Unconditional Recommendation: A young woman leaves behind wealthy living to teach school in a poor, tragedy-stricken, Canadian mining town.
Genre: Historical Christian Fiction
I love Janette Oke’s Love Comes Softly and was curious to discover if this book, written with her daughter, would be as good as her other novels. I’m happy to report that I greatly enjoyed the book and I’m sure readers will be delighted to read Janette Oke’s familiar gentle storytelling once again.
Beth Thatcher has spent her entire life in the safe, comfortable world of her family, her friends, and the social outing her father’s wealth provides. But Beth is about to leave it all behind to accept a teaching position in the rugged foothills of western Canada. Inspired by her aunt Elizabeth, who went west to teach school several years ago, and gently encouraged by her father, Beth resolves to put her trust in God and bravely face any challenge that comes her way.
This book was written as a companion story to the Hallmark Channel’s movie and TV series, When Calls the Heart, and went on to become a three-book series all centered around Beth Thatcher and her life-changing adventures with her family and teaching in Coal Valley.
A sensitive introvert myself, I immediately took to Beth who, in stereotypical introvert fashion, doesn’t appreciate big parties or small talk. After the first chapter, the stereotype fades away as more aspects of her character are revealed. Beth’s family has always treated her like a fragile porcelain doll and though Beth has attended college, it seems that taking this remote teaching position is her first chance to grow out of that characterization and embrace adulthood outside of her parents’ household. I loved watching Beth step out by faith and become an independent adult while always respecting her family. She is an honorable character, thoughtful, and seeks to do right in every situation. For example, when Beth sees how bad the conditions are when she arrives in Coal Valley (no schoolroom, uneducated children, and no electricity or running water) she knows exactly what her mother would think of Beth living there and though she’s tempted to conceal the truth, she endeavors to be honest in her letters back home.
Rather than being glaring in its goodness, this book is more subtle and gentle. Little tidbits of wisdom and Biblical truth are sprinkled throughout the book, the most obvious of which is found in Beth’s many conversations with Molly, the older woman who houses Beth. Molly is truthful, forthright, and patient in explaining to Beth the ways of Coal Valley and its people as well as encouraging her in the Lord or even challenging her.
Children grow up into teenagers by discovering who they are as a person and who they are in their immediate world; teenagers grow into adults by discovering who they are in a larger context and often independently from their family. Almost every person can relate to the leaving home and going out into the world experience of growing up. This is a strong theme of the book and I think it would be a timely read for high school or college graduates.
As the title suggests, courage is also a theme throughout the book. It takes courage to step out by faith and this kind of courage is common in inspirational fiction, but what I really love about this book is the emphasis on everyday courage—courage in the small things like adapting to a new way of living from what you’re used to, adapting to unforeseen complications, and courage in doing what you can with what you’ve got even though you’re uncomfortable. I think we need more everyday courage in life and this book does a great job of exposing it.
The plot of this later book unfolds in the same steady cadence as Janette Oke’s earlier novels like Love Comes Softly. There’s a little mystery and some minor action but mostly the story is about everyday life in a new place. If an easy-paced read is what you’re looking for, then this is a good book.
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