Book Review: Francine Rivers’ ‘Unshaken’

Francine Rivers’ Unshaken is a biblical historical fiction about Ruth and Naomi. This book has made me develop some kind of love for the genre and after reading the book, I took some time to carefully study the book of Ruth in the Bible. Thanks to Unshaken, I saw the biblical passage in a different light.

The fictional aspect of the story implied there were some additions made by the author to, perhaps, make the story lengthier and ensure it flows more seamlessly.

I’m not surprised the Bible did not speak about Ruth’s visit to her wealthy parents and their inability to convince her to return to them in case Mahlon dies. Unshaken also presented Naomi as a grumpy woman who tried a little too hard to discourage Ruth from taking the journey with her. The Bible did not speak about Ruth and Naomi going to live in a cave when they arrived at Bethlehem.

I believe these additions were necessary to make the story more fluid. Of course, as typical of Francine Rivers, she found ways of making the love between Ruth and Boaz more romantic than what was described in the Bible.

The 183-page also had a sessions with questions for further studies. The book did live up to its expectations of making readers understand the Ruth-Naomi relationship and how that led to the marriage between Ruth and Boaz and ultimately, situating that into the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

The story of Ruth, to me, describes that of endurance and placing all of one’s worries and difficulties right at the doorstep of God. It also makes one want to relax, make time to listen to God and take one day as and when they come. I think I underestimated the book when I saw it but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

*A big thanks to Booktiquegh for organising their anniversary giveaway which enabled me win this book (prize). I wouldn’t forget this prize since this is actually my first time of reading and possessing a biblical historical fiction.

Books Review: Francine Rivers’ Her Mother’s Hope & Her Daughter’s Dream

There could not have been a much better time (Mothers’ Day) to read these two books – Her Mother’s Hope and Her Daughter’s Dream authored by Francine Rivers. The books’ theme centred on strained relationships between mothers and daughters that span about five generations. It began with Marta and Hildemara in Her Mother’s Hope, running through Her Daughter’s Dream with Hildemara, Carolyn and then, Dawn.

Marta, a stern woman, largely shaped by her childhood especially by her not-so-good relationship with her dad, who hit her at the least provocation including when she excelled in her exam. She was pulled out of school, sent to an institution that taught house-keeping and after acquiring those skills, had to work for her father in exchange for the cost of tuition. She finally left home and that began her adventure of meeting people and acquiring new skills especially in catering. Her entrepreneurial skills, drive and the money she acquired allowed her to set up her own boarding house which she later sold. She got married and moved from one point to the other with her husband and their four children. Marta was particularly stern with her first daughter (Hildie) who she saw as feeble and very much like her own sister who died at a young age.

In her Daughter’s Dream, Hildemara becomes a nurse, gets married and has two children – Charlie and Carolyn. You may think that the strained relationship between her and her mother would make her a better nurturer. Instead, circumstances kept her pushing her daughter, Carolyn away and straight into the arms of a child molester. There was a lot of misunderstanding between the two, stretching their relationship further till Carolyn goes to the University where she meets Chel, indulges in a lot of vices and vanishes for about two years. Carolyn comes home finally and her family discovers she is pregnant and the father of that child, unknown.

Carolyn also begins another strained relationship with her daughter, Dawn, because of obligations she needed to meet. Her daughter, Dawn grows quite beautifully (even though she also makes some mistakes) and becomes the one who helps to reconcile her mother Caroline, and grandmother, Hildemara.

The book is about these wonderful women, their relationships with each other and their husbands and children (both strong and strained). There were lessons of love, sacrifice, forgiveness, reconciliation, romance and, how Christians and pastors treat people who may have sinned. Both books take readers through a number of remarkable world history including the World Wars, America’s war with Vietnam, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in the 2000s among others.

My personal takeaway from the two books is to be deliberate in the relationship I build with my child(ren). Unconsciously, it is possible to transmit negative traits I may have acquired from my childhood into the family I’m trying to raise and there is that possibility of my child carrying that into her family as well.

I always fall in love with the male characters Francine Rivers’ develops but my favourite in this series is Carolyn’s husband, Mitch. He was given the difficult task of loving a very battered wife and a stepchild whom he loved nonetheless.

There were definitely aspects of the story that I could not relate with, particularly, when Dawn drove through one part of America to another, admiring geomorphological features and getting sad she could not stop to visit those places. I felt that aspect of the story dragged. I could also not relate with a pregnant woman, in her last trimester who had been diagnosed with another life-threatening condition, managing to drive for several days to another location with a terrible weather condition and no hospital close by to patch the relationship between her mum and grandma. That was a little to the extreme and a lot could have happened to Dawn.

Nonetheless, Martha’s Legacy are definitely must-reads. I loved the various characters, my heart skipped, there were portions in the book that saddened me too. I was disappointed and other aspects had me closing the book to imagine the scenes before continuing. This only goes to confirm my earlier assertion that Francine Rivers is an awesome writer, probably, the best when it comes to Christian novels.

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Reasons I love these 5 books

The list below is not exhaustive but these books left an impression on me and they include:

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – I got hold of this book accidentally when I was about 15 years, waiting to enter High School. I couldn’t help but marvel at J.K Rowling’s creativity. How she was able to come up Quidditch, the sorting hat and characters like Dumbledore and Hagrid still baffles me till date. I believe Harry Potter books are way better than the movies.
  2. And the Shofar Blew – I had literally stopped reading novels when I chanced upon Francine Rivers’ Scarlet Thread. I thought it was a cool book till I read her And the Shofar Blew. Amazing book with a lot of characters aiding to craft the story. It addressed a lot of issues that I hadn’t really thought about including old age, nursing homes, death, divorce and how modern churches were being managed by ‘some calibre’ of pastors. I still believe this book is Francine Rivers’ best.
  3. The Purple Hibiscus – I loved how 15-year old Kambili narrated the story from her perspective. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie takes readers to Enugu and Nsukka (Nigeria) in this masterpiece. It was softly written (from the point of view of a 15-year old) but the issues raised in the book were ‘hard.’ It showed that thin line that could exist between being religious and an oppressor or a fanatic. The story is great and perhaps, the best book I’ve read so far, this year.
  4. Smart Money Woman – For someone who hardly reads non-fiction, I liked how Arese Ugwu incorporated a story to what could have easily been a self-help book (not saying that is bad). Each chapter of the book came with suggestions and little projects on how readers could better manage their finances and Zuri, her friends and their money troubles made it an interesting read.
  5. Good Morning Holy Spirit – Benny Hinn, in this book, breathes life to the person of the Holy Spirit. He makes the reader understand that the Holy Spirit could be relateable if we accorded Him the needed recognition. The content was simple to read and I enjoyed the personal testimonies he shared.

Which books do you find remarkable and why? 😊

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Book Review: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus

Purple Hibiscus, narrated from the perspective of 15-year old Kambili, whose father, Eugene, was affluent and a ‘strict and very adherent’ Christian. He related with his family with the special kind of love that he knew.

Even though the family seemed comfortable, they lived on a ticking time bomb that started erupting when Kambili, her brother, Jaja and their mum came into contact with Eugene’s liberal sister and widow/lecturer at the University in Nsukka and her three children.

One visit to Ifeoma’s home, which later paved way for several others, became the mirror that revealed all that Jaja and Kambili lacked, even in their affluence.

Purple Hibiscus is beautifully written, keeping the reader in suspense. It also reveals the thin line that may exist between religion and fanaticism.

The introduction of Father Amadi in Nsukka and Kambili’s crush on this personality, who has sworn to be celibate all his life, is my favourite part of the book. 😊😊

The tragic twist to the plot in the concluding parts caught me offguard. It left me with mixed emotions.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus is my best read for 2020 (so far). I would give it a 4.6 ⭐s.

*19th post of the 21 day lock down blog challenge and the writing prompt is: Review Something*

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Book Review: Grace Ecklu’s ‘Guilty as Grace’

I am always excited to lay my hands on any Ghanaian Christian novel and Grace Ecklu’s ‘Guilty as Grace’ is one of the few I have come across. Guilty as Grace is largely a Christian-romance involving two main characters Esther, and Ethan (Papa) with Sarah (hiding in the middle).

The romance between Ethan and Esther began over the phone when they had not met physically (quite complicated for me to summarise). For some reason, they enjoyed each others’ company. The romance continued to sizzle till Esther broke the news of her scholarship to Ethan while she was boarding a flight to Singapore. Coincidentally, Ethan was planning to meet her (physically) and this commenced the ‘roller-coaster’ relationship between the two.

Esther was a strong character who had been shaped, to a large extent, by her experiences. She was the engineer of the ‘roller coaster’ who kept the story moving with her fears, indecision and decisions. Ethan, on the other hand, was the cool, handsome, down-to-earth guy, working steadily towards becoming successful. Why Esther was acting the way she was towards a cool dude like Ethan, I may need to leave that to you to discover for yourself when you read the book. 😂

Guilty as Grace is filled with a lot of suspense and it reminded me so much of the relationship between Michael and Angel in Francine RiversRedeeming Love. Ethan was a lot like Michael when he purposed in his heart to pray about every single step of his relationship with Esther. He even sought the counsel of a pastor to understand this woman better but Esther, like Angel, had a mind of her own. It is quite ironical that society sees women as the more eager ones to ‘settle in marriage’ but certainly not these two.

I did fall in love with the character, Ethan and his ‘way of loving.’ I also enjoyed how the messages exchanged between him and Esther were included in portions of the book. I don’t know whether I missed that aspect of the story but knowing the ages of the characters would have put the story more into context as Esther’s family were putting pressure on her to get married. The author did a fantastic job of describing the scenes in East Africa but a more vivid description of Singapore would have taken the readers along with Esther when she was studying there too.

The book isn’t boring. There are several other characters who pushed the story like the bubbly Sarah (Ethan’s little sister), Pastor Perry and his wife, Esther’s mum and siblings.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone in a relationship because it teaches you how to love right (in a Godly way). Anyone struggling to accept God’s grace because of their past would thoroughly enjoy reading this book. If you are also looking for a fun and exciting novel to read and relax, Guilty as Grace should be on your reading list.

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Book Review: Nana Ama Buckman’s ‘Confessions of an African Christian’

Initially, I thought the Confessions of an African Christian was a novel. From the title also, I perceived I was going to read something hilarious and fun and not too serious but as I dug deeper into Nana Ama Buckman’s 94-page memoir, my mind began reflecting on my Christian walk. I critically assessed myself.

This book can pass as a modern-day evangelistic tool with regards to its content. The words were plain, truthful and piercing. I’m not too sure if I have seen this kind of writing yet, particularly, in the Christian sphere. Confessions of an African Christian was broken down into short chapters with each dealing with a specific topic bordering on Christianity. The author dealt with subjects like the Christian’s relationship with the Holy Spirit, with their pastors, on giving money particularly to the church, our mental health, among others.

Even though this book is not novel, I enjoyed the tiny bits of the author’s personal experiences relating to the subjects. Her style of writing was also frank, relatable and could easily be blog entries/posts.

The reader could also decipher how passionate the author was about the various subjects – they were well researched and situated in scripture. The book sets the reader’s mind contemplating, especially with the questions that were posed at the end of each chapter. They required a critical evaluation of one’s current stance based on what they’ve read. Also concluding each chapter were declarations and prayers.

If we can be truthful to ourselves, we’d admit that indeed, the modern Christian faces some tough challenges and a number of them were mentioned in the book. For instance, when we decide to put ‘God in our hearts’ to be seen and accepted as being ‘cool.’ Or when we have to silently battle emotional turmoils and depression with positive confessions while we require medical attention instead. The chapters that got me smiling the most were the ones that discussed money and pastors. They were painfully sincere. 😅😅

It is simply a good read particularly for those of us who are not into ‘prescriptive’ ‘right-in-your-face’ ‘do-this-do-that’ kind of Christian books. Confessions of an African Christian though bible-based is laced with the witty personal experiences of the writer. You are likely to act according to what is preached in the book without you realising it. It is a book I’ll recommend.

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Book Review: Cathy Wilson’s ‘Presumptions’

Flossy Achana is very strong-willed. She is married to Kingsley Billah who is a deacon of the church. A few weeks after celebrating their seventh marriage anniversary, Flossy bumps into her former boyfriend, Mike Kabore. Both were shocked but ended up having a little chit-chat, where apologies were rendered for the unfortunate break-up and current contacts, exchanged for follow-up. The two begin to meet till their ‘encounters’ sparked curiosity and gossip among people especially Flossy’s boss, Mr. Blankson.

After the epic reunion, a spiral of drama also begins to emanate from the homes of all the married couples not excluding that of Reverend Yendi and his wife, Lady Jessie’s.

As a reader who has been married for a couple of years now, I did not comprehend how and why Mike and Flossy would go through all of this act of pretense just to spite the ‘busybodies.’ Anyway, that formed the main plot of the story and even when both couples were suffering from this decision they had taken, Flossy was unwilling to give up on the charade. That aspect of the story really baffled me.

Cathy Wilson’s Presumptions raised several pertinent issues that we (modern Christians) may have swept under the carpet, for instance, the question of what constitutes a lottery. Rev. Yendi’s wife won a car by participating in a ‘game of chance.’ To her, coming out as the ultimate winner was an answer to her prayer but her husband would not take any of that even though the ‘jalopy’ he drove needed to be replaced. This scenario could serve as a good topic for discussion in a bible study or book club.

Another issue for further discussion is when to compromise as a couple. I had the sense that the men in the book took their roles as ‘the heads’ a little too seriously. Even in a mere relationship, Mike had wanted Flossy to read Sociology or English instead of Advertising and her refusal served as one of the basis for their breakup. Also, when Kingsley refused to go bring his wife after he had learnt the truth that she was truly innocent. Even when he was suffering, he still refused to bend.

Like the same sentiments I shared after reading Karen Kingsbury’s The Chance, how do we (Christians) use the scriptures after we read and meditate on them? The characters in Presumptions towed the same line of quoting scripture to suit their current situation, prove points and subtly ‘insult’ each other. It almost felt like I was witnessing a Bible sword drill.

I did somehow fall in love with General Achana (Flossy’s dad) and Eunice (Flossy’s sister). They added a little humour to the tension that brewed from the other characters.  

The author could have, however, added footnotes explaining local terms like ‘TZ’ ‘Alefu’ ‘Agbada’ ‘Anago’ to the non-Ghanaian reader.

From sentences like:

‘the duo bumped into each other at a spot called ‘DESTINY.’ Yes, that is the name of the spot…’

‘Two gentlemen in a beautiful garden.’

‘This is General Achana’s residence.’

It was very obvious the story was written from the perspective of a narrator. I haven’t seen this style of writing in a while.

Like most Christian novels, the ending of the story was quite expected. In all, the 145-page romantic novel, which was further broken into 16 chapters, was very simple to read. I am also glad to announce that it was authored by a Ghanaian, making the setting and the issues raised very relatable. To reiterate, it could serve as a good material for any book discussion.

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Book Review: Karen Kingsbury’s ‘The Chance’

I acquired Karen Kingsbury’s book, The Chance, because I really needed to read a Christian novel from another author that I am not familiar with. Well, The Chance was a good diversion from Francine Rivers (my current favourite) and I hope to read more of her to make a better judgement of her writings.

The Chance describes Nolan Cook and Ellie Tucker who were childhood friends but broke apart when they were 15 years old. This was because of a ‘scandal’ involving Ellie’s mother who had had an extra marital affair with a music star resulting in a pregnancy. Ellie’s dad, in anger moved with her to another State (San Diego) and in the process, making her break communication with her childhood friend/sweetheart and her pregnant mother. Before Ellie and her dad moved, she and Nolan wrote letters to each other, buried the letters and made the promise of returning in 11 years to read the letters they had written. A lot happened within the 11 years with Nolan following his ultimate dream of being a basketball star and Ellie becoming a single mum and a hair stylist (a little different from her childhood ambitions). To find out what happened to their childhood promise, I think you need to get a copy of this book 🤣🤣

The theme of this book centered strongly on forgiveness and reconciliation. Alan Tucker (Ellie’s dad) believed he was more ‘Christian’ than any one else, thus, judging the people he loved harshly and in his actions, he tore his family into shreds. Before he realised what he had done, a lot of harm had been caused to the people he cherished the most. How are you using God’s word? Are you correcting people with it or pushing them further into sin?

Like Francine Rivers’ books, the characters did pray simple prayers, emphasizing on the point of prayer being a regular communication with God. Prayer doesn’t have to always be at a designated time and space but an act of speaking regularly to God concerning all issues throughout one’s day.

The 315-page novel was quite easy to read. The story line was somehow enthralling with the characters and their actions being described fairly vividly. There were portions in the book that moved me to tears (Nolan was quite an emotional character). Other portions made me feel I was watching a soap opera because it kept dragging and literally had me rolling my eyes (Especially, with Ellie. One of such instance was when she took to her heels because Nolan had finally found her after 11 years. Who does that?). I also think this book will make a good movie for teenagers.

I don’t know whether I fell so much in love with any of the characters like the way I loved (and still love) Roman Velasco in Francine River’s The Masterpiece but it was a pretty good book. I will wait till I read another Karen’s Kingsbury before I compare her books to Francine Rivers.

I will rate this book 3.5 out of 5 and will recommend it to any lover of both Christian and non Christian novels.

NB: I apologise for my long absence from blogging. I hope and pray to be more regular now. I would also love to use this opportunity to say thank you to all new followers of the blog. Even in my long absence, I kept receiving notifications of new followers and likes for existing posts on the blog.

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Book Review: Francine Rivers’ ‘The Masterpiece’

The Masterpiece was the huge book I got for myself last Christmas. With a more busy schedule currently, I wondered when and how I was going to read the almost 500-page Christian romance novel but surprisingly, I took two days to read the entire book. Uh-huh! That shows how gripping the story line was.

As usual, Francine Rivers did not disappoint with this novel. The two main characters – Roman Velasco (aka the Bird) was the rich, handsome, famous and accomplished (in the eyes of everyone) artist and Grace Moore – the rather simple, mother of one and a divorcee, who came to seek employment as Velasco’s assistant. Their story gently develops into a simmering romance which none of them was willing to admit to until later in the story. Hell broke loose when Velasco finally proposed in the manner that he was familiar with but sending Grace packing out of his life in the process. Did she come back? If yes, how did it happen? That is why you need to read this book for yourself. 😂

After reading several of Francine Rivers’ books – And the Shofar Blew, The Atonement Child and Scarlet Thread, I’ll definitely vote Velasco as my favourite character. He was affected by experiences from his childhood and that defined who he became as an adult. Even in his ‘raw state,’ I could sense some innocence in his actions. I actually found him very masculine and charming and wouldn’t mind meeting him if he was real. You can say I fell in love with the character. 🙈🙈🙈😏😏😏

Anyway, Francine Rivers always has strong underlying themes in her stories and even though they are entertaining and could be full of suspense, they teach loads of lessons. For instance, the two main characters both had disturbing pasts but were influenced differently by them. This raises the issue of the amount of power we give to past events/experiences and its influences. How do you know whether you are giving the ghosts and shadows from your pasts too much space in your life? This book provides the reader with some insight into this subject.

There are several other lessons that can be taken out of the book including dealing with disappointments, learning to walk away from the people you love for God/the Holy Spirit to work on them, childhood trauma, among others.

The Masterpiece is a beautiful and well-researched story. I like how the past lives of the two main characters were intricately interwoven into the main plot. The reader gets the opportunity to appreciate the life of those in the creative arts, particularly, graffiti artists. The ending, like many Christian novels and the typical Francine Rivers’ style, was very much expected and a little predictable but that did not take away the niceness out of the story. I like it but not as much as I enjoyed And the Shofar Blew.

I will rate it 4.5 out of 5 and recommend it over and over again to anyone looking to read a book full of lessons or just for leisure.

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Book Review: Francine Rivers’ ‘The Atonement Child’

A young lady, Dynah, is raped and gets pregnant as a result. Her fiance, who was a pastor in training, her parents, and roommate in college, all Christians, thought the only way out of that ‘dreadful’ situation was for Dynah to abort the ‘unwanted child’ and move on with her life. The Dean of the Christian College, where Dynah was a student and where the incident happened, also thought abortion was the way to go or the young lady had to leave the institution. This book slowly weaves the calamities Dynah had to face as a result of taking the unpopular decision.

‘The Atonement Child’ compared to the two other books I’ve read from this author (The Scarlet Thread and The Shofar Blew) was a bit slow and sad and I felt the writer tried a little too hard to push the theme of the book into the reader’s face. In one family alone, grandmother had had a therapeutic abortion, the mother had had an abortion and the child who had been raped was also being pushed to carry out an abortion. Dynah’s mother’s former schoolmate was also an abortionist and Dynah’s friend in college (Joe) had a girlfriend who had died from committing an abortion. How coincidental can that be?

Perhaps since the story is set in a country where abortion is legal, some of these issues are real and likely to come up in an everyday conversation. That notwithstanding, the theme of this book is very relevant, especially, now that a bill has been passed in New York permitting mothers to abort babies even at the point of birth. One thing this book did so well was to provide the reader with a clear picture of the other side of committing an abortion. The guilt and regret of taking out a life (fetus) may be carried throughout one’s lifetime and that is likely to affect their families and generations. Mostly, abortion is seen as the easiest and direct way of solving the problem of an unwanted pregnancy while the spotlight dims on the emotional and psychological damages this action may have on the women who undergo it.

In Ghana, compared to the US where the story was set, abortion is a criminal offense regulated by Act 29, section 58 of the Criminal code of 1960, amended by PNDCL 102 of 1985. However, section 2 of the law makes exceptions for victims of rape or incest and abortion can be conducted to protect the mental or physical health of the mother, or when there is a malformation of the fetus. According to the Ghana Medical Association, abortion is the leading cause of maternal mortality (15-30%) because many women turn to unqualified providers and receive unsafe procedures (Rominski & Lori, 2015; Chauvkin, Baffoe & Awoonor-William, 2018).

The argument of whether a fetus is a baby yet and the legality/ illegality or the process of carrying out the abortion (safe/unsafe) will always remain and looking at the World’s politics, there will always be a divide but the most important person to take the decision is you, the individual/woman. What exactly do you want and what do you stand by? What would God have you do in that situation? It may seem difficult and challenging at a glance and the straightforward option will be an abortion, but, have you explored other alternatives? You may want to consider putting the child up for adoption and that is possible even in Ghana.

One beautiful trait about the character, Dynah, was how she remained calm amidst all the pressure and kept insisting she wanted to know God’s mind before taking any decision concerning the child in her womb. How many of us, in the midst of the storm, will insist on hearing from God first?

This 384-page book is a must-read and ideal for a book club/discussion.

Favourite Lines from Atonement Child:

Those on the side of abortion were the loudest, the most logical, the most appealing to her bruised and battered spirit. And yet there was another voice, quiet, calm, almost imperceptible, that said NO, THERE’S ANOTHER WAY.

“Well, you tell me how we can do that, Dean. Tell me how on God’s green earth we can dare offer salvation to a dying world when we’re so busy shooting our own wounded.”

– The Atonement Child,

Bibliography

Chavkin, W., Baffoe, P., & Awoonor‐Williams, K. (2018). Implementing safe abortion in Ghana: “We must tell our story and tell it well”. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics143, 25-30.

Rominski, S. D., & Lori, J. R. (2014). Abortion care in Ghana: A critical review of the literature. African journal of reproductive health18(3), 17-35.

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