by Lori Wick
Unconditional Recommendation: Follow a tenderhearted woman through the everyday life of caring for a grieving family with persistent faith and love that can encourage the heart of the reader.
Genre: Christian Contemporary Romance
When life gets fast and my thoughts are zipping around my head in the manner of a pinball machine, this is the type of book I reach for: even-paced, sweet and full of goodness. This kind of story pulls the plug on the crazy machine by forcing me to slow down, look to the Lord and enjoy the details.
After the tragic death of his wife, Alec Riley struggles to put his life back together. He and his three children are lost in their grief… until Sophie walks unexpectedly into their lives. Having left her native Czechoslovakia, Sophie has discovered the land which seemed so bright with promise is far from her dream. A highly educated woman, Sophie now finds herself keeping house for Alec and his family. How can Sophie find peace in her new job? Will God use her gentle spirit to help heal Alec’s broken heart? From the author of The Visitor and Bamboo and Lace comes a warm contemporary story of God’s tender mercies and loving intervention in the life of one family.
Lori Wick has a knack for capturing the nuances of people and their relationships and I really enjoy the detail and depth to which she does it. The Riley family consists of three kids ages 16, 12, and 10. Wick does a marvelous job of capturing their unique personalities and ways of viewing the world. In this book, I find that every character is distinct in subtle ways, much as people are in real life.
The title, Sophie’s Heart, perfectly captures what the book is about. It is not about the circumstances Sophie experiences but rather the softhearted way she goes about living through those circumstances. She is the element that makes this story so calming to me. It’s the gracious way she deals with others and the kindness of her thoughts. I read this book simply to get into Sophie’s head because I want her to rub off on me! Sophie is very educated and worked as a translator for her government before coming to America. She knows many languages but because English isn’t her strongest Americans treat her as if she is dim-witted. Despite her undesirable first job and living arrangements, Sophie does not complain and continues to humbly ask the Lord to lead her on to something else; all the while having a mindset that is ready to submit to how the Lord would direct her. When she is given the opportunity to move to a quieter place and work with kids, she is eager to pursue it even if it does mean that she works as a housekeeper. Sophie is thankful for whatever she has and bears inconveniences and even poor treatment with dignity. We may talk about emulating heroes who wear the shining armor and bear the sword courageously into battle, but we do not give enough notice to the heroes of quiet dignity or soft hearts before the Lord. These are the kind of lifelike heroes worth exemplifying and Sophie is a great candidate for any young woman to model herself after.
This book is categorized as Christian Contemporary Romance but I must say that the romance part is not the emphasis. More than anything, Sophie’s eventual love for Alec is nothing compared to the love she has for the Riley children which is center stage for most of the book compared to the romance she has with Alec.
I believe the Christian elements are portrayed well. It’s assumed that all the characters are saved though nothing is definitively stated. You assume Sophie is saved because of how she talks to the Lord. You assume that Alec has been saved for years but his desire for the Lord has waned and you assume that the kids have grown up in it and perhaps became saved early on. There is a lot of dialogue about spiritual things and especially some truths about the Christian life. There are two scenes that come to mind as being particularly well done. One is where Sophie goes on a date with a man from church and they have a discussion about how we have the freedom in Christ to have different convictions and beliefs when it comes to certain areas of the Christian life that aren’t laid out in Scripture. For this man it meant the standards he had for the woman he wanted to marry. Sophie speaks the truth in love and I think she nails it. Another scene is when Sophie is talking to one of the children about his anger and explains the need for him to confess his sin to the Lord so that he can return to enjoying the Lord and the peace He offers. The dialogue in these scenes sticks out to me as words well written and it was a joy to read them. You should also be prepared that this book contains several excerpts from the Bible itself as well as Bible studies or sermons, which is pretty normal for Lori Wick’s books. If this sounds good to you, I hope you emerge from your time reading refreshed and encouraged.
This kind of book roots me in reality and encourages me to live my life. It encourages me to be satisfied with simple, content with little, and thankful to the Lord for what He has given me. The story is full of everyday life of Sophie and the Riley family. There is no suspense, no great conflict, no breathtaking plot twist; it’s straightforwardly ordinary. Sophie lives her life faithfully to the Lord no matter her circumstances and no matter the people around her. It’s uplifting to read from her perspective.