Julia’s Last Hope 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.

Julia’s Last Hope by Janette Oke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When the lumber mill closes down in Calder Springs, it essentially spells sudden doom for the town. But Julia is determined to find a way to keep the town going and to hold on to her home for her family in Julia’s Last Hope by author Janette Oke.

This is at least the third time I’ve read this novel over the years, from one of my all-time favorite series, Women of the West. Sure, some of the aspects still aren’t my cup of tea (too many dashes making much of the dialogue jerky, tears so frequent that they lose their effect, and other issues). Even so, while some of the stylistic and delivery choices here aren’t what I go for in ChristFic now, there are reasons why I keep returning to this series.

In the case of Julia’s story, even knowing the ending already, I had to see the process again. The eerie feeling in the streets and among the remaining townsfolk as a “ghost town” cloud starts creeping over the place. The questions and uncertainties. The way Julia’s industrious idea brings about outcomes she wouldn’t have foreseen and lessons she wouldn’t have learned otherwise.

Plus, wholesome novels that are easy to digest are still great to mix in between heavier reads. I’ll again be making my way back around to this series of standalone novels in the near future.

 

Heart of the Wilderness 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.

Heart of The Wilderness by Janette Oke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Kendra is orphaned at a very young age, her grandfather, George, sees no better choice than to take her to live with him in the backwoods. But given that George has lived alone as a trapper for years, the life he provides Kendra, away from the city, may not be enough for her in Heart of the Wilderness by author Janette Oke.

I first read this novel a number of years ago, so it didn’t hold any big surprises for me. Indeed, it’s not the kind of read for major surprises or twists. It’s a simple, easygoing story with only a few characters most of the way through.

Now, while I’ve enjoyed a good deal of this author’s easy reading over the years, this one almost seems to wander along the path of Kendra’s childhood, girlhood, and young womanhood. There’s not really a driving focus until quite late in the book. Then the last few chapters awkwardly rush to pull the faith theme together, to introduce some rather last-minute characters, and also to squeeze in a new, underdeveloped romance.

Nevertheless, even with the weaknesses I recognize in these novels, I still consider the Women of the West series to be one of my all-time favorites. It’s trailblazing fiction: some of the first of its kind in ChristFic as we now know it. Historical stories that are easy to digest but that also tuck some important nuggets inside.

 

The Bluebird and the Sparrow 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.

The Bluebird and the Sparrow by Janette Oke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

“Oh, Berta… I fear what that defiant spirit and quick temper might cost you in life.”

Berta sees herself as plain, ordinary, and unappreciated compared to her glowing, outgoing, adored sister, Glenna. That perception affects how Berta lives her life. But she’ll eventually have to take true stock of what she has become, and why, in The Bluebird and the Sparrow by author Janette Oke.

I believe this is the third time I’ve read this novel, counting the first time I did so back in my adolescence. Pretty sure I was first drawn by its original book cover from the ’90s, which I still prefer. I think the story benefits from the rather pastel cover that’s softly vibrant and lovely because…

Well, because Berta is a downer much of the time. But her story is a lovely one.

Berta is a depiction of how jealousy can make even a competent person illogical, petty, and bitter. It makes real, unfortunate sense.

The scenes during Berta and Glenna’s childhood give the general gist of how they come into womanhood. Granted, that general gist all but makes caricatures of them for a while, with a too-sour older sister and a too-sweet younger one. Yet, Berta’s moments of self-awareness make her character relatable. There’s a realness to her journey, her pain, and what she must one day come to learn.

This ChristFic novel is comfort reading for me. Not because it’s perfect or happy-go-lucky (it’s neither) but because it brings relevant truth about life, love, and self-acceptance in a simple and ultimately lovely way.

 

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.

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.