I chose this book because of the cover and title. The cover is gorgeous and speaks volumes. It is hurricane season, storms are approaches, but yet there is a calm where the unknown is coming in at high speed. Finding that calm in the storm is the key. A peace that surpasses all understanding. Trusting our God to bring about a peace we have never experienced before and so desperately need.
When I choose a Christian fiction novel, especially from Thomas Nelson I expect to read a faith based novel. I am knowing that I when I open the pages of the novel before me faith is going to be woven through the story to bring a story saturated in seeing the characters come to faith, walk in faith, experience God in their lives, and journey through the storm witnessing God do something miraculous in the character's lives. Just to have them point to faith, to see their struggle in the storm come to a place where they seek Jesus, knowing even as the storm rages they can solace in Him.
But lately in Thomas Nelson's novels for review this isn't what I am seeing. Faith being at the center, at least mentioned in some capacity is missing. In that alone it makes it difficult to review a novel. If this novel was in the secular publication it wouldn't be an issue. But being classified as Christian gives way to looking deeper in how I must review it. Those who seek out to purchase Christian fiction want to see faith at the center of the novel.
This is a novel about sisters, their connection lost, marriage, children of a single parent home and a home where children are yet to be, dreams lost and dreams found. The main characters are Jenna who is the mother of Addie and Walsh, Betsy who is the older sister, and her husband Ty.
Betsy and Ty live in Alabama and are farmers. They have a sweet life but something is missing. Ty is that strong character. He works hard and is a good husband. Jenna is living this new farm life, a life she didn't dream about, but one she fully embraced. Together they are building a life together and realizing children may not fill their home as they had so hoped. This is a toll that both are experiencing, but they are keeping their emotions on this safe level and not really sharing with one another.
Jenna is the younger sister and a single mom. She is struggling to make ends meet at her coffee shop job, but she is hopeful. She's a great mom to her little girls. Something too is missing in Jenna's life. She and her sister haven't spoken in quite a long time. The last time they seen each other was a couple years back. Jenna gets a call to experience something she has dreamed of doing. If she takes this opportunity it could change everything. But what to do with her girls? She at first is only to be gone two weeks. She gives her sister a call and this is where the story takes off.
We see Betsy take that call and her answer comes without first sharing with her husband. But of course Ty only wants Betsy to be happy. He has some questions about Jenna expecting so much from her sister. This sister relationship is explored more and the story builds on this. We see both sisters come to a place in life they had been longing for.
Where Betsy is more centered on others, Jenna is more self-centered. Where Betsy is more settled in a scheduled life, Jenna is more spontaneous. I could relate more to the character of Betsy. She was friendly and likable. She didn't expect so much of others and what she never expected of others what she herself wasn't willing to give. Jenna's character didn't settle in well with me. She was very selfish. A good mother, but always expected someone else to jump in where she wanting to soar. She expected more from her sister, but yet she didn't consider the impact on her sister. She had a dream and she wanted to see where this opportunity took her.
I enjoyed seeing Betsy and Ty step in and take care of the girls. This was a new experience for them. As it turns out two weeks turned into more. Something they didn't expect, but they made the best of it. Through this experience they come together in a new way. This was lovely to witness. A marriage growing!
Jenna sees this opportunity to reach her potential. But while she is here she learns much more about herself than learning new things about photography. She's had everything in her all along. She just had to reach the place where she could see it for herself.
For me, the best part of this novel was close to the ending when Jenna returns and the sisters share like they have never shared in their lives. So much was unspoken, so much to learn, so much to bring them together. Oh, this was a beautiful part of the story.
The novel begins with Betsy, then the next chapter we are introduced to Jenna'a life and then to Ty. The novel flows very easy. The writer does a fantastic job at allowing the reader to see the heart of each character.
Now, this is only my opinion. I did enjoy the novel, but like I have shared it was faith that was missing for me. If faith was at the center of this novel, just wow! To see these characters going through so much come to a place of faith, feel God's peace, experience strength and grace from Him, it would have been a totally different novel. The novel I had hoped it would be.
But it is my hope that you pick up this novel and experience something wonderful. Maybe the Christian aspect isn't something that you are seeking. If not you are going to really enjoy this novel and the seeing the heart of these characters come to life.
This book was a gift from Thomas Nelson for sharing my review with you.
Lauren K. Denton Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she's rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. The Hideaway was her highly acclaimed and USA Today bestselling debut novel.