The centuries may differ, but the faith remains the same. From present-day America, to an Atlantic crossing in the 1700s, to a newly established 19th-century Seattle, these three inspirational novels show that while circumstances may vary, the need to trust in God does not.
In Christa Parrish’s fifth novel, Still Life, photographer Julian Goetz is shooting a magazine story and, while on assignment, meets young Ada Mitchell. Hosea-like, Julian responds to God’s call to marry Ada, the daughter of a militant religious “prophet” and founder of a secluded community.
Soon after their marriage, as Ada is still trying to find her place in the new world, Julian dies in a plane crash. Katherine Walker, unhappy in her own marriage and pursuing an affair to the detriment of those she loves, gave up her seat on that plane for Julian—and now she must face her reasons for doing so.
For Ada, Julian’s loss is both a death and a rebirth. Without him, she must navigate life outside the brownstone they briefly shared. Her journey to a life of her own is guided by five photographs he took—and brings her into contact with Evan, Katherine’s son.
Christy Award winner Parrish deftly guides the reader through the past and present of all her characters. She has a gift for imagery—for capturing, like a camera, all that a scene can hold. Her writing is poetic as she plumbs the angles and emotions of tragedy. As we witness the pangs of Ada’s indoctrination and wounds made by Katherine’s mistakes, Parrish reminds us that even in a broken world, there is still life worth living. Still Life is a story of starting over with the pieces that are left and building more than there was before—mercifully, by God’s grace.
AMISH AT SEA
Persecuted for their beliefs, followers of Jacob Amman in Germany undertake an arduous sea voyage to a new world aboard the Charming Nancy in 1737 in Anna’s Crossing. Though she was reluctant to make the voyage, Anna König was selected because of her ability to speak English.
There are tensions between the Amish and the others on the ship. Bairn, the ship’s Scottish carpenter, begrudges the presence of these Peculiars, as he calls them. Having them on board stirs up his ire—and something else long buried. Curious 9-year-old Felix, whom Anna is tasked with watching over, adventurously explores the ship, his exuberance giving the story its energy. The crew, and the Amish and Mennonite passengers, must deal with deprivations, death, storms and a pivotal encounter with a slave ship.
Author Suzanne Woods Fisher is known for evoking the Amish experience, and the hardships and lurking dangers of the Atlantic crossing are brought to life here as well. She draws from historical fact: A ship of the same name set sail with Amish aboard from Rotterdam to Philadelphia in 1737, in what was one of the first significant Amish crossings to America.
Anna’s steadfast trust in God is sorely tested over the months-long journey, yet she still makes strong arguments for trusting Him during those trials. These arguments slowly begin to reach Bairn, whose resistance to faith in Anna’s God is thoughtfully rendered. The touch of romance and many plot twists in Anna’s Crossing keep Fisher’s story entertaining as well as genuinely interesting.
SPOUSELESS IN SEATTLE
Two young women are at the center of best-selling author Tracie Peterson’s quaint story set at a training school for brides in late 19th-century Seattle, Steadfast Heart. Abrianna Cunningham and Lenore Fulcher make unlikely friends. Outspoken Abrianna cares for the city’s poor, while Lenore lives largely in a privileged world whose rules are dictated by society and her parents. Then Kolbein Booth arrives from Chicago to find his runaway sister, Greta, and changes the game for all three young people—as well as that of the matrons who run the Madison School for Brides. It appears that while suitors mingle with potential mates, more insidious affairs are being conducted in the city streets.
Meanwhile, Lenore experiences an awakening, Abrianna suffers a loss and Kolbein finds himself drawn to Lenore. As change swirls about them all, they must remember to find their anchor in God, trusting him for the best outcome.
Steadfast Heart has a sequel coming, and like any good first book in a series, it leaves just enough questions unanswered to make readers eager for the next installment. What this tale may lack in depth, it possesses in earnestness and the author’s desire for her characters to reflect a sincere growth in faith.
This article was originally published in the March 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.