Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review: Where Courage Calls (2014)

Where Courage Calls. Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan. 2014. Bethany House. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First, I must say that Where Courage Calls is definitely better than the new television adaptation of When Calls The Heart might lead you to believe. That is if you were one of those who'd read the original books and found the adaptation ridiculous and/or frustrating. The heroine, Beth Thatcher, is a young cousin of the original Elizabeth Thatcher. Beth's father is one of Elizabeth's uncles. None of Elizabeth's uncles (or aunts) were ever mentioned in the original series, so this is all new. Though because that Elizabeth is a ten or so years older, she is "Aunt Elizabeth" to her cousins. (That is one of the things you just have to go with.) Here is the best news. There is NO RIDICULOUS DIARY. "Aunt Elizabeth" has not vanished into thin air. Her fate is not unknown. She has not thrown over her family or been cast aside by her family. Elizabeth did go west to teach; she did get married and go west once more. But readers don't have to put up with Beth discovering her aunt's story through embarrassing diary entries.

Also gone is the pathetic stage-coach portion from the movie. Since "Aunt Elizabeth" went west circa 1910, it only makes sense that her YOUNG cousin a decade or so later travels by train and then automobile to her place out west. True, the book still has Beth losing all of her possessions, but it is because Edward gave them to a porter at the train station who turned out to be a thief. There was no hold-up of the stage coach!

While the movie makes much of Edward, the book Edward is rarely around for better or worse. Beth has a long standing dislike for Edward. She realizes that her mother's greatest hope is for her to marry Edward, but, she sees Edward as not being worthy of her love and respect. He seems immature and irresponsible. Beth IS rude to him in many places, though she counsels herself after each occurrence that she isn't behaving like a proper Christian girl when she treats Edward like she does. Beth is also plenty rude to her sister Julie when she visits.

It soon becomes clear to readers that Edward is not the one being built up as the OBVIOUS romantic choice for her to make by the end of the book. Another man fills that role. Like Edward, he is a Mountie. Unlike Edward, he earns her respect and friendship almost immediately. NOT that she falls head over heels in love with him, like Elizabeth fell for Wynn. Where Courage Calls is not about instant love.

Where Courage Calls makes a good attempt or effort to be about a whole community, about Beth finding her place within that community, about her finding inner strength and making a big difference when it matters most. Readers meet adults and children alike, and, there are several stories to be told. (One story line was about prohibition. Another about Italian miners facing discrimination in town.)

While When Calls the Heart was focused almost solely on ROMANCE, Where Courage Calls is focused more on history and community relationships. Yes, there is a question asked of Beth before the last page is turned, but, the book was always about more than that.

I loved the original series, especially the first two books. This one did not work for me in the same way. But. It was encouraging to see the author make something positive come from the dreadful movie.

Where Courage Calls could easily be compared to Christy by Catherine Marshall. In my opinion, Christy is the better book, the more charming, the more memorable. But I have read it dozens of times, so it may be that Where Courage Calls is too new to be loved like that.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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