If novels were candy, some bookshelves would offer the intellectual equivalent of cheap cotton candy – a rush of seratonin, a few prickles, but mostly just lots of sugar dissolving into extra dimples where we don’t want them.
I think those ditzy books are what a lot of people refer to when they say, “I don’t read fiction. No time for it.” I get that.
But, oh, how I’d love to dish them up some of the novels I’ve discovered. Books that are as far from cotton candy fluff as a lemon icebox pie. Or a Ghirardelli chocolate no-flour cake. Or a French butter-slathered slice of piping hot homemade bread. Or a mayo-tomato-bacon-from-scratch-with-White-Lily-unbleached-self-rising-flour-made-with-real-butter biscuit. Washed down with a clover-spun-honey-and-butter angel biscuit and ice cold milk. Somebody stop me!
The books that I’d shove in their faces would have rip-roaring storylines woven tightly into actual historical events. Based on true stories of real heroes, maybe. These books would leave you with more than a satisfied smile. They’d nourish your soul.
A perfect example of such a book is Lynn Austin’s Where We Belong.
When I started the book, I was confused. Two sisters? Where was the love interest? They were past forty? Really?!
I searched for the expected syrupy fluff you’d expect of a story set in the age of hoop skirts and Queen Victoria.
Instead I got women shedding their hoops to sneak into a filthy factory. Or hiking their skirts up to [gasp] their ankles to climb aboard a camel and trek across the Sinai.
These are my kinda girls!
These ladies are about as entrenched in proper society as you can get, yet they do what they believe they’re made to do rather than what society tells them is proper.
I loved this because, even though modern society is so much different, it’s still a scandalous thing to buck what society says is normal to do what you believe is right. And ridiculously thrilling.
The story is told in a masterfully woven dance between four points of view. It unfolds so beautifully that the mere structure of the book is art. From headstrong Rebecca, to sensitive Flora, from lonely Soren, to desperate Kate, it pulled me in until the book was no longer a treat to be savored. It was a feast to devour now.
The story of Rebecca and Flora, while fictionalized, is based on the true story of two wealthy sisters who lived in old Chicago.
I love seeing history through the eyes of these unique women courageous enough to look at society’s ills straight-on, without cowering behind “Oh, I’m just a woman; what can I do?” or ignoring events of the day in favor of frivolous vanity.
I love how these women are powerful and still feminine. They’re courageous and still feminine. They take risks and are still feminine. They don’t see being feminine as an insult, or masculinity as a compliment. They are simply women who do what they can. Which is a lot.
This book was a breath of fresh air to a girl who’s grown up hearing that women need to “assert themselves” and “toughen up” and “rise to the level of men.” Puhleease. This book reminds us that women are separate yet equal creations, created purposefully different from men, yet completely necessary and valuable. And not just when we have a ring on our finger.
But don’t worry, the romance happens. Just not at the expense of life.
That’s why I love this book. If my daughters grew up to be like the women in this book, I would be pleased.
You won’t find buxom beauties fainting backward over Fabio.
You won’t find men-hating she-warriors taking over the planet.
You won’t find anything you expected, but you’ll like the people you find. Just like real life. People aren’t always what you expect, but that makes them worth knowing. Because they’ve found a purpose: bringing Light to a dark world. And Jesus is that Light.
Unlike cotton candy buyer’s remorse, you won’t wish for the time back you spent reading this book. Instead, you’ll find yourself stronger, ready to fight the battles God has for you, knowing that “God knows when the end of our days will be. We have nothing to fear.”
Thank you to Lynn Austin and Christine Bierma, who allowed me to enjoy this book for free as a part of the launch team. Such an honor. Thank you. And thank you for writing such great stories, Mrs. Austin. May your tribe increase.