Monday, September 27, 2010
As part of my effort to read more Christian fiction, I decided to pick up CROSSING OCEANS by Gina Holmes. Based on the book's description, I thought it sounded like a contemporary women's fiction story that I'd enjoy about a single mother who returns to her childhood home. And I admit that Tess Gerritsen's blurb on the front cover didn't hurt either -- "Poignant and unforgettable, this book will break your heart -- and then put the pieces back together again."
So when I read that blurb plus the book's description, I knew I was in store for a touching story. CROSSING OCEANS deals with a young mother who has terminal cancer and only a few months to live. She is doing her best to mend relationships from her past so that her five year old daughter will be taken care of when she is gone. Not exactly the most happy of storylines. In fact, there were times when this novel was very difficult for me to read and I found myself crying. However, I don't want to scare away any readers because this book was definitely worth the emotional impact. The story is a beautiful one about a mother who sacrifices many things for the love of her child; and ultimately, the book did end on an upbeat and hopeful note to me.
My heart went out to Jenny for so many reasons. As if being a single mother and knowing you only had a few months to live weren't enough, Jenny was also trying to deal with a lot of personal baggage. Her mother had died of cancer when she was a teen and she had an almost non-existent relationship with her father. Her daughter had never even met her family or her father, and Jenny only had a short time to get everything squared away. Yet despite all of these things, Jenny managed to find some peace and happiness and even mend those troubled relationships -- all because it was the right thing to do for her daughter.
What broke my heart even more than Jenny's life was her daughter Isabella's. She was only five years old and didn't understand all of the changes in her life. Not only did she move to a new home, but she had to live with people that were virtually strangers to her. And, she didn't understand all of the tension and fighting among the grown-ups. When Jenny finally explained that she was dying through the use of an ocean metaphor, poor Isabellla was so distraught and confused that she began lashing out. It was just such a tragic situation for everyone.
I was extremely impressed with Ms. Holmes' writing style. She chose to write CROSSING OCEANS in Jenny's voice, and I thought she did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of Jenny's character. I have no idea how I would react in a similar situation (although this novel definitely made me explore those thoughts), but I think Jenny's character behaved very realistically. Jenny still got depressed and angry, and she even showed signs of jealousy -- all behaviors that I could relate to. And while Jenny ultimately made some huge sacrifices for her daughter, she was extremely human in how she came to make those decisions.
While this novel is technically Christian fiction, I didn't feel that the messages were at all heavy-handed. I appreciated the faith aspects of this novel and how Jenny's faith helped her through this difficult time; however, I don't think that there were a lot of references to God. I'd go so far as to say that the messages in this story were there but not obvious enough to make "non-Christian fiction readers" uncomfortable. I think women of all ages and beliefs will appreciate Jenny's story.
CROSSING OCEANS would make a fantastic discussion book for groups who enjoy reading contemporary Christian fiction; however, I think any group made up of moms will be deeply affected by this novel. There is a discussion guide in the back of the book which delves into some wonderful and thought-provoking questions. Some of the things your might want to discuss include secrets, sacrifices, death, parenting, parent/child relationships, love, faith, marriage, forgiveness, trust, acceptance, and grief. So many of the themes are universal to all women, and most of the questions weren't centered around faith or spirituality.
I hesitate to say that I really enjoyed CROSSING OCEANS because of the subject matter; however, I can definitely say that I deeply appreciated this novel. It was a beautiful story about the strength of a mother's love for her child, and it's one that will resonate with many women.
Thanks to the author and Promotions a la Carte for sending me a review copy of this novel.