Far and Near (Amanda G. Stevens) – Review

5 starsstraight-to-the-pool-room

Publisher’s Overview
Home is not easy to find. Marcus, Lee, Austin, and Violet are starting over. Texas is supposed to be their sanctuary. But the Constabulary isn’t ready to relinquish their worst offenders, legal jurisdiction or not. They’ve sent agents in undercover, and Marcus is the assigned target of one who has personal reasons to bring him back dead or alive. Marcus and Lee are ready to be whole again, to secure a home here – together. But wholeness and home might not mean what they thought. Stopping the Constabulary hunters will require more than Marcus knows how to give, and God is about to use him again in a way he doesn’t expect. Enemies, emotions, the past, the future-everything must be faced in the quest for a true haven.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Marcus drove to the park and made his way to the nearest sidewalk.  He passed a few people, mostly moms with kids.  He pictured Aubrey here with Elliott, then Pamela Mayweather with her boys, and the images pierced in different ways.
He passed the play scape and stopped where picnic tables scattered over a wide grassy area open to the sunshine.  The nature path was the best place to pray.  Trees filtered half the sunlight and let the rest pour down on him.  Birdsongs and insect hums would keep him company.  But walking on the uneven wood chips today wouldn’t be smart.
He claimed a picnic table and sat awhile.  He waited for God to lift the burden from his shoulders.  To show him an alternative.  Couldn’t Becca tell her story?  She’d been grabbed by an agent right here in Texas, shoved into the trunk of a car.  She would want to speak about it, if she knew what he knew.  And she’d speak better.
Anybody would speak better than Marcus.
“Please, Jesus,” he said.  “I don’t know if I can.”
Calm sank into him like a seed and grew.  He felt his Father’s hand again, this time in the center of his back, nudging him forward.
His hands trembled as he held his phone.  “Will you strengthen me, like that Philippians verse?”
He dialed the number from the business card she’d given him, days that felt like months ago.  His chest tightened while the line rang.
“Stopczy,” she said, sounding like a detective, and he almost hung up.  “Hello?”
“It’s Marcus Brenner.  I’ll meet you.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My Review
First of all, if you have not read the first three books in this series, you will want to do so before picking this one up.  Since each book follows on from the previous one in the series, this review may contain minor spoilers for those earlier books if you haven’t read them yet, although I will do my best to limit this.

One more thing:  YOU NEED TO READ THIS SERIES.

There is no possible way to convey how much I . . . actually, I’m not even sure there’s an adjective that accurately describes how I feel about this series.  It seems shallow and somehow misleading to say I ‘enjoyed’ it, because it is not a light read.  I have been gripped . . . fully immersed . . . engrossed . . . consumed . . . I loved it. I cried, I smiled, I held by breath, and I kept swiping my Kindle at the end as though that would magically deliver more pages of a story that I wasn’t ready to finish. And to think, a week ago I didn’t even know Marcus and Lee existed.

For those who do not know the premise of this series, it is actually deceptively simple for the speculative genre: in the US, ‘archaic’ Bibles have been banned for inciting violence and hate speech. The only Bibles now permitted are the government-sanctioned Progressive United Version.  Likewise, Christianity is outlawed, and it is the job of the Philosophical Constabulary to apprehend and re-educate anyone who continues to practise or preach Christianity.  As a result, Texas secedes from the United States and become a Republic in its own right – and a safe haven for those fleeing the long reach of the Constabulary.

In this fourth (and final) book in the series, Marcus, Lee, Violet, and Austin have begun to establish themselves in their new home. However the newly formed Republic of Texas is suffering from a rapidly rising cost of living due to trade embargoes with the US, and so in return for the lifting of these embargoes, the Governor agrees that the Republic of Texas will not interfere with the capture of any person on the Constabulary’s Most Wanted List – a list which includes Marcus Brenner.

Still suffering both emotionally and physically from the time he spent imprisoned, Marcus knows exactly who will be coming after him, and what his chances of survival will be if apprehended. Already an intensely private person and having been betrayed by a fellow Christian in the past, he refuses to make his situation known within their new community. But when another person is injured trying to protect him, sharing his story may be the only thing that can stop the tide of public opinion turning against those who have come to Texas seeking refuge. He’s not good with words at the best of times. How can he possibly find the words when so much is at stake?

Lee is the other point-of-view character in this book – an intensely introverted woman taking her first tentative steps as a Christian, and struggling to overcome the lasting effects of a previous trauma so that she can accept Marcus’s love and friendship in its fullest sense. There is something about the steadfast love of a man who patiently waits for his love to be returned (Gilbert Blythe, anyone?) that makes my throat close over with emotion, and this has to be one of my all-time favourite relationships in literature for heartfelt depth.

Violet and Austin have their own struggles to work through, and I can’t help hoping there will be some kind of follow up book (or series) to continue their story – at the very least. (And I’m not beyond begging!)

Bottom line: as a several-books-a-week reader, these are some of the most authentic, memorable, and well-drawn characters I have come across; such a simple premise giving rise to such compelling stories and powerful testimonies. This has honestly been one of the most affecting reading experiences I can recall – and as someone who has read and therefore sobbed through the end of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, that’s saying something.

I really cannot recommend this series highly enough – and I do not gush lightly. Start at the beginning and enjoy the superb writing and stunning characterization.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

I have sent this whole series ‘straight to the pool room’.  To find out what this means, and learn more about the series, click here.

Pre-order from:        Amazon.com        Amazon.com.au

Release date:  15 February 2016
Pages:  404
Publisher:  David C. Cook
Author’s website:  http://amandagstevensbooks.weebly.com/

Previous books in series:

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About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
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3 Responses to Far and Near (Amanda G. Stevens) – Review

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday – Underrated Books I Read in 2016 | Fiction Aficionado

  2. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Loved More Than I Thought I Would | Fiction Aficionado

  3. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday – Under-loved Favourites | Fiction Aficionado

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