Book Review: “Where We Belong,” by Lynn Austin

Loot from Lynn Austin

“In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules and expectations for Victorian women are strict, their roles in life limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents have taken them out of society ballrooms and delivered them to the Sinai Desert–and into the teeth of a sandstorm.

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a plucky street urchin learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest across the desert chasing rumors of an important biblical manuscript.

As the expedition becomes ever more dangerous and uncertain, all four travelers sift through memories and adventures of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the journeys and providence that brought them to this very time and place.”

Title:  “Where We Belong”
Author: Lynn Austin
Publisher: Bethany House (sent to me for review as part of the launch crew)
Copyright: 2017
Format Read: Paperback
My Rating: 5/5
Goodreads

Quick note:  Lynn Austin is one of my very favorite authors (and the very first one I ever picked up when it came to Christian Fiction), and when I heard she was looking for people to help launch her book – I immediately applied, and got accepted.Yet another first for me! This book was very kindly sent to me for review as part of the launch crew. I will cherish this book (and the lovely note sent with it) forever!

 

My Thoughts:

True to Lynn Austin form, this is a very well written, fast moving, exciting, loveable and relatable book.  The 2 sister’s story is set up in they style normal for Ms. Austin, switching between past and present,  focusing on mainly 1 character’s POV at a time. The way this is done makes understanding backstory much more pleasant, and really gives you a feel for each of the main characters. This being Christian fiction, I do love how the message of the gospel and how different bible stories become relatable to both the characters and to the reader. The author does not shy away from her beliefs, and does not water them down as some other Christian fiction does tend to. At the same time, it’s not written in a manner that is overly preachy.

One thing I really enjoy about this book (and most of Lynn Austin’s work) is her focus and creation of strong heroines. She is not afraid to let them shine, as well as fail when need be. They are written true to their time, but at the same time  – can be people you know and aspire to be in this day and age as well. Both Rebecca and Flora are both strong in their own ways – and a want to be taken seriously (mostly by men and authority figures) in a way that is sadly still applicable today.  The bond between the sisters, though having differences of opinions and tempers is unshakeable – even able to stand the friction of romantic partners. Their relationship was written in a believable way, allowing differences of temper, opinion and the tendency for the oldest sibling to be the bossiest.

To keep from spoilers I will say I always enjoy the romantic tension written into Ms. Austin’s stories, and this was no different. The choice of choosing from your heart, or choosing from your head is a timeless one. I appreciated the different portrayals of love this story had to offer, and the decision to go with what society offered, versus something more in line with God’s plan for your life – was well displayed and refreshing.

As for Kate and Soren, they’re stories were enjoyable, but I appreciated even more their character development and traits. Soren had the loyalty of Flora and  her tender heart. Kate on the other hand had Rebecca’s stubborn independence and need to be able to be in charge of her own life/self. I found their stories just as interesting as the main line.

Beyond having the ability to move me to laughter, tears and spiritual revelations, another thing I enjoy about Lynn Austin’s writing – is I always get  to learn a little something about history/setting. I had recently read a nonfiction work about her own pilgrimage to the Holy Land – and now greatly enjoyed seeing it fleshed out in the backdrop of the 1890’s. I also was not aware of the breadth of devastation the Chicago Fire had caused. In the end Ms. Austin shows the overlying picture of how even in the midst of what can seem like a doomed season – God’s hand is still upon us, and we still have lessons to learn from Him.

Another 5/5 for me, and a new favorite added to my shelf.

 

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Book Review: “Pilgrimage,” by Lynn Austin

51D9sUdgf8L._SY346_We all encounter times when our spirit feels dry, when doubt looms.
The opportunity to tour Israel came at a good time. For months, my life has been a mindless plodding through necessary routine, as monotonous as an all-night shift on an assembly line. Life gets that way sometimes, when nothing specific is wrong but the world around us seems drained of color. Even my weekly worship experiences and daily quiet times with God have felt as dry and stale as last year’s crackers. I’m ashamed to confess the malaise I’ve felt. I have been given so much. Shouldn’t a Christian’s life be an abundant one, as exciting as Christmas morning, as joyful as Easter Sunday?
With gripping honesty, Lynn Austin pens her struggles with spiritual dryness in a season of loss and unwanted change. Tracing her travels throughout Israel, Austin seamlessly weaves events and insights from the Word . . . and in doing so finds a renewed passion for prayer and encouragement for her spirit, now full of life and hope.

Title:  Pilgrimage: My Journey to A Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked
Author: Lynn Austin
Publisher: Bethany House
Copyright: 2013
Format Read: Paperback
My Rating: 5/5
Goodreads

My Thoughts:

I first came in contact with Lynn Austin’s work about 6 years ago, by randomly picking up one of her Christian Historical Romances at a second hand Christian book store. I can’t remember exactly which book it was, but I was new to Christian Fiction and the blurb sounded good. I fell in love with the book I read, and then rapidly began picking up more of her books. (At this point I have read MOST of them, and at some point will probably do an Author’s Spotlight on her work.)

When the Beau and I were preparing for the Camino De Santiago, and also leaning toward a Holy Land trip -I became obsessed with reading about other people’s journeys, Camino’s and Pilgrimages. When I saw that one of my favorite authors had done a Holy Land Pilgrimage, I couldn’t wait to snap it up.

I wasn’t disappointed, either. This is a small book for her (241 pages), but it is packed with her warmth, humor and distinctive voice. It was nice to get to know the Author on a more personal level, and hear about where she is at in her journey. Lynn Austin isn’t afraid to bear her fears or doubts, but at the same time gives hopeful messages to herself and the reader. As a Christian, I’ve noticed people don’t like to talk much about going through periods of spiritual dryness, and instead focus on all the positiveness. Every relationship has its ups and downs, and our relationships with Christ are no different. Lynn really opens up in her book, to show her struggles as a Mom, wife and Christian Writer. It was really refreshing to read, and made her all the more relatable.

The book is set up in chapters each featuring a place she visited during the Holy Land. She talks about the places she’s seen, the people she’s met, and the historical/biblical significance of each destination.  Also, she takes the time to figure how each place may be significant to her personal journey spiritually. Each chapter ends with a prayer, and there are hand drawn sketches throughout. It’s one part travelogue, and one part spiritual journey/devotional.  In the end,  she finds the refreshing of the spirit that she’s looking for, and I have to say it helped me get some fresh insight as well. I’m sure this will be a re-read for me in the future.