Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

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. Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

Rebecca and Flora are nineteenth-century sisters who wouldn’t be satisfied with only high society living. Their desire for adventure and to live out a deeper purpose eventually takes them to the Sinai Desert, in search of an ancient biblical manuscript. But their expedition becomes increasingly dangerous in Where We Belong, a novel by author Lynn Austin.

Even at nearly 500 pages, which is longer than I usually go for these days (simply due to lack of time to spend on a single book), I remained interested for this whole novel. I liked the structure of the story, how it moves back and forth through time. It reveals bits of the tale in the “present,” 1890, and then travels to the past to fill in the puzzle pieces.

I found Part One, from Rebecca’s perspective, to be the strongest, but the other characters, and their respective parts, didn’t do as much for me. Part Three in particular seems like a rushed section of background information that only has enough time for the highlights, so it becomes melodramatic, almost simplistic. Considering the novel’s general pacing, it might have taken an additional book to bring out a richness in each character’s part.

The romances in the story are underdeveloped, and one of them diminishes the greater purpose of the sisters’ expedition, overshadowing a search holding such momentous international and historical implications with a more narrow quest for a husband. Also, the characters’ eyes begin welling up too frequently. Well-placed crying or evidence of tears can be powerful, but when tears come up on so many occasions, the characters come off as weepy, and what could have been poignant starts to feel maudlin.

Nevertheless, the overall storytelling was enjoyable for me, as I’m sure it will be for many other historical ChristFic readers.

 

Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

biblical-books-3

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. Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Keepers of the CovenantKeepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

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

We show our faith in God when we keep moving forward even when our prayers aren’t being answered… to keep believing that God is good even when it doesn’t seem that way.

I’ve read more than one biblical fiction novel and have seen at least three different films about the Jews under ancient Persian rule and the origin of Purim. All of those novels and films were primarily concerned with the story of Queen Esther, so it was nice to read an account from another angle, primarily that of the Jewish leader Ezra, and to read more about the aftermath following the well-known Thirteenth of Adar.

In Keepers of the Covenant, author Lynn Austin does a great job of illustrating the likelihood that, even with the Purim celebration, not everything may be all joy and gladness for every Jew after the bloodshed. And how can Ezra succeed in turning his people back to the law of God when many of them now view it as archaic? What about Ezra’s hatred toward Babylonians and other Gentiles–is it justified?

I found the relationship between Amina and Hodaya to be simple and touching, and Reuben’s journey, though rough at times, is well developed. He and his kippah brought tears to my eyes.

While some of the story’s repetition is needful and effective, there are a number of places where the writing is merely redundant, parts when there isn’t any new light being shed on ideas as the narrator rehashes the characters’ same thoughts or the characters (unintentionally?) repeat themselves in dialogue.

Yet, most importantly, this novel’s message about God’s goodness, justice, and grace comes through strong and clear.

If only we had eyes to see how God can weave all the broken strands of our life into something beautiful.

_____________________

Keepers of the Covenant is second in The Restoration Chronicles series.

Return to Me (The Restoration Chronicles #1)