Author: Lynn Austin
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
Provided by: Publisher
Subjects: religious persecution, adoption, patience, death,
Setting: Lake Michigan 1897; Netherlands 1845
Language: English with a few words in Dutch
Geesje de Jonge crossed the ocean at age seventeen with her parents and a small group of immigrants from the Netherlands to settle in the Michigan wilderness. Fifty years later, in 1897, she's asked to write a memoir of her early experiences as the town celebrates its anniversary. Reluctant at first, she soon uncovers memories and emotions hidden all these years, including the story of her one true love.
At the nearby Hotel Ottawa Resort on the shore of Lake Michigan, twenty-three-year-old Anna Nicholson is trying to ease the pain of a broken engagement to a wealthy Chicago banker. But her time of introspection is disturbed after a violent storm aboard a steamship stirs up memories of a childhood nightmare. As more memories and dreams surface, Anna begins to question who she is and whether she wants to return to her wealthy life in Chicago. When she befriends a young seminary student who is working at the hotel for the summer, she finds herself asking him all the questions that have been troubling her.
Neither Geesje nor Anna, who are different in every possible way, can foresee the life-altering surprises awaiting them before the summer ends.
From the back cover
Chicago socialite Anna Nicholson retreats to the Hotel Ottawa in Holland, Michigan, after breaking her engagement with her wealthy fiancé. Filled with questions about her newfound faith and troubled by a recurring nightmare, Anna finds solace in Derk Vander Veen, a seasonal hotel worker who plans to go into the ministry.
Prompted by a request from her son, Geesje de Jonge begins to sift through memories of emigrating from the Netherlands almost fifty years ago. As she writes them down for the Semi-Centennial anniversary of the town's settlement, her story takes on a life of its own as she honestly and painfully recalls her regrets, doubts, hardships, and joys. Her story captivates Derk, who sees similarities between Geesje and Anna, and wishes to bring the two together.
Past and present collide as Anna and Geesje seek clarity, but neither expects the revelations that await them.
"Austin has crafted an interesting, historically accurate portrait of two profoundly different characters: one looking back at life, the other taking her first faltering steps toward independence."--Publishers Weekly
"Two riveting storylines and two fascinating heroines join a cast of intriguing supporting characters with rich historical detail. Additionally, the switch between the story's past and present timelines -- as well as alternating between first-person narrators -- remains seamless and distinct."--RT Book Reviews
"Interlacing the past with the present-day lives of Anna and Geesje, Austin compassionately delivers a moving tale of family bonds, tests of faith, and abiding love."--Booklist starred review
One of my favorite series is written by the author of this book, Lynn Austin. Shes a great author and makes history so interesting.
Does she romanticize the past? Some, perhaps. But she creates a great story, I can tell you that.
I had high hopes for this one as well, and was nervous when the book opened discussing "persecution." In this book, it was in reference to perfectly legitimate persecution in Europe, however usually when I hear this word its in relation to more trivial issues:
Jim doesnt want to come to my Christmas party... He's persecuting me and everyone else who I coming!
Jane believes something different than I do about marriage... I hate how Christians are persecuted in America!
John was hiring a evolutionary biologist and didnt choose a Christian for the job... what a shame!
And I was afraid that this would have similarly laughable story, but the churches in the Netherlands were much more connected to government for the most part and, "Separatist" churches who were not pawns to the government were actually mistreated.
Another thing that made me uncomfortable was a line that "Oh it must be true! My heart tells me so" but we later learn how the character works through her emotional bias, and its alright.
Another point that could be seen as either a strength or weakness is the extreme number of deaths included in the book. Parents, children, widows, friends. I personally find this to make the book more interesting and less cliche, however I can easily see that someone might get to the end of the book and just be tired of people dying. That is understandable.
The cover is great!
Also the faith aspect of the book is strong. If you would want to get the book to share with a friend, ideas that are included are:
There will be times when it seems like you are all alone, its just you v. the world. God still loves you
If you have a big decision to make, pray about it! Talking about praying about it doesnt count!
One other strength is that there are a few Dutch words here and there throughout the book. If you like those "tastes" of languages, this book will give you that :)
The title of the book is somewhat random to me. "Mercy" is discussed in the book, however not explicitly. What I mean is that the author might have a chapter about mercy, but wont actually say that it is about mercy. When you are reading the book, the title seems out of place, however after reading it, it makes a bit more sense.
I am guessing that the book will be a series and that the other titles will have similar grammatical structure.
One other thing that I tend to find annoying is when lots of time passes from the beginning to the end of the book. In this one, there were several places where it goes "that winter...." or "the next several months passed in a blur". This makes it a lot harder for me to tell how much time has passed, especially since there are multiple characters to follow.
I always think it is odd whenever a season, or even year, passes with only one or two paragraphs about it. There is no way an author can possible share enough details in that small of an area and I always wonder about what was left out of that time frame.
In the end, I think the author does a good job of connecting with the audience through the book.
To me, the target audience seems to be historical fiction fans.
I loved her Candle in the Darkness series which focused more specifically on the Civil War... This one covered many many events including: The potato blight in Europe, the Chicago fire, and the Civil War.
If you would want to read more about the Civil War in the South, definitely read A Candle in the Darkness and the two books also in the series.
I think that this book would be great for readers who have liked her other books, are interested in the subjects listed at the top, or would enjoy the spiritual lessons. You can order a copy from Amazon here.
About the author
For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.
Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother (age 98), and daughter concerning the change in women's roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve's Daughters.
Along with reading, two of Lynn's lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.
Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Eight of her historical novels, Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness, Fire by Night, A Proper Pursuit, and Until We Reach Home have won Christy Awards in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2008, and 2009 for excellence in Christian Fiction. Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.