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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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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Book Review: And the Shofar Blew

Francine Rivers, again, did an amazing job of telling the stories of several characters which made it so hard to put the book down without wondering how it was going to end. And the Shofar Blew was full of suspense and dealt with several topics including the challenges of managing a church, being a pastor’s wife and its difficulties, being a pastor’s kid and its associated challenges, ageing, death, divorce, alcoholism, among others. 

Even though the story had several characters weaving together the plot, And the Shofar Blew centered more on a young pastor, Paul Hudson, and his wife, Eunice and child. The excitement in the story began when Paul Hudson accepted the call to manage an old church that had its traditions and an ageing congregation. Pastor Hudson did bring some life into the church but they were mainly influences of his childhood and the relationship he had had with his father. Throughout the over 450-page book, the story gradually unfolds and the young pastor becomes over-ambitious and crude in his dealings and, the consequence could not have been devastating enough.

After I put the book down, my mind has been on a journey of wondering what goes on behind the scenes in our churches.  My thoughts have been on pastors and teachers who probably may have heeded to God’s call but due to increase in the numbers of their congregation, their church’s financial obligations and popularity may be twisting His words to suit the people. How many men of God are preaching God’s unadulterated word that has the ability to cut hearts and save souls? 

This may not be a challenge for pastors alone but for those of us who are Christian blogging or singing or ministering in all forms. Since you saw an increase in the number of followers, have you been preaching God’s word or are massaging the truth in order to gain more followers? Do you present the message as it is or you are afraid of stepping on toes and losing your followers?

I have really been spending my week praying for pastors and everyone who has the responsibility of shepherding. It is my prayer that we keep spending time with God to know what He has given us to tell His people. There may be financial obligations but the sheep need to know God’s word. Let’s not massage God’s word for popularity sake.

The truth is Jesus Christ came to die for our sins and He is the way, the truth and the light. No one goes through the Father, except through Him. – John 14:6.

What message are you presenting to your followers?

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Book Review: The Scarlet Thread

Set apart in different centuries, Francine Rivers tells a story of two women who were related but had never met, yet, shared a similar experience. Both women, during certain periods of their marriages, had difficulties accepting the dreams/directions of their husbands. The author must be commended for doing an awesome job of weaving the two different stories in an engaging way, leaving the reader with no choice than to keep at the almost 500-page novel.

Immediately I picked the book, I could sense how the story was going to turn out. I somehow knew Sierra’s relationship with her husband wasn’t the best. What husband accepts a new role in another organisation, in a different State without discussing it thoroughly with the wife and children? Just imagine yourself waking up to the news of your husband or close relative selling your house, in the neighbourhood you’ve lived in all your life and resettling the entire family to another side of the planet because of his new job. No prepping or orientation was conducted but that same person requires you to jump with excitement to the unexpected news with the excuse that he’s mentioned this subject once. (Really? Alex. Really?Unamused Face on Samsung Experience 9.5 )Right then, I could smell a self-centred husband considering his needs, dreams, and ambitions as paramount to everyone’s. Whatever happened to proper communication in a marriage? I guess these weren’t in Alex’s thoughts since he saw Sierra as a mere housewife who had no ambition. Person Shrugging on Google Android 9.0

But Sierra gradually became a strong force later in the story and I rooted for her when she decided to pick her life up, reject monies from her husband and welcomed her independence. I loved how she transformed from the lady who always blurted out her opinion on issues to someone who paused, thought through her words and the likely implications they may have before she uttered them. To me, the husband deserved more than what was meted out to him by Sierra, in the closing pages. How the story ended was somehow expected, maybe something more tragic or dramatic would have made the book more thrilling and different but in all, it was a good book.

I felt there were some pertinent lessons in there for every Christian, particularly, for those who are married and those seeking to get married. It makes you realise the importance of the God-factor in every marriage and lays emphasis on the role of communication in every relationship. Have you or your family taken a drastic decision which has had a seemingly terrible toll on your life? Then you need to read Francine Rivers’ Scarlet Thread. It will help lessen the burden and make the change bearable.

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If you read my post last week, you’d notice I mentioned The Scarlet Thread was my first Christian novel, therefore, if you’ve read any books in this genre or you know of other great authors I should look out for, please drop the titles in the comment box. Thanks!  Grinning Face With Big Eyes on Microsoft Windows 10 October 2018 Update

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