Until We Reach Home – by Lynn Austin (2008)

Until We Reach Home

For my latest read, I chose historic fiction set in the 1890’s. It was the era of immigration, where people left every corner of the earth to seek their fortune in America, the promised land. The story centers on three Swedish sisters whose parents have both died. When the uncle that they are living with develops a pattern of molestation, the oldest sister writes to relatives in the United States, begging to be allowed to come to Chicago. Tickets are sent to the young women, and they set off for their new life.

The voyage across the Pacific Ocean is very difficult, and they end up getting detained on Ellis Island because of sickness. When they are finally released from quarantine, they head for their relatives’ home in Chicago. They arrive safely, but it is obvious that one of the relatives really doesn’t want them there. They blunder about, trying to find work while learning the new language. Throughout the book the Carlson sisters remain tightly bonded. As they search for a new home, God watches over them and provides what they need.

Winterflight – by Joseph Bayly (1981, 25th anniversary edition 2006)

Winterflight

This futuristic novel was written in 1981, with the author presenting the United States as a country that has become the healthiest on earth. Sickness is rare, the poverty level is down, people have good health care, and everyone seems to be middle class and happy. So how did they accomplish this? By enforcing strict life control.

Each couple is allowed only one child. During pregnancy, tests are done to check for genetic defects or physical disabilities. If any problem is found in the baby, the law mandates an immediate abortion. But if the baby appears normal during the testing and is born, but develops serious health problems that their country doesn’t want to treat, the child is sent to an organ farm, to be kept alive but unconscious while part after part of their body is harvested for important people. No one unhealthy is allowed in this society.

On the other end of the spectrum, life is only 75 years at the max. If you make it to your 75th birthday, the government assigns you a date at which time you must turn yourself in to a designated euthanasia center (which they call a thanotel).

This is the society that Jon and Grace Stanton live in. They have a young son, Stephen, who is a hemophiliac. They delivered him at home and have been hiding the truth from the doctors for years, but it’s getting harder now. Jon’s father George has just turned 75, and has received his letter that it’s almost time to go to the thanotel.

The story read like a bad nightmare to me. I expected the family to fight back in any way they could, hide in a friend’s home, relocate with some fake IDs, or make a run for another country. But all the characters in the book seem to just take whatever order the government gives them, saying that the Bible instructs them to obey the authorities. What is the matter with these people? I asked myself as I read the book. No parent in their right mind would act this way!

Maybe the intent of the author was to point out that the less we value life from the moment of conception to the time of natural death, the more callous we become. We can start to rationalize just about anything to an unbelievable degree. Let’s hope and pray that we never sink to the level of going along with infanticide, organ harvesting of sick or disabled people, and the forced euthanasia that is portrayed in this book.

Apparently a lot of folks who read this book (which is categorized as inspirational Christian fiction) were horrified by the book. The author offers a two-page response to their reactions at the end of the reprinted book. This was definitely not an easy book to read. But every so often, we should read a book that makes us uncomfortable and squirmy.

Intervention – by Terri Blackstock (2009)

Intervention

Barbara Covington is living a nightmare. First she loses her husband to cancer, then she realizes her daughter Emily is a hard-core drug addict. In desperation, she contacts a Christian rehab center. The director of the center is a former addict herself. She agrees to come out to the Covington house, do an intervention, then escort Emily to the rehab center in another state.

As you might expect, events do not go smoothly. The intervention session makes Emily quite hostile. Barbara forces her daughter to go with the rehab lady, but when the two arrive on the other end, things go terribly wrong. The rehab lady is found dead in her car, and Emily is missing. Of course Barbara is convinced that her daughter didn’t have anything to do with the murder, while the police consider Emily to be their prime suspect.

Throughout the story, you see the agony that a family goes through when one of their own is a drug addict. Feelings of helplessness and desperation dominate the atmosphere. The parent’s attention is totally focused on the child with the addiction, to the neglect of the child who is doing nothing wrong. At the end of the novel, the author writes that the story was inspired by her struggles with her own daughter, who was a drug addict. I have to give the author a lot of credit for being willing to share some of the things that can happen when you have a loved one with an addiction.

October Dawn – by Jim Walker (2001)

October Dawn

It’s late 1962, and Johnny Pera is at his parents’ home in Morro Beach, California for the first time in many years. His father is the head of an organized crime group on the West Coast, overseeing casinos in Las Vegas. Johnny made the decision many years ago to separate himself from the family business. He also rejected the family’s Catholic background, choosing a Protestant church instead and becoming a minister. He married, had two kids, and then was widowed. His kids are teenagers now, but have never met their father’s relatives. But it’s Johnny’s parents’ 50th anniversary, and he takes the kids to meet their grandparents for the first time.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the CIA is getting intel about possible Russian missiles being brought into nearby Cuba. Fidel Castro has taken over the little country, but rebels are organizing and trying to assassinate him. The presence of missiles is verified, and President Kennedy is notified. Now comes the dilemma. Do they just watch and wait, or attack Cuba?

So what binds the two storylines together? Johnny’s father is gunned down at the 50th anniversary party. Johnny vows to find the murderer. He starts out thinking it must be a member of a competing Mafia family. But as time goes on, he finds out that the CIA thinks his father may have been involved in the situation in Cuba.  Johnny’s search for the truth leads him to Florida, the closest part of the United States to Cuba.

 

A Treasure Deep – by Alton Gansky (2003)

a treasure deep

Perry Sachs didn’t have any plans to go on a treasure hunt. He was just following his conscience, trying to help an old man in an alley who was being beaten. The old man clutched a satchel tightly, and would rather die than give it to his attacker. Later, the old man and his family entrusted the contents of the satchel to Perry, and the treasure hunt was on.

What I enjoyed about this book was the tight-knit camaraderie and decency of the small group that worked on the excavation project. More than once, the small crew turned to God in prayer. Praying when they were about to begin, and praying when they ran into trouble. It was refreshing to have a story where people did their jobs with excellence and great care. I also liked the local mayor, Anne, who seemed like an adversary at first, but became an ally. There was enough action and suspense to keep this story moving right through to the end.

Leave It To Claire – by Tracey Bateman (2006)

Leave It To Claire

As I’ve been heavily into non-fiction books and podcasts lately, it seemed that it was time to jump into fiction again. This book is what I would call a reality novel. Claire is a forty-something divorced mother of four kids, who makes a living by writing from home. Despite being home most of the time, she is so busy writing that she doesn’t spend much time with her kids, and she is far too busy for friendships or God time.

Claire’s relationship with her ex-husband Rick is strained, especially since he remarried. His new wife tries to be friendly and kind to Claire, but finds her bitter and unreachable. As in real life, the four kids are stuck between their father and their mother. One of the kids really starts acting out and getting in trouble at school.

When Claire has to stop working for several months due to carpal tunnel requiring surgery for both hands, she begins to evaluate her life. What she sees is not good, and she makes a list of things she wants to change.

The book had a nitty-gritty feel about it. Anyone who has gone through a divorce, especially with children, will be able to relate to Claire. And those who haven’t been through the experience of divorce will get an idea of how difficult it is. There is no quick fix to heal a family that has been ripped apart, but with the help of God, friends and hard work, healing can happen.

The Search – by William Badke (1995)

The Search.jpg

“The Search” is the first book in the Ben Sylvester mystery trilogy, which I read many years ago. The main character, Ben, works as a political consultant for an international company that helps third-world countries develop democratic governments. However, things don’t always go smoothly. The book opens with him running for his life in some part of Africa. He makes it safely back to the United States, but his troubles aren’t over. His house is empty, and his wife Karen and their two kids gone.

The rest of the book is just as the title suggests, a search. The search leads him to an isolated area of Canada to find his missing family. About halfway into the book we also meet Karen, his wife. Karen has had her own kind of search, a spiritual one. She has become a Christian, and is now a much stronger woman. Instead of being a timid person and being afraid of many things, including her domineering father, she has a calmness and confidence that God has things under control. Karen wants Ben to have a relationship with Jesus too, but he is used to taking care of himself and doesn’t think he needs any help. But of course, all of us need help.

If you like action-packed mystery with a spiritual element, this is a good book to check out. Being an older book, you may have a bit of a search for it, but that’s what this book is all about – searching and finding the effort worth it!