Thursday, January 11, 2018

Book Review: Where We Belong

Where We Belong. Lynn Austin. 2017. Bethany House. 480 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Rebecca Hawes lay awake in her tent, convinced that the howling wind was about to lift her entire camp into the air and hurl it to the far side of the desert.

Premise/plot: Where We Belong tells the story of two adventuring sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes. The novel opens in the Sinai Desert in 1890, the sisters are on a quest to find ancient manuscripts. In particular, Becky is looking for ancient copies of the New Testament. She has, by this point, co-written several books on her archaeological discoveries. She's hoping that a new discovery will help skeptics believe that the Bible is reliable and reasonable.

The story line set in 1890 is packed with action and adventure. But the book doesn't stay in 1890, in fact it is dominated by flashbacks--flashbacks for four main characters: Becky, Flora, Soren, and Kate. The earliest flashbacks take us back to the school years of Becky and Flora and how their love of 'adventure' began when they were still teens. (Their first adventure being skipping school and exploring Chicago.)

The two sisters--in particular Becky Hawes--are unconventional in many ways. The two share a love for traveling the world, learning new languages, bargaining with the natives and picking up souvenirs. The two also share concern for others. Flora has a heart for the poor, particularly orphaned and abandoned children. Becky has a heart for the lost. She sees her love of archaeology being in line with that concern. Her work may remove barriers keeping people from believing that the Bible is the true word of God. That's how she sees it anyway. Both sisters have a strong faith in God.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love, love, love it. I honestly thought it was a bit too long. The story set in 1890 was compelling, but the flashbacks were not equally so. In fact, I found some of the flashbacks to be more tedious than not. (Not all the flashbacks lacked action; one sequence takes readers to the Chicago Fire.)

I found it interesting that this one is based very loosely on real sisters--Agnes and Margaret Smith. But the authors note makes it clear that it is VERY loosely based. Agnes and Margaret Smith were Scottish, not American, and most of the book is complete fiction.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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