~ About the Book ~
Wilhelmina Brewster has been a college music professor for 41 years, devoting her life to her career and never marrying. Now, after her forced retirement at age 65, she is mourning her loss and searching for something to fill the empty hours. Widower Mike Dolan is a pilot and World War II veteran who has always lived life to the fullest. When medical tests confirm that his cancer has returned, he makes plans to take a final flight in his airplane rather than become a burden to his family. Wilhelmina accidentally learns of Mike’s final plans, and when she discovers that he isn’t a believer, she knows it’s her Christian duty to talk with him about her faith. But although she has been a lifelong Christian, she feels totally inadequate for the task of witnessing to an unbeliever.
Mike and Wilhelmina are two very different people—one figuring out how to live, the other how to die. Yet they will find themselves journeying together as they search for answers to life, loss and faith in God.
Genre: General Fiction
Release date: 15 June 2017 (updated version of an earlier release)
~ Excerpt ~
Wilhelmina was too distraught to sit. She paced the length of the reception area several times until Pastor Stockman finally appeared at his office door and invited her in. […] Wilhelmina began speaking before she’d even taken her seat.
“A most upsetting incident occurred today, Pastor. I simply must discuss it with someone, and I knew you’d understand the need to keep it confidential.”
The pastor sank into the chair behind his enormous desk and nodded somberly. “Of course.”
“I just visited a man for the Cancer Society’s hospice program, a terminal cancer patient. In the course of our conversation he confided in me that he wouldn’t be needing hospice’s services because he plans to end his own life!”
The pastor sat forward abruptly. “Oh, my.”
“I think you can see why I’m so upset. We both feel the same way about euthanasia. As members of the Connecticut League for Life we can’t simply look the other way when someone is planning suicide. But I don’t know what to do. He has actually admitted that he intends to kill himself.”
“I can certainly understand why you’re upset, Miss Brewster.”
“I was hoping that you could stop him, somehow, Pastor. I realize I can’t report him anywhere, can I? Because of client confidentiality?”
“Hmm . . . that’s probably true . . .” Pastor Stockman stroked his beard thoughtfully.
“Do you know if he’s a member of any church?” he finally asked. “Maybe you could speak to his pastor or priest.”
“He said he didn’t have a church affiliation or a pastor. I offered to refer him to one of our hospice clergymen, but he refused.”
Pastor Stockman paused. “Hmm . . . you don’t think he’s a Christian, then?”
“Well, I have to assume not. And that makes matters even worse, doesn’t it, if he does commit suicide?”
The pastor stared thoughtfully at the ceiling for a moment, as if the answer he sought was encoded in the tiny dots of the ceiling tiles. “Does he have a specific plan to end his life, Miss Brewster, or were these just vague threats?”
Wilhelmina thought for a moment. What had Mr. Dolan said? Something about taking off in his airplane and forgetting to land again.
“No, it’s not a vague threat. He seems to have it all planned.”
“Hmm . . .” A flashing red light on Pastor Stockman’s telephone ticked off the seconds noiselessly. Finally he leaned forward. “Do you think this could just be a manifestation of self-pity? It would be natural for him to feel hopeless if he recently found out that he’s terminally ill. Thoughts of suicide are often an initial reaction to news of this nature. Did he seem emotionally upset to you?”
“No, he didn’t appear to be upset,” she said. “In fact, he seemed quite calm about it all.” Wilhelmina opened her purse and rummaged through it. “I have his card here, somewhere. Couldn’t you talk to him, Pastor?”
Reverend Stockman shook his head. “I can’t drop by his home uninvited. This is a very delicate situation, Miss Brewster.”
“Oh, dear. Then there’s nothing we can do?”
“Well, I think someone should talk with him again. And since you’ve established the initial contact with him, I think it should be you.”
Wilhelmina’s eyes grew wide. “Me? I’m not a minister or a trained counselor!” The thought of returning to Mr. Dolan’s shabby little house repulsed her.
“I understand your fears, Miss Brewster. But you are a fine Christian woman, and I’m sure that God can help you find a way to share the gospel with this man. If he accepts Christ, you see, he may decide not to kill himself after all.”
Wilhelmina shuddered. She couldn’t possibly do it. She had felt rebuffed when Mr. Dolan rejected the offer of hospice services. The thought of offering him the gospel of Jesus Christ to reject was unthinkable.
She had no idea what to say to someone like him or how to say it. But someday soon she would undoubtedly read a story in the newspaper about his death in an airplane crash. She wondered how she would live with her guilt when she did.
~ Review ~
Have your tissues ready to dab at your eyes at the end of this novel! This was a touching story of finding life in the face of death and was surprisingly uplifting in spite of the sorrow I knew would eventually come. Its main characters are both in their sixties and facing unwanted changes to their lives. Wilhelmina Brewster has been forced to retire, and Mike Dolan has just been told that he has three months to live, maybe six at most, but by far the most fascinating thing about this odd couple was the way in which they contrasted one another.
Wilhelmina is a lifelong Christian, but joy is missing from her life—in fact, she comes to realise it was missing even when she was doing what she loved, let alone now that it has been taken away from her. Her life has been one of discipline, of setting goals and achieving them, of living up to the image of her accomplished and highly educated family, and of being proper and respectable. When she visits Mike on behalf of the Cancer Society she volunteers with and learns that he intends to take his plane up one day and forget to land, her ordered and disciplined life gets turned upside down as she reluctantly attempts to share the Gospel with Mike.
Mike never shared his deceased wife’s faith—has never really seen the need for God in his life—and yet even now, when he knows he has only a little time left, he knows more joy in his life than Wilhelmina. Having watched his wife die of cancer 17 years earlier, Mike opts not to receive the treatments that will only buy him a little extra time rather than healing. “You get to the point with loved ones where they’re suffering so much you just wish they could die. Then you feel guilty for wishing it.” He doesn’t want to put his son’s family through that, and he wants to die living life to the full, doing what he loves most: flying.
Considering Wilhelmina’s goal of sharing the Gospel with Mike, this is quite an evangelical novel, and yet it never gets preachy. Quite the opposite, in fact, as Wilhelmina struggles to work out the best way to proceed. She consults with her brothers—Dr. Peter Brewster, Professor of Religious Studies with a PhD in philosophy and religion, and The Reverend Dr. Laurentius Horatio Brewster, B.D, M.Div., Th.D., a senior pastor—but these conversations only seem to convince her of the way NOT to proceed. In the end, it is the simple advice of a missionary friend who lost everything on the mission field that gives Wilhelmina the key—but I’ll leave you to discover what that is for yourself.
I loved watching Wilhelmina’s life get turned inside out as she spent time getting to know Mike and his family, and I especially loved the way in which Wilhelmina and Mike both helped each other to discover life in different ways—one eternally, and one in the here and now. The story also gently addresses the subject of euthanasia, and the truth that if you’re going to trust God with your life, then you need to trust Him in death, too.
An enjoyable and poignant read.
I received a copy of this novel from the author. This has not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.
~ About the Author ~
For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband’s work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she’d earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.
Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother, and daughter concerning the change in women’s roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve’s Daughters.
Along with reading, two of Lynn’s lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.
Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published 24 novels. Eight of her historical novels have won Christy Awards for excellence in Christian Fiction: Hidden Places (2001), Candle in the Darkness (2002), Fire by Night (2003), A Proper Pursuit (2007), Until We Reach Home (2008), Though Waters Roar (2009) While We’re Far Apart (2010), and Wonderland Creek (2011). Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn’s novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.