Ever turn on your TV about 15 minutes too late to catch the beginning of what seems to be a great movie? This book is very much like that. You get the impression that Astrid Bjorklund was once more "spirited" and impulsive in her past … mostly through references regarding a smaller cousin, Inga, who keeps getting herself and another cousin into trouble – including a broken arm. However, the Astrid of this book is very controlled and comes across as much older than the age of 18.
Astrid has unexplained feelings for a gentleman who has just returned to Blessing after being away for two years. Not enough of the previous book is recapped for us to understand why Joshua feels the way he does for Astrid, or why Astrid seems to feel that way in return. Just as the relationship starts to even seem like it could be a "relationship" Astrid leaves for medical training in Chicago and no declarations of care have ever been exchanged between the two. So … Joshua hasn't really even dated her or spent much time with her, but starts building a house with marrying her in mind? And Astrid thinks about him a lot, but doesn't really know anything about him or whether he really cares for her?
The real story of this book is not the relationship – which falls a little flat – but rather the struggle Astrid wages against continuing her medical studies despite a frustration with God that he would allow good people to die despite all their efforts and prayers. After the death of two patients, a young man and a newborn, Astrid is angry with God and has an irrational fear of putting her hands inside someone to do surgery or delivery for fear they will die too. The realism of these observations, and the spiritual struggle they bring to a young medical student are heartfelt and well covered by Snelling in this novel. She is too scared of letting down her family and community to back out of continuing her medical training in Chicago, but continues to be terrified even after her arrival. Her years of experience and training kick in on multiple occasions and God grants her experiences in Chicago that verify that she will also save lives when He wills it to happen. Including a young boy who becomes her first experience with double amputation. Astrid's strong heart shines through when she steps in to find Benny a home among friends in Blessing rather than leaving him on the streets of Chicago to struggle.
The additional turmoil Astrid experiences over deciding whether she is meant to spend time doing mission work in Africa, before returning to Blessing, adds even more emotional tension to this story. There is some satisfaction when she decides to take God's lead, one day at a time, with the first step being to attend the missionary training. But the copy on the back cover had eluded that we would find out in this very book if she would regret making that choice? Apparently that was just a summary of the entire book and we won't really find that out until book two (or maybe three?)
What can we tell by the book's cover?
Well, the knotted blonde hair and blue eyes do hint at a possible
Norweigen background, but not blatantly. The two-story white house,
wheat fields and the style of her dress (with the high collar) elude
that this is probably a historical book in a rural community. Although
this cover is of an appealing design, it doesn't help you to understand
anything about Astrid. I would have recommended that she at least have
a stethescope or medical bag in her hands … or show a scene with her
caring for a patient, rather than staring across a wheat field. This
cover is beautiful, but possibly a little too generic to the genre to
The copy on the back cover is misleading. The romance is not as
clear cut as the back eludes … and disappears before the end of the
book, (not to be discussed again until the next book I assume?) And
I've already mentioned that the decision regarding Africa happens at the very end of the book.
Overall, this book is very well written, but is not a stand alone
piece. Although marketed as Book #1 of a series – it is a continuation
of another Blessing series that needs to be read first to thoroughly
understand several of it's main characters. I think this cover's copy
should have been less of a synopsis of the whole book and more of a
teaser to get the reader to pick it up off the shelf. Too much of the
plot is given away by the back cover copy, and some of the questions it
brings to mind aren't answered in this book.
***Note: I was given this book to review by Bethany House. If you are a publisher and would like an honest review of one of your latest publications, please contact me at email@example.com for addressing.