Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blog Tour and Review - The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall

The Hope of Refuge by Cindy Woodsmall

published 8/11/09
341 pages

Summary from publisher:

Raised in foster care and now the widowed mother of a little girl, Cara Moore struggles against poverty, fear, and a relentless stalker. When a trail of memories leads Cara and Lori out of New York City toward an Amish community, she follows every lead, eager for answers and a fresh start. She discovers that long-held secrets about her family history ripple beneath the surface of Dry Lake, Pennsylvania, and it’s no place for an outsider. But one Amish man, Ephraim Mast, dares to fulfill the command he believes that he received from God–“Be me to her”– despite how it threatens his way of life.

Completely opposite of the hard, untrusting Cara, Ephraim’s sister Deborah also finds her dreams crumbling when the man she has pledged to build a life with begins withdrawing from Deborah and his community, including his mother, Ada Stoltzfus. Can the run-down house that Ada envisions transforming unite them toward a common purpose–or push Mahlon away forever? While Ephraim is trying to do what he believes is right, will he be shunned and lose everything–including the guarded single mother who simply longs for a better life?

My thoughts:

I thought this was a lovely book. I have to admit I haven't read a great amount of Christian fiction in the past few years - it seemed like every book I picked up had the same 3 stock characters (nonbelieving or backslidden protagonist, christian love interest, earnest christian friend to bring the two together), and the christian characters were all so GOOD. They never had a bad thought, or negative moment, or bad day - just so GOOD. As a Christian, I just ended up feeling bad about myself, because I could never be that GOOD all the time. So I sorta wrote that genre off, and moved on.

The Hope of Refuge has, in its own way, a pretty similar version of those three stock characters. It does, however, have one major difference - the Christians feel REAL. Sometimes they are jealous, petty, unbelieving, disobedient - in short, they're like me. It was so refreshing to read about a group of believers who weren't perfect, but sometimes questioned the choices they had made, and the faith they had chosen. I really appreciated that about this novel.

They story itself wasn't especially groundbreaking or new. I think it follows a fairly standard romance narrative, and many of the plot points were predictable. But Woodsmall writes characters that I cared about, and even though I could guess what might happen next, I wanted to keep reading because she is a darn good storyteller. I enjoyed nearly every minute of reading this novel, and if I hadn't had other commitments in my day could have read it in one sitting.

When I was approached to do this blog tour, the publisher asked the question, "What's all the hubub about Amish fiction?" Basically, why are these types of novels selling by the millions across America? The ABC program Nightline did an interview with Cindy Woodsmall, where she attempts to answer that question - you can read it here if you are interested. My answer would be this - in a world where time seems to move faster every day, and the chances to spend time with the people and doing that things that really matter get fewer and fewer, it is comforting to read stories about a group who have chosen a different way. It is appealing to think that faith and family still means something to someone, somewhere. We all wish we could have that, even if we aren't willing to give up our lives to achieve it. But when we read these books, we can imagine, just for a little bit, that we belong to that type of community. And, for a little while, it's enough.

I plan to look for more work by this author, and hope the next book in this series comes out soon.

Finished: 8/9/09
Source: Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books program
Rating: 8/10


mar10123 said...

I still think you should try Jamie Langston Turner. I don't read a lot of "Christian" fiction, for the very reasons you give. JLT writes with great precision, has a wide knowledge base (music, art, poetry), and crafts ordinary, amazing characters. No "super" Christians. (ugh)

Zibilee said...

It sounds like this is really well rounded Christian fiction, which is something that I haven't come across very often. I like the sound of this book and might try to grab a copy from the library. Nice review on this one.

Melissa said...

I'm definitely intrigued by your review--I share your thoughts and preferences about a lot of Christian fiction out there. I'll keep an eye out for this one. Great review!

Carrie said...

I don't read a lot of Christian fiction either. I do'nt find the authors to be very original. Good to know about this book. Thanks for the tip!