Where We Belong (Lynn Austin) – Review

5 stars

~ About the Book ~

The Adventure of a Lifetime for Two Indomitable Socialite Sisters

In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm.

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.

Genre: Historical Fiction
Release date:  3 October 2017
Pages:  480
Publisher:  Bethany House

Amazon US  //  Amazon AU  //  iBooks  //  Goodreads  //  Koorong

~ Excerpt ~

The Sinai Desert
1890

Rebecca Hawes lay awake in her tent, convinced that the howling wind was about to lift her entire camp into the into the air and hurl it to the far side of the desert.
[…]
“How can I sleep when I’m about to be blown away?” Kate grumbled. Rebecca couldn’t see their so-called lady’s maid in the darkness, but she could imagine the churlish frown on her face, her stiff posture and crossed arms. It had been Flora’s idea to try to transform the thieving, eighteen-year-old street urchin into their lady’s maid. Rebecca was beginning to believe it might be easier to spin straw into gold.
“You don’t suppose we could be buried alive by morning, do you?” Flora asked. “Remember how Nimrud’s Palace was so completely engulfed by sand that the local Arabs didn’t even realize it was there until Henry Layard dug it out?”
Rebecca smiled. “I had the very same thought. Perhaps some future archaeologist will find us a thousand years from now and wonder what on earth those crazy sisters were up to.”
“Um . . . remind me again why we’re doing this,” Flora said.
Rebecca heard the smile in her sister’s voice and was glad they were together. They had enjoyed exotic travel since they were schoolgirls—exploring Paris’ maze-like streets, traveling up the Nile in a dahabeeah to see the pyramids, perusing the souks and dark alleyways of places like Cairo and Jerusalem.
“I believe we came here because we longed for an adventure, remember?” Rebecca replied. But that wasn’t the only reason. Midway through her life, Rebecca had fallen in love. Professor Timothy Dyk was brilliant, scholarly, warm, companionable—and in love with her, too. They were so well-suited that Rebecca might have been formed from the rib plucked from his side. But she couldn’t accept Timothy’s marriage proposal—not yet, anyway. Perhaps never. This quest at Saint Catherine’s was her last resort, and if it failed, she had no other recourse but to remain a spinster. Rebecca would endure sandstorms and desert perils and much, much more if she thought it would finally topple the wall between them.
[…]
The wind howled on; the canvas thrummed. Rebecca pulled the blanket tightly around herself, seeking comfort more than warmth. What would it be like to have the man she loved sleeping beside her, curled together like spoons in a drawer, listening to the familiar rhythm of his breathing, feeling his heartbeat? She may never know. But whether Timothy was part of her future or not, Rebecca hoped that the discoveries she unearthed at Mount Sinai would make this long, perilous journey worthwhile in the end.

~ Review ~

What an inspiring read! This book excited my wanderlust, my love of history, and my love of apologetics, and it reminded me that even when you feel like a misfit for the society you were born into—in fact, even when you’re TOLD you’re a misfit for the society you were born into—God has a purpose for your life, if you only have the faith and courage to pursue it.

This is an adventureSisters Rebecca and Flora most certainly had the faith and the courage! They firmly believe that ‘To whom much has been given, much will be required’ and they have spent their lives living out this belief. Flora has devoted herself to caring for society’s less fortunate, particularly establishing and teaching in local Sunday Schools so that children who are forced to work from a young age get the benefit of an education AND hearing the gospel. Rebecca firmly believes God’s purpose for her is searching for lost biblical documents and writing books that counter the faulty teaching of so-called scientists like Charles Darwin. It’s a purpose well served by her incurable thirst for adventure!

Bible believedAt the opening of this novel, all of these aspects of Rebecca’s life have converged into a very personal quest to convince the man she loves that God is real. Hence she and Flora are making their way across the Sinai Desert in order to locate Biblical documents that will prove the reliability of the Bible to Rebecca’s beloved skeptic. How’s that for commitment?! But as important as this journey is, it actually constitutes the smaller part of this book.

The larger part looks back over the sisters’ lives, starting in their teens and filling in the thirty years that have led them to this point, initially from Rebecca’s point of view (the first third of the novel) and then from Flora’s (the second third of the novel). The final third of the novel fills in the background story for their two companions on the journey: Soren Petersen (an orphaned teen they have taken in as a butler) and Kate Rafferty (a street urchin they took in to train as a lady’s maid after she tried to steal from them). While this may sound like a disjointed way to present their story, there was a very logical flow to the narrative, and it wasn’t long before I was completely hooked into the story and following Rebecca and Flora’s experiences, both past and present, with avid interest.

This is where we belongAt least part of my interest was because I could so easily relate to Rebecca in particular. I’m a total bluestocking, and I often felt out of place for it when I was growing up (and sometimes still do). But it was also inspiring to watch these sisters apply their faith at each stage of their lives, both in the little things and in the life-altering ones.

If you’re already a fan of Lynn Austin’s writing, you likely need no encouragement to pick up this book, but if you haven’t yet discovered her gift for weaving a compelling, faith-filled story, then this is a great place to start.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This had not influenced the content of my review, which is my honest and unbiased opinion.

~ About the Author ~

Lynn AustinFor 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.

Connect with Lynn:  Website  //  Facebook  //  Twitter  //  Pinterest

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
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3 Responses to Where We Belong (Lynn Austin) – Review

  1. Pingback: Weekend Book Buzz – 14/15 October 2017 | Fiction Aficionado

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