Right now, I am standing and applauding Bethany House for finding such a jewel as Linda Nichols.

I believe Linda’s grandmother and my grandmother were best friends, for she has captured the sights, sounds and smells of my girlhood between the pages of this book regarding the grandmother character.

The reader is caught up into the sphere of spiritual warfare from the very first page, and then reads how it all plays out in the earthly realm. I know I have read the first few pages of this before and I’m thinking it was a contest that Dave Long held on conversion experience. It was so gripping then that I remember it to this day.

This story is very unique and, yet, it is the oldest story since time began because we all get caught in Satan’s web of seduction, we all think there is no way out, we all bargain with God at one time or another, we all get angry at circumstances and must fight to forgive our loved one’s choices, and we all find out sooner or later that only God can cure all ills, heal all wounds and change all hearts… if we just allow Him the elbow room to do it.

This story is very well-woven. The characters are first rate developed and we see personalities clash in a most believable way. What I love most about this story is that every character grows, blossoms, and finds sure footing on their life path.

The main character, Bridie Collins, is worn out from the bad choices she has made. One day, she’s had enough of buying ingredients for cooking meth and being the maid for two slothful drug dealers, so she bides her time until they both crash from too much of a bad thing. She steals the drug money and makes her getaway, calling a hot tip line to make sure that Jonah is arrested and put safely away so he won’t come after her. The drug money is stolen so her plans for getting far, far away go awry. She settles in Virginia. Bridie is not her real name, it is her mother’s. Somehow, taking on the name of her mother settles her spirit and infuses her soul with a modicum of peace. She is still running away from her bad choices and not facing the music, but we realize that she has some spiritual growing to do before that can happen. It may be the middle of winter, when snow swirling around, but what a garden grows in the little family that is blessed with her.

There are a couple of things that distract somewhat, and keep this story from being 5+ stars. When the paths of Bridie and Jonah part, we follow Bridie and then we’re jerked from that story into the jail cell of Jonah. It does not lend to the storyline at all knowing what Jonah is thinking. The tension is better built with the fear from Bridie rather than Jonah’s intentions. Also, there isn’t a thing added to the storyline by knowing what Jonah’s attorney is thinking or that she finally winds up out of the public defender’s office and in the prosecutor’s office. Those were major distractions.

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter how excellently a story is written if we are led down dead end paths which do not include the protagonist. In crafting a believable story, the writer should understand that the reader feels cheated and bewildered when we don’t know where we’re going, there isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re in the company of a character we do not know.

But don’t let that keep you from buying this book for your Keeper Shelf. It is an extremely good character study of a pastor who is man-called, not God-called and of a woman who is coming to terms, with God’s help, with her bad choices and how God works in our lives for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Excellent read. Time well spent.

Linda Nichols, a graduate of the University of Washington, is a novelist with a unique gift for touching readers’ hearts with her stories. She is also the author of the acclaimed novels If I Gained the World and At the Scent of Water. She and her family make their home in Tacoma, Washington. Visit Linda’s Web site at www.lindanichols.org

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