The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall ~ Review

The Hope of Refuge Cindy Woodsmall book1

The Hope of Refuge: An Ada’s House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall

The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall is the first book of a three book series: Ada’s House. This trilogy reminded me how much I enjoy books by this author. Ms. Woodsmall creates tales with emotional dynamics that pulls me in, keeps me reading intently without wanting to put down the book, and connect with the well-developed characters so that I feel I have a vested interest in the outcome.

Two of the main characters are Cara and Ephraim. Cara had been running since she was 15. She found respite once she married Johnny. The best thing that ever happened to her was their daughter Lori. But Johnny had cancer. And now she is on the run again, with Lori in tow. The one thing she has from her past that has brought her peace and direction is her diary from her mother. In it, she recently found a clue to past memories that were fleeting now. Acting on those clues, she left the city she grew up in and found herself without cash, out in the country, with Amish all around her.

perfect time

Ephraim found the mother and child in his old rickety barn. His first impulse was to chase them away. But eventually he learned that Cara had a reason for being in his barn. It had to do with memories from twenty years before. They couldn’t stay in the barn, and no one else seemed to want to help the two. So he took a risk, and did something that was dangerous to his standing in the Old Order Amish community. He let them stay in his house while Cara worked to get enough to set out on her own.

This isn’t a simple Amish tale. The author includes some truly heart-wrenching details, with twists and turns I didn’t anticipate. In spite of Cara’s rough background, and desperation at facing so many wrong turns, I had to admire her for her desire to care for her daughter and keep her safe; and what Ephraim had to do to protect this mother and daughter may also take you by surprise. I absolutely loved this book. It was so well written, I had difficulty finding a place to stop reading just to do normal every day tasks. Their story resolves nicely at the end. Be sure you have a box of tissues on hand toward the final chapters; you may need them!

gratitude

Looking ahead to the second book, the subplot in this book involving Ephraim’s sister, Deborah, and one of his good friends, Mahlon, becomes one of the main plots of the next book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Child of Mine by David and Beverly Lewis ~Review~

Child of Mine by David and Beverly Lewis

Child of Mine

It’s not very often that I tell other readers that a book is awesome, because when I do, I don’t take the term lightly. For me to rank a book this way, I need to have my interest held all throughout the story; there needs to be several subplots expertly woven together with a few surprise twists that I don’t anticipate. The characters need to be portrayed in such a way that I’m invested in their lives, while I come to care for them. When the book is finished, I still feel their presence and circumstances linger, so that I continue to think about them. Their lives and thoughts should influence my own. They should have something to say or experience that touches me right down to my soul. For me, Child of Mine delivers all the above criteria. I even went through a hefty pile of tissues in testimony of how stirred I was.

When I begin reading a story, there is usually a predominant question in my mind regarding the theme of the story. The cover of this book and its title suggested a few questions for me to ponder: Whose child? Which child? Who was claiming the child? When I opened the pages of the opening chapter, I was introduced to Kelly Maines. By the end of the chapter, I learned that Kelly has been seeking a specific child for the past eight years, but she was using methods that were not completely ethical. In the next chapter, the readers are introduced to Jack Livingston and his niece Natalie who likes to be called Nattie. Nattie was a precocious eight-year-old, lovingly cared for by her uncle and an Amish nanny, Laura Mast. At this point, I felt I knew where this story was heading.

From that point on, more than half the book is dedicated to revealing more about the main characters Jack, Laura, Nattie and Kelly. We grow to care for all of them while we are introduced to supporting characters like Sandra, Jack’s younger sister with enough of their back history to learn about issues they are living with; Melody who used to be Kelly’s best friend growing up until Kelly pushed her away once Melody married and had children of her own; Ernie, the Private Investigator who has been helping Kelly search for her missing daughter for the past eight years; and Chet and Eloise, a well-to-do Texas couple in their sixties who have nearly adopted Kelly and attempt to assist in her search by financing Ernie’s efforts. All these supporting friends and family play important roles in Kelly and Jack’s spiritual development; for Kelly, her metamorphosis from devastated victim to mature, growing Christian learning to find closure and move on without bitterness or her daughter.

With God All Things Are Possible

In the final quarter of the book, circumstances take an abrupt turn, and for me instituted a series of new questions after the initial shock. Several times the expected became the unexpected, and I’m sure I said to myself, “Say…what?!” more than twice. The pace picked up dramatically, with frequent re- assessments of my original question of who’s claiming whose child. The authors, after lulling readers into expecting one thing to happen and one history to have occurred turn our expectations on their ears and switch directions entirely. I even flipped back pages a few times to see where I might have missed a clue or to verify what a person said. I love when an author does that, especially when it is written as smoothly as it was in this book.

Rest assured that while this book is not primarily a romance, there are portions of the story where romance is an important element. It just isn’t the main feature. There is also some mystery that contributes to the twists and turns that reveal facts and change the flow of the story line. Happily, most loose ends are satisfactorily resolved. In addition, unlike many of Beverly Lewis’s other books, having an Amish woman play one of the main characters does not mean this is a book about the Amish. It is just an incidental factor among many that makes this book so interesting to read.

Believe God more than feelings

Finally, the spiritual aspect of a book’s plot is important to me. I look to see if life’s tough situations are realistically portrayed, the reactions to them true to life, and the lessons learned over time contribute to a character’s development. This can happen with or without a person acknowledging God’s role in their lives. I admire when an author doesn’t make transitions sound too trivial or too easy. I also realize how realistic it is that some people will not heed God’s nudges toward a closer relationship with Him. I feel the authors in this story hit upon a balance between the many types of responses possible to God’s prompts without sounding overly preachy, idealistic or syrupy. I loved their ability to write soul-stirring fiction that challenges their readers to be introspective. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves complex Christian fiction.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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