A book that sparks talk and makes people want to discuss all its points and nuances, is one that is a trip to the world of reading and loving what an author’s words can do to a story. In this book, Jan and I had quite a few talks that led to other talks, and then to more of the same. We both came away pretty much in awe of the feelings that this book evoked in the both of us.
“Because only in the quality of your struggle with one another will you learn anything about yourself.”
4.5 stars Beginning in the 1960s, one of my favorite time periods, this is a story somewhat reminiscent of Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. We follow two couples for many decades: Charles and James who co-pastor a church, and their wives, Lily and Nan.
Charles is the deep thinker, the pastor whose strength is counseling parishioners who are struggling with difficulties. James is the activist who believes his job is to stir the parishioners into action to right the world’s injustices, even when it makes them uncomfortable.
Lily is the atheist wife who is non-traditional and has zero interest in being friends with Nan or becoming involved in the life of the parish. Nan is the woman of faith who is a do-gooder and is perfectly content being a traditional pastor’s wife who longs for nothing more than to be a wife and mother. These two women personify the changing role of women through the turbulent 1960s.
But what happens when life doesn’t quite work out as you expected? Life and relationships are messy. Tragedy and losses occur. This character-driven novel doesn’t offer easy solutions but thoughtfully examines the complexities of life, and how our beliefs, life experiences, and background affects the way we relate to others, and how we weather the storms of life. Who has grit, and why?
This story is beautifully written and gives the reader much to ponder. The characters are realistically complex and my feelings changed about each of them as I read.
This was a buddy read with Marialyce and is definitely one of our better discussion books. We had many thoughtful conversations and I’m so glad I had her to talk with as we read.
The last 20% was a tad too pat and predictable for me, thus the 4.5 stars. For a debut it was amazing and I’m looking forward to seeing what the author does next.
*I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
There are some books that make you think for a moment or two and then those thoughts run off forgotten as they become just another book read. There are some books, however, that keep you thinking and wondering for days, weeks, or even months after you have finished reading them. Such was this story.
This is a story of four people, three of which are people of faith, while one is a non believer. Charles and James are new ministers landing a position at the same church, who together with their wives Nan and Lily try to forge forward in a religious life for the three of them, and a life bereft of God for one of them. Nan is an affirmed believer in God while Lily, the product of the early tragic death of her parents, is a nonbeliever. The dilemma seems to be how can one reconcile being married to a minister when you do not believe in what he does? There is a large amount of interplay between the characters and as the story continues the tragedies of life invade the marriages and one would think a faith in the almighty would be enough to carry one through. But is it?
This story had currents swirling beneath the surface of its words. So many themes were touched upon and the reader was left to understand and find their own explanation of events and happenings. So many questions were asked of the reader. Can one be married to someone who doesn’t share your religious belief. Is God the only way to peace in life? Is it possible to be too good, to mask your feelings in an attempt to please God? Is tragedy in life a way that God shows you a way through it, or is it the human spirit, often resilient that offers one peace and a way forward? Can marriage work when up against adversity? What really attracts one person to another even though they are as different as night and day?
This was a wonderful book that had great components and would be absolutely perfect for a book club discussion group. There was much to fathom here, and much to ponder as you read about the journey these two couples embarked upon as they tried to both understand their position in the world and the way forward in life. I definitely recommend this story for all the aforementioned reasons.
Thank you to Cara Wall, Simon and Schuster, and NetGalley for a copy of this book.