Welcome to Part IV of The Emoji Files. So far this week I’ve given you my best of 2017 in the following categories:
Today, I’m giving you a list of books that got me in the feels. Some books are great for escaping into and helping us to forget our daily worries and cares for a little while, and some books confront life’s big worries and cares head on. Perhaps not our specific worries and cares, but the kinds of worries and cares that could be ours one day, or the kinds of worries and cares that affect those around us.
Books give us a great opportunity to exercise the muscles of compassion and empathy, sometimes even allowing us to see a situation from a point of view we might never have considered before. Some of these books were heavy reading, and not all readers will be in a place where they can handle the kinds of emotional demands the stories will make, but if you’re looking for a read that digs deep, one of these could be for you.
Since You’ve Been Gone ~ Christa Allan
One moment, Olivia Kavanaugh is preparing to walk down the aisle and embrace her own happily ever after. The next, she learns that her fiancé, Wyatt Hammond, has been in a fatal car accident. Then comes a startling discovery: Wyatt’s car wasn’t heading toward the church. He was fifty miles away…with a baby gift in the backseat. Olivia has a bit to process in this novel—not just the death of her almost-husband, but a self-righteous mother who believes Olivia is being punished for her sin, and some surprising discoveries about her fiancé. Both heartbreaking and healing.
Intermission ~ Serena Chase
Sixteen-year-old Faith Prescott is all about musical theatre. Her success-driven parents are not. To put it mildly. Noah Spencer is the nineteen-year-old son of missionaries, back in the States to pursue his love of theatre. When Faith and Noah meet, they connect in a way Faith has never connected with anyone else before, but there is a rocky road ahead for them as Faith’s parents’ hosility towards both Noah and his religious beliefs increases. A thoroughly engaging YA story.
Maybe It’s You ~ Candace Calvert
Nurse Sloan Ferrell is trying to leave her past behind. She’s got a new name, a new job, and a new zip code so that her ex-fiancé and his mobster former associates can’t find her, and she’s been sober for more than six months. The hardest part? Believing she can be forgiven. Candace Calvert always manages to wring tears out of me, and this one was no exception.
Life After ~ Katie Ganshert
We all know the grief of loss, but how many of us know the grief of survival? Autumn Manning does, as the sole survivor of a train bombing in Chicago. And she struggles with it every day. Why her? She can barely function in her life, but shouldn’t she make her life count for something if she was the only survivor? Meanwhile, Paul Elliott and his children suffer the grief of loss, but in much deeper ways than I ever anticipated. From my review: This novel is a powerful illustration of two truths that run contrary to human instinct: Firstly, that nothing good comes from hiding the ugly, and secondly, that God is good, even in the midst of unfathomable tragedy.
Looking Glass Lies ~ Varina Denman
Many women struggle with low self-image in a society that barrages us with unrealistic and superficial standards of beauty. Cecily Ross’s poor self-image had a helping hand from her emotionally abusive now-ex husband. Looking Glass Lies is Cecily’s journey to recover from this emotional abuse, partly thanks to the effervescent support group leader, Shanty Espinosa. Although the author is tactful in the way information is imparted, this novel does deal with the topics of adultery and pornography. From my review: It doesn’t provide pat answers, quick-fixes, or one-size-fits-all solutions, but it does encourage us to look beyond the lies and take control where we can: in our response to the lies and the amount of power we give them.
Waiting for Butterflies ~ Karen Sargent
You’ll definitely want a tissue box for this one. This is the story of a family that struggles to find its footing when mother and wife, Maggie, dies in a car accident. Her husband must try to find a way to balance his dual roles as a senior detective and as a father, and her eldest daughter begins to isolate herself from her friends and family as she battles a sense of guilt, but the story also illustrates the way in which good can come from the most devastating of changes.
The Last Summer ~ Brandy Bruce
Sara’s longtime crush, Luke, has been her best friend for as long as she has been a part of the group. When Luke begins seriously dating another of their friends, Sara’s forced to deal with her hurt and jealousy while outwardly try to support them both. This isn’t necessarily a tear-jerker, but it did have my heart in a vice for most of the book. Seven friends, and one summer that changes so many things. From my review: One of the best things about this novel is its portrayal of authentic, realistic, down-to-earth, Christlike friendship. There are light-hearted and heart-warming moments amid Sara’s struggle, and there is truth and compassion, grace and forgiveness, and simple, but hard-earned wisdom.
My Unexpected Hope ~ Tammy L. Gray
Best friends and soul-mates since kindergarten then married at the tender age of eighteen, Chad and Laila had seven hard-fought years of marriage before Chad’s addiction to alcohol and drugs led to their separation and divorce. A year later, Chad’s been sober for nine months and is holding a steady job. He wants to prove to Laila that he can be the husband she needs, but Laila’s begun tentatively exploring a new relationship. From my review: The truth is that there are issues that go much deeper than addiction or sobriety for both Chad and Laila and right to the heart of what makes a relationship strong enough to weather the rough times. Can they work through their pain and learn to love each other in a whole new, healthier way?
Grace in Strange Disguise ~ Christine Dillon
Finding out you have breast cancer a couple of months before your wedding is enough to throw anyone’s life into a tailspin. But what if your father is also the pastor of the second-biggest church in Sydney—a church that has built its popularity on the belief that a strong faith brings health, wealth, and prosperity? What if your fiancé is your father’s protégé; the man being groomed as his successor? And what if, despite their prayers, God doesn’t heal you? This is not a story that tries to answer the question of why God heals sometimes and not at other times, but it is an uplifting story of they way Esther Macdonald responds to her difficult circumstances and finds grace in strange disguise.
Christmas Embers ~ Chautona Havig
This book is the closest I will ever come to understanding the pain and the fallout of adultery without experiencing it first-hand. And it hurts. But this is also a story of hope. Restoration is possible, though not the outcome in every situation, particularly when one party is unrepentant. This story handles the subject Biblically without being legalistic and acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with adultery except to get on your knees before the Lord and seek His will. But it’s a hard road to walk—for both parties—and that initial fracture can never be erased. You won’t be able to read this book and remain unaffected. And that’s a good thing!
Sweetbriar Cottage ~ Denise Hunter
Another story of divorce and restoration. Well, they thought they were divorced, anyway. It turns out it was never finalized. And in her impatience to get the situation rectified, Josephine ends up stranded at Noah’s cottage up in the hills during a snowstorm. From my review: Noah had a superficial knowledge of Josephine’s past before and during their marriage, but he only uncovers the full truth over the course of her enforced stay at Sweetbriar Cottage, and the battle begins to wage within him between his own pain and anger, and his compassion for the broken woman he’s never really stopped loving. The tension between Noah and Josephine was palpable and barely leashed—and so very understandable—but seeing the way these characters worked through that tension was incredibly satisfying.