The Calling of Emily Evans by Janette Oke

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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The Calling of Emily Evans by Janette Oke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Prairie settlements are in need of mission workers for local churches, and in Bible school, Emily responds to the call. Desiring to be a wife and mother someday, she imagines she’ll be ministering alongside a preaching husband. However, with no potential husband in sight, Emily decides what’s nearly unthinkable: she’ll head out to open a church on her own in The Calling of Emily Evans, a novel by author Janette Oke.

This is at least the third time I’ve read this novel. It’s the first in one of my all-time favorite series, Women of the West, by one of my all-time favorite authors. The book spoke to me on a number of levels when I read it years ago, witnessing the obstacles a young woman faces when she takes a different path than people expect.

Sure, the book has got some of the common things I’ve never been fond of in these novels. Sentences with too many dashes as the heroine frequently stammers over her words. Tears in her eyes so often that they lose their effect and cease to be interesting.

Yet, even with the overused stammers and tears, Emily is a strong heroine. Not because she feels strong or because she’s out to prove herself to everybody. No, she’s out to be of service. She doesn’t back away from hard work. Her determination springs from caring about people, and she continues to care even when she doesn’t have all the answers.

Even as my perspective shifts and expands over the years, this is still the kind of novel I could read over again.

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Nana’s Gift and The Red Geranium by Janette Oke

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Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Five Gold Stars

Nana's GiftNana’s Gift and The Red Geranium by Janette Oke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

A husband spends years saving for a special gift for his wife, and a family legacy is birthed. A little boy must find a way to bring back his great-grandmother, who seems to have given up on life. Two families will realize how there are expensive gifts, and then there are priceless ones in Nana’s Gift and The Red Geranium, two tales by author Janette Oke.

This duo of novellas is worth checking out for Janette Oke fans. I’d even recommend these stories for reading with or aloud to someone. And the illustrations–oh! Love the charming drawings in this little hardback. They give you that warm and cozy Christmassy feeling, regardless of the fact that these aren’t holiday tales or anything. 🙂

The Red Geranium is my favorite story of the two.

The Matchmakers by Janette Oke

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Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Four Silver Stars

The MatchmakersThe Matchmakers by Janette Oke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Since the early passing of her husband, Cynthia has been grateful for her father’s help with her two young sons. Now Cynthia wants a bit more space to get on with her life, but she’s worried about her father being all alone. Her best friend Judith is rather sure that setting Cynthia’s father up with a nice, older widow would be just the ticket in The Matchmakers by author Janette Oke.

This author has been one of my all-time favorites for years, with her simple and touching stories, so I always knew I’d get around to reading this tale from the 90s eventually. What a light, cozy little story it is–and I mean that literally, with its fun and heartwarming plot and the lovely illustrations in the hardback I picked up. Not to sound corny, but this is a bona fide “curl up on the couch with a warm cup of coffee” kind of read.

Or a warm cup of cocoa. I personally don’t drink coffee.

I got a little annoyed at some of the unnamed characters, and even at Judith at one point, for the attitude they’d take about Cynthia’s situation. “I have a family,” Judith reminds Cynthia once, as if Cynthia doesn’t know that–and as if Cynthia doesn’t have a family herself. (No, she doesn’t have a husband anymore. But she does have a family.) And I’m not sure how well a “leave it all in God’s hands and don’t manipulate” frame of mind works in a matchmaking story. If you’re purposely finding ways to leave two people alone in each other’s company, you’re still manipulating the situation.

But, anyhow. I enjoyed this easy and delightful read–predictable, but then, not quite as predictable as I thought it would be.

Drums of Change by Janette Oke

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Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
_______________________

Four Silver Stars

drums-of-change-2Drums of Change by Janette Oke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Running Fawn has always loved and taken pride in the ways of her Blackfoot tribe. But survival is becoming difficult as the buffalo disappear, and white men have shown up on the prairie, bringing guns, diseases, and their foreign religion. Running Fawn will have to decide where she fits in a world she barely recognizes anymore in Drums of Change, a novel by author Janette Oke.

I first read this book by one of my all-time favorite authors, oh, twenty years ago or so. Rereading it was a walk down memory lane with a changed pair of eyes.

The Native American peoples’ plight is presented with a gentle hand by the author, but the tension, the irony, the pain, the resignation in all of it hit me in a different way this time around. The mix of skepticism, hope, and anger at the offer of (more) treaties. A nomadic people reluctant to face the prospect of no more buffalo to follow, but perhaps more reluctant over the prospect of moving to a Reserve. A young, imminent chief, Silver Fox, who respects his heritage but wants his people to make it in a world that, for better or for worse, won’t be the same.

Perhaps with the exception of Running Fawn, I didn’t get too strong a sense of the characters. This was particularly true with Reverend Forbes, since much of his “airtime” takes place through letters or in the background somewhere instead of through front-and-center action or dialogue. The “I wish I could marry him/her, but he/she isn’t a Christian” plot theme has never really worked to me, in a novel. And, yes, it amused me to run into the same error I remembered running into twenty years ago, where Running Fawn’s name is once mistakenly used to refer to Silver Fox.

Still, I enjoyed revisiting this novel from one of my favorite series, the Women of the West. I’ve already read most of the series’ novels two or three times and absolutely plan to reread some more.