ganshert
Publisher: WaterBrook
Genre: Contemporary, Inspirational, Women’s Fiction
Length: 354 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Blogging for Books

Summary:

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake.

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

Review:

Life After by Katie Ganshert is a poignant yet ultimately uplifting novel of healing and new beginnings.

One year after surviving a train bombing that took the lives of the other twenty-two passengers on board,  Autumn Manning is struggling with survivor’s guilt and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unable to face taking public transportation, she now works from home only leaving her apartment when absolutely necessary. Despite being unable to remember the bombing or the events of the fateful day, Autumn suffers from horrible nightmares. Obsessed with trying to understand why her life was spared, her life eventually intersects with the family of one of the bombing victims.

While Autumn cannot let the tragedy go as she searches for answers, marriage counselor Paul Elliott’s wife Vivian died in the attack and he wants nothing more than leave the past in the past. However, his twelve year old daughter Reese is haunted by her mother’s death and she has turned to Autumn for help in coping with her loss. With Autumn and the Elliot family bound by tragedy, is there any way they can help each other heal the wounds from the heartbreaking events from that fateful day?

Autumn positively radiates pain and sorrow as she tries to make sense of why she lived when so many others lost their lives in a senseless act of violence. Hampered by her inability to remember the events of the day, she also cannot make sense of her complicated feelings toward her now ex-fiancé Seth Ryker. She is now facing serious financial repercussions from her decision to quit her lucrative career after she physically recovered from the wounds she sustained in the bombing. The recent one year anniversary of the deadly attack is an unexpected emotional setback and she finally gives in to her family’s pleas to seek professional assistance. Autumn is stunned when Reese suddenly shows up on her doorstep, but it is coming face to face with Paul that deeply affects her.

Paul is hoping the one year anniversary of the bombing will finally be the turning point in his family’s grieving process. He is growing increasingly concerned as Reese’s behavior begins to deteriorate. His once loving daughter has turned into a stranger as she lashes out at him and her little brother Tate. But it is not until she runs away then begins shutting him out that Paul becomes truly worried about her. He has compelling reasons to try to put the death of his wife behind him but is his desire to move forward harming his daughter? Is Paul being unreasonable after he implores Autumn to stay away from his family?

Life After is a deeply affecting novel that is quite thought-provoking. The characters are beautifully developed with realistic imperfections and strengths that make them easy to relate to. There is a spiritual aspect to the storyline but it is quite understated and perfectly complements the other elements of the plot. Katie Ganshert broaches difficult subject matter in a sensitive manner and the topics will resonate with anyone who has ever questioned God’s plans. This emotionally compelling novel delves into some tough issues without becoming overly dark or depressing and is ultimately quite gratifying. It is an absolutely heartwarming journey of healing that will linger in readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Inspirational, Katie Ganshert, Life After, Rated B+, Review, WaterBrook Press

Review: You’ll Think of Me by Robin Lee Hatcher

Title: You’ll Think of Me by Robin Lee Hatcher
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Her mother abandoned her, her father disowned her, and her husband left her. Can Brooklyn be convinced that it is possible to forgive the greatest of betrayals?

Brooklyn Myers escaped her broken home and her embittered, unloving father by eloping to Reno at the age of 17. But when she was pregnant with their first child, her husband abandoned her as well. Not welcome back home in Thunder Creek, Brooklyn stayed in Reno and raised her daughter Alycia on her own, doing her best to make sure Alycia never knew the heartache and rejection Brooklyn herself had known.

When her estranged husband Chad Hallston dies, he leaves the family home in Thunder Creek to his daughter. Believing it is the best way to give her daughter a stable home, Brooklyn does what she thought she would never do. She goes home to the orchard and wine country of Southwest Idaho. There, she encounters Chad’s best friend, Derek Johnson, a part time sheriff’s deputy who also owns an organic produce farm next door. Derek was never a fan of former bad girl Brooklyn Myers, but he made a promise to his dying friend that he would be the father to Alycia that Chad had never been.

Although Derek and Brooklyn get off to a bumpy start, he and Alycia quickly form a bond. And soon, Derek realizes that he wants Brooklyn to trust him too . . .  even knowing that her trust won’t come easily. And then he realizes he wants even more than her trust. He wants to win her love.

While Brooklyn may be tempted to give her heart to Derek, risking her daughter’s happiness is another story. Will Brooklyn hold onto her self-reliance for dear life, or will she come to understand that the greatest gift she can give her daughter is showing her how to love and trust others?

Review:

You’ll Think of Me by Robin Lee Hatcher is a heartwarming journey of faith, new beginnings, trust and love.

Ten years ago, Brooklyn Myers escaped her father’s abuse by eloping to Reno, NV with her then boyfriend Chad Hallston. Unfortunately, Chad abandoned her as soon she discovered she was pregnant with her now ten year old daughter Alycia. After learning Chad has unexpectedly passed away and left his family home to Alycia, Brooklyn returns to Thunder Creek, ID.  Fighting the memories her small hometown resurrects, Brooklyn is surprised by how eagerly everyone welcomes them into their lives.

Unfortunately one of the few people who are not happy to see Brooklyn is her next door neighbor Derek Johnson. Derek was never her biggest fan when she was dating Chad and he has even more reason to dislike her now that she owns the land he was planning to buy. Trying to let go of his resentment over the end of his dream to expand his organic farming business, Derek is charmed by Alycia, but he remains deeply unhappy about Brooklyn’s reappearance in his life.

Leaving Thunder Creek was just the first step in healing some of the wounds from Brooklyn’s abusive and neglectful childhood.  Physically abandoned by her mother and emotionally abandoned by her father, Brooklyn has trust issues and she struggles with low self-esteem.  Although she has much more confidence now than when she was younger, returning to Thunder Creek brings up those unpleasant memories she has avoided for so many years. While she is emotionally and spiritually stronger, Brooklyn cannot help but be a little distrustful of Derek’s motives for spending time with her and Alycia once she discovers he was planning to purchase her property from Chad.

Derek is finding it very difficult to let go of his disappointment that his dream of expanding his business will not come to fruition. He is also struggling to overcome his lingering dislike of Brooklyn and he is in no mood to show her any compassion for the difficulties she has endured.  Despite his conflicted feelings towards Brooklyn, he is respectful of Chad’s final request to be there for Alycia and he is immediately drawn to the vivacious little girl. However, as he spends time with Alycia, he gains a better understanding of Brooklyn’s life both in the past and in the present.  With his attitude toward her softening, Derek is rather surprised to discover he has romantic feelings for her.  Since he has made no secret of wanting Brooklyn’s property, is there any way she can trust Derek’s interest in her is genuine?

You’ll Think of Me is a captivating Christian romance that touches on many topics that will resonate with readers.  Robin Lee Hatcher beautifully incorporates relevant Bible verses and passages that perfectly dovetail with the issues the characters are grappling to overcome and/or understand.  The romance between Derek and Brooklyn is incredibly sweet and grows naturally from their friendship. An exceptionally uplifting and deeply affecting novel that will linger in readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Rated B+, Review, Robin Lee Hatcher, Romance, Thomas Nelson Publishing, You'll Think of Me

Review: Home by Ginny L. Yttrup

Title: Home by Ginny L. Yttrup
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Women’s Fiction
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Melanie runs away. From conflict. From pain. From reality. 

When novelist Melanie Vander faces a looming deadline, she decides it’s time for an escape to an inspiring, novel-worthy locale. She’s not running away. Really. She just needs time to focus. But as she disappears into her writing, she encounters a man whose tenderness leaves her reeling. Engaging and wise, psychologist Elliot Hammond tempts Melanie to question everything, including her marriage.

But that’s ridiculous. Dr. Hammond isn’t even…real.

Melanie’s husband, Craig, has his own problems, including a recession that’s threatening his business. Waning finances, a looming home foreclosure, and a wife who’s checked out emotionally, has Craig feeling as though he’s carrying his burdens alone. When his client, the beautiful and single Serena Buchanan, offers him a solution to his financial woes, he’s tempted by more than her offer of a business solution.

At a crossroads, Melanie and Craig seem headed in opposite directions.

As Melanie runs away from her problems by escaping into her own fictional world, Craig dives into his struggles, seeking God for strength and healing for his marriage. Ultimately, Melanie must choose whether she’ll check out completely, or allow her characters to lead her home.

Review:

Home by Ginny L. Yttrup is an emotional and very poignant journey of healing.

During their twenty-three years of marriage, Melanie and Craig Vander have faced numerous trials but their latest problems might be too much for them to overcome.  The economic downturn has taken its toll on Craig’s construction business and they are barely keeping their heads above water each month.  So it is the worst possible time for Melanie to miss the deadline for her latest novel but she is struggling to make much progress on her project.  Even worse, her characters are taking the story in a painful direction and her efforts to get back on track are futile.  When Melanie becomes concerned that Craig’s feelings for his latest client run deeper than business, she borrows a friend’s lakeside cabin in hopes of finishing her book without distractions. With Melanie both emotionally and physically checked out from her marriage, Craig is left to deal with the temptation of his beautiful client while at the same time trying to figure out how to avoid financial ruin.  Will Melanie finally deal with the grief she has suppressed and ignored for so many years?  Will Craig’s prayers for his wife’s healing be answered? Will Craig and Melanie find a way to save their marriage once they are reunited?

While Melanie is not a superficial person, she lives life on the surface and never delves too deeply into her own issues or those of her friends.  She spends a lot of time inside the fictional world of her characters and her books are funny but without much substance.  However, her latest novel does not fit her usual “brand” and instead of fighting her characters for control, Melanie decides to let them take the story where they need it to go.  What it takes Melanie a long time to understand is her subconscious is hard at work trying to force her to face all of the issues she has failed to deal with over the years.  Will Melanie take this opportunity to finally make peace with her past?

Craig is a wonderful husband in so many ways, but he also shares part of the burden for the state of his marriage.  He has given up trying to communicate with Melanie since she shuts down at the first sign of trouble.  While understandable, it is a vicious cycle that leaves Craig feeling overburdened as he tries to save his failing business.  This in turn leaves him very vulnerable while he works alongside a beautiful client whom he can commiserate with professionally.  When Craig becomes aware of her as woman, will he find the strength to resist the temptation to take their relationship in a more personal direction?

Melanie’s best friend, editor and neighbor Jill Rodriguez is also going through a rough patch. She is plagued with nightmares as she struggles with dark thoughts and obsessive rituals.  Although her husband Marco is incredibly supportive and convinces her to seek professional help for her issues, Melanie and Jill’s friendship strengthens when their discussions finally go deeper than their usual lighthearted exchanges.

Home by Ginny L. Yttrup is a well-written novel with engaging characters and an engrossing storyline. The chapters are written in first person and alternate between Melanie, Jill and Craig’s points of view.  These shifts in perspective are clearly marked and each character has a very distinctive voice. There is strong spiritual element to the unfolding story but these scenes feel very natural and integral to the overall storyline. The characters’ growth is absolutely phenomenal and occurs at a realistic pace.  Although some of their actions are frustrating, readers will find it easy to relate to the characters and the issues they are struggling with.  All in all, a deeply affecting novel of healing that is ultimately incredibly uplifting.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Contest, Ginny L Yttrup, Home, Rated B+, Review, Women's Fiction

Review: The Memory of You by Catherine West

Title: The Memory of You by Catherine West
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Thirteen years ago, Natalie lost a part of herself when her twin sister died. Will traveling back to the family winery finally put the memory to rest, or will it completely destroy her?

When Natalie Mitchell learns her beloved grandfather has had a heart attack, she’s forced to return to their family-owned winery in Sonoma, something she never intended to do. She’s avoided her grandparents’ sprawling home and all its memories since the summer her sister died—the awful summer Natalie’s nightmares began. But the winery is failing, and Natalie’s father wants her to shut it down. As the majority shareholder, she has the power to do so.

And Natalie never says no to her father.

Tanner Collins, the vintner on Maoilios, is trying to salvage a bad season and put the Mitchell family’s winery back in business. When Natalie Mitchell shows up, Tanner sees his future about to be crushed. Natalie intends to close the gates, unless he can convince her otherwise. But the Natalie he remembers from childhood is long gone, and he’s not so sure he likes the woman she’s become. Still, the haunted look she wears hints at secrets he wants to unearth. He soon discovers that on the night her sister died, the real Natalie died too. And Tanner must do whatever it takes to resurrect her.

But finding freedom from the past means facing it.

Review:

The Memory of You by Catherine West is an engrossing novel of faith, forgiveness, healing and love.

Natalie Mitchell has spent very little time at Maoilios, her family’s Sonoma vineyard, since the tragic death of her sister, Nicole, thirteen years earlier.  At her father’s urging, she agrees to return to Maoilios in order to check on her Grandpa Hal, who recently suffered a heart attack.  She is also expected to begin the process of closing the vineyard since profits have fallen in the years since her grandmother’s death. Natalie is in no hurry to do her father’s bidding, but her former crush and current vintner Tanner Collins is skeptical of her reassurances she is looking for ways to make the vineyard profitable again.  However, the animosity between them begins to fade once Tanner realizes how emotionally fragile Natalie is as she tries to reconcile her grief and guilt over the accident that claimed Nicole’s life.  Will Natalie find the peace she desperately needs? Will she find the strength to go against her father’s wishes and save the vineyard? Can Natalie help Tanner heal the rift within his own family?

Natalie is suffering from depression, nightmares and PTSD but she is reluctant to let her parents knows how fragile she is. She is very reluctant to return to Maoilios, but her love for Grandpa Hal quickly overrides her reservations.  Natalie also thinks it might be time to face her past in order to lay her ghosts to rest.  She is uncertain whether or not she will be able to resist her father’s entreaties to close the business but she is hopeful her examination of the financial records will bolster her plans to keep the vineyard open.

Tanner is immediately suspicious of Natalie’s intentions for vineyard and he is rather prickly initially.  Unbeknownst to Natalie, his family is going through a very difficult time and he is struggling to make peace with a decision that will forever alter his family. Tanner is extremely stressed about dealing with his long estranged family members and a recent crisis in faith leaves him feeling unmoored.  It is easy for him to lash out at Natalie amid his growing concerns about the future of the vineyard.  However his compassion and tangled feelings for her overcome his hostility and Tanner is finally begins to work with Natalie as she tries to come up with a viable plan to save Maoilios.

The relationship between Tanner and Natalie grows naturally from their renewed friendship.  Tanner is an unexpected source of comfort for Natalie as she finally faces the ghosts of her past.  Once Tanner is willing to open up about his family’s troubles, Natalie offers useful advice that helps him sort through his confusing emotions.  Although neither of them are expecting to fall in love, they are both receptive to the growing feelings between them.  However, both Tanner and Natalie must fully deal with their issues before they can plan a future together.

With a gentle undercurrent of faith, The Memory of You is a wonderful journey of healing, redemption and love.  The cast of characters is multi-dimensional and although each of them is dealing with serious issues,  Catherine West deftly handles the difficult subject matter with a great deal of sensitivity.  An absolutely delightful novel that fans of contemporary Christian romances are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Catherine West, Christian, Contemporary, Rated B, Review, Romance, The Memory of You, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Written in Love by Kathleen Fuller

Title: Written in Love by Kathleen Fuller
Amish Letters Series Book One
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian (Amish), Romance
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

When a postal error creates pen pals of two young Amish people, can they put behind their past mistakes to see the bright future God has written for them?

Jalon Chupp has a past he isn’t proud to claim. He’s worked hard to overcome his youthful mistakes, and he has recommitted himself to his faith. When he receives a sweet note included in a piece of misdirected mail, he can’t help but write back. Soon, the letters he receives from Phoebe are the highlights of his days, and with a hopeful heart, he suggests they meet in person.

Phoebe, too, looks forward to every single one of Jalon’s letters. Living with her overbearing aunt, Phoebe doesn’t have too much to look forward to. But when Jalon suggests they meet, she panics—although she has shared some of the deepest longings of her heart with him, she hasn’t been entirely truthful about her past. But when Jalon shows up at her aunt’s doorstep, everything is revealed. And she can only pray he’ll forgive her for holding back the truth.

In order to reach beyond the errors of their pasts, both Phoebe and Jalon must put their faith in something—or Someone—bigger than either of them could pen.

Review:

The first installment in the Amish Letters series, Written in Love by Kathleen Fuller is a sweet inspirational novel of redemption, grace and love.

A misdirected letter sets the stage for a surprising friendship between Phoebe Bontrager and Jalon Chupp.  For Phoebe, letters from Jalon are one of the very few bright spots in her life. Living with her stern, judgmental great aunt, she must follow a strict set of rules and there is little joy to her days. Surprisingly, exchanging letters with Phoebe is a life-altering experience for Jalon and his future is looking very bright. Although Jalon and Phoebe feel as if they have gotten to know one another through their letters,  neither of them have revealed their deepest, darkest secrets.  Will their fledgling relationship survive when they finally meet face to face?

The oldest of eleven children, Phoebe went through a rebellious period and turned her back on her faith and her family.  Now in her early twenties, she has finally settled down and she has come to terms with her past.  With plenty of regrets over some of her decisions,  Phoebe does not have any choice except to live with her unyielding Aunt Bertha.  The situation is less than ideal which is why she eagerly awaits Jalon’s letters.  Things are already tense between them when her aunt forces Phoebe to end her correspondence with Jalon.

Jalon made some very poor decisions when he was younger, but he has worked hard to overcome put his mistakes behind him.  His faith is now strong and he has a good job that pays well.  Jalon and his sister Leanna decided to remain on the family farm after his parents decided to move. An unexpected opportunity comes his way just as he is realizing his feelings for Phoebe run deeper than friendship which leads him to make an impetuous decision about his future.  Jalon wonders if he made the right choice when Phoebe fails to reply to his last letter, but his concern for her well-being outweighs his doubts and he decides to pay her a visit.

Their first meeting immediately exposes Phoebe’s biggest secret and although things are rather awkward, Jalon has no qualms about rescuing her from the dreadful situation.  Phoebe is grateful for his assistance but Jalon remains distant from her. The easy rapport from their letters is long gone and neither of them is willing to bridge the gap between them.  Phoebe finally breaks the silence but Jalon’s unwillingness to confide in her when he is dealt a blow threatens to derail the progress they have been making.  Just when it appears their relationship is finally on solid ground, a family emergency threatens to destroy their chance at happiness.

Written in Love by Kathleen Fuller is not the typical Amish romance.  Jalon and Phoebe are flawed characters who have made serious missteps in their lives and both harbor many regrets for the pain their actions have caused to their families and their communities.  Redemption, grace and faith are strong components of this wonderful romance and readers will love joining  Jalon and Phoebe on their journey of healing.  An absolutely outstanding beginning to the Amish Letters series that will fans eagerly anticipating the next release.

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Filed under Amish Letters Series, Christian, Contemporary, Kathleen Fuller, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Written in Love

Review: Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix

Title: Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

“I felt torn between two worlds. Each with its own mystery. One more captivating than the other, but the other more real and breathing.”

It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream—reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. But while Sam treks into the Himalayas for weeks at a time, finding passion and purpose in his work among the needy, Lauren and Ryan stay behind, their daily reality more taxing than inspiring. For them, what started as a calling begins to feel like the family’s undoing.

At the peak of her isolation and disillusion, a friend from Lauren’s past enters her life again. But as her communication with Aidan intensifies, so does the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past. It’s thirteen-year-old Ryan who most keenly bears the brunt of her distraction.

Intimate and bold, Of Stillness and Storm weaves profound dilemmas into a tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry.

Review:

Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix is a poignant, heartrending exploration of the devastating effect missionary work can sometimes have on families.

Living in the midst of poverty-stricken Nepal, Lauren Coventry and her thirteen year old son, Ryan, are struggling to cope with the difficulties of day to day life.  Lauren is trying to be supportive of her husband Sam, who is off for weeks at a time fulfilling his dream (and self-proclaimed calling) to spread the word of God while trying to improve conditions in outlying communities.  Although Lauren has a strong faith of her own, the isolation and growing distance in their family leads her to question Sam’s zealous pursuit of his ministry and his lack of conern for its effect on their family.  When a childhood friend reaches out to her on social media, Lauren’s viewpoint of her family’s sacrifice for her husband’s dreams begins to change and she grows increasingly concerned over the disconnect between her and Ryan.  When tragedy strikes, will Lauren find the strength and courage to do what is best for her family?

Lauren fully admits she is partially to blame for her current situation but she cannot help but resent Sam’s intractable beliefs and decisions.  She wants to honor her marriage vows and support Sam’s dreams, but at what cost?  The changes in Ryan were immediate and despite Sam’s pleas to give him time to adjust, two years after their move, he is growing more distant and unwilling to communicate.  Lauren is fed up with Sam’s edicts and she is frustrated with living without any conveniences that would make their life more bearable.  Unable to reach her son as he grows more despondent, Lauren is sinking under the weight of living a life that is not of her choosing.  But how can she reconcile her desire to put the needs of herself and her son ahead of Sam’s calling to do God’s work?

Sam’s need to do missionary work is admirable but his zealotry blinds him to the effect his work is having on his family.  He does not take Lauren’s needs or objections into consideration as he blindly follows his path.  His complete and utter disregard for his son’s downward spiral is incredibly frustrating as he puts his efforts into bettering the lives of others while ignoring the pain his family is experiencing.  Sam’s devotion to his cause, his fervent belief in God’s will and his expectation that Lauren submit to his will makes it impossible for her to have productive discussions with him about their fraying family.  His reactions and edicts are counterproductive to Ryan’s increasing despair and Sam absolutely refuses to take Lauren’s concerns seriously.

Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix is an emotionally compelling and often times, heartbreaking, novel about the difficulties of balancing a family’s needs with missionary work.  This thought-provoking portrayal of family in crisis shows how easy it is to put service to God before family and the destruction such a decision can have when conviction blinds them to the needs of their immediate family.  An absolutely outstanding cautionary tale that is deeply affecting and will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Christian, Contemporary, Fiction, Michèle Phoenix, Of Stillness and Storm, Rated B+, Review, Thomas Nelson Publishing