Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Review: Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace by Faith Blum

Recommended for: Ages 10-Adult

Rating: PG (a drunken character and some clean romance)

Caleb hurried to the post office. He had to get in and out before his sister finished at the general store. “Any mail for the Stuarts?” he asked the postmaster.

The postmaster took a lazy look at him over the top of his eyeglasses and gave a heaving sigh as he turned around to check. “Yep. Somethin’ from Ohio and somethin’ from Montana.”

Tapping his foot, Caleb waited until the large man put the letters lazily in his hand. As he left he wondered why Anna had written someone in Montana and who she knew in Montana. It was really none of his business, but he was still curious. He folded the Ohio letter in half and stashed it in his back pocket. It would get wrinkled, but at least Anna wouldn’t know about it.

 As Caleb struggles through some inner battles, he secretly starts a correspondence with a widow and her daughter. Their unabashed faith in God convicts him and increases his inner struggles.

 Unable to find a steady job, Maggie places an advertisement to become a mail-order bride. Her daughter, Rachel, is her motivation and encouragement, but if Maggie doesn’t find a job or husband soon, Rachel might not survive through the next year.

 Can Caleb learn to trust God despite his past? Can Maggie and Rachel hold onto their faith despite all their trials? What will happen when they meet in person?

I had heard about the Hymns of the West series and even interacted with Faith a little online, but I didn't actually read any of her books until we started doing each others' blog tours. I actually interviewed her on my author blog today. Amazing Grace is the only one I've read so far and I really enjoyed it. I read the prologue one day, but once I actually sat down to read more a few days later, I finished it in an evening and a morning. And despite being book three, it really can be read as a standalone. I'm sure I would get more out of it by reading the others too, but it didn't prevent my understanding this book to have not read the others first.

Writing: 4/5

Faith's writing gave me a really good idea of the story and all that was going on. It definitely held my attention and kept me in the story. There were some points where the writing style seemed rather unpolished, and it was hard at the very first to figure out who Duncan, Maggie, and Rachel were, and what their relationship to one another was. It didn't take long for me to figure it out, though. The only other thing I wasn't sure about with the writing was that it and the dialogue didn't seem quite old fashioned enough for the era. I did really love how many of Maggie and Caleb's letters were included. That was a neat touch.

Setting: 5/5

The setting seemed fairly realistic, not out of place with other books of similar genre like Little House or Sarah, Plain and Tall. Nothing stuck out to me as being out of place historically, and it felt like a real place. It was interesting when a certain character had an "apoplectic fit" as they called it, but I could identify it as a stroke. It really made me think about medicine in the old days and how they really didn't know all the things we do today.

Plot: 4/5

I've been fascinated with the concept of a mail order bride ever since I read Sarah, Plain and Tall. Not that I would ever want to be one, I certainly wouldn't, but it's a very interesting concept. I supposed it's sort of the pioneer equivalent of internet dating, but it has a completely different feel. Now, while that is a major part of the plot, it's really more about faith. The characters go through a lot of uncertain situations, some involving becoming a Christian, some involving a congregation that doesn't like the pastor to preach convicting sermons, some with drunken family members, some just life and carrying on through hardship and sorrow. There is also a bit of a clean romance side to the story, as it does involve two weddings. The part of the story involving the pastor reminded me sadly of the church today. People don't want to hear the hard convicting stuff that's in the Bible. Occasionally the story would skip and it seemed like something interesting would be left out, like Rachel reaching out to Toby and getting him to stop being a bully, but I still really enjoyed the story. I don't know why I waited so long to read Faith Blum. After all, it's more of a pioneer story like my beloved Little House than like a western movie that would bore me less than halfway in.

Character Development: 4/5

I really liked the characters. Caleb was certainly interesting, I liked Maggie a lot, and I loved seeing their relationship develop. Rachel was a very sweet little girl, though very stubborn, and I loved how she used her stubborn nature in the right way. I enjoyed getting to know Miles and Anna, and now I've read the description of book 2, Be Thou My Vision, I want to read it to get to know them better. I kind of felt sorry for Iain, though also a little scared of them. I felt like the characters could have had a little more depth, but they were still plenty well developed for me to enjoy the story. And I can be picky about character development.

Amazing Grace was a really good story and I definitely recommend it.

About the Author

An avid reader, Faith Blum started writing at an early age. Whether it was a story about the camping trip that summer or a more creative story about fictional characters, she has always enjoyed writing. When not writing, Miss Blum enjoys reading, crafting, playing piano, Captaining on the Holy Worlds Historical Fiction Forum and playing games with her family (canasta, anyone?).

As a history enthusiast who has been fascinated for years with the Old West, Faith has endeavored to create a clean, fun, and challenging Western story. Faith lives with her family on a hobby farm in the Northern Midwest, where she enjoys the many cats they have.

You can find Faith on her Website, Blog, Facebook, and Twitter

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