by Janette Oke & T. Davis Bunn
Unconditional Recommendation: In Acadia, a chance meeting creates a strong bond of friendship and faith between an Englishwoman and a Frenchwoman during a time of hostilities and impending war between their homelands.
Awards: Christy Award for North American Historical (2000)
I’m so glad this is a series—I should’ve known—but I read this book thinking it was a stand-alone and couldn’t believe Janette Oke would let it end like that! She didn’t. There are more books. Whew! The book starts off slowly then builds to some page-turning drama in a rush to the end. This is a beautiful story of love without borders, spiritual fortitude amidst times of threatening conflict beyond one’s control.
Set along the rugged coastline of 18th century Canada in what was then called Acadia (now Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), The Meeting Place recreates a world that was home to native Indians, French settlers, and English garrisons. Such diverse populations did not live in accord, however. Instead, they were isolated within their own groups by a brewing political tension under the difficult English rule. Amid such chaotic times two women, both about to become brides and both trying to live lives of quiet peace, meet in a lush field of wildflowers. Louisa, a Frenchwoman, and Catherine, who is English, continue to meet secretly through the seasons, sharing both friendship and growing faith. The outside world does not mirror their own tranquil happiness, and the dreaded crackdown by the English throne threatens far more than their growing bond. In the face of heart-wrenching dilemma, Louisa and Catherine strive to maintain their faith and cling to their dreams of family and home.
Friendship – The friendship between Louisa and Catherine brought me to tears a number of times. The depth of their care and devotion to one another is amplified because there is great pressure, even danger, involved in seeing one another. Instead, they develop a friendship based on being in similar stages of life (both were married on the same day) and on reading the Bible together. Their friendship transcends the hostilities between their communities and the conflict between their countries.
Grief and Loss – Louisa and Catherine’s character arcs have a symmetry to them. Both experience life events at similar times and so too do they experience grief and loss. They, and their spouses, are forced to cope with these great burdens and they do so by feeling all the feelings but also choosing to look to the Lord and take their hope and peace from Him.
Courage – Doing what is right despite the presence of fear, threat, danger, pressure, or opposition is a strong theme in this story. Each of the main characters—Louisa, Catherine, and their husbands—are faced with situations where they either need to bow down to the pressure or collect their courage and step out by faith with courage. They choose courage.
Spiritual Constancy – The story spans seasons of time and life events, and the beginnings of war. The thread that does not change and that the characters rely upon is reading the Bible and praying to their God. They persevere through the seasons of life by faith through prayer.
Though there is no distinction made between being saved and unsaved, the spiritual truths presented are strong and true. Reading the Word of God is something that Louisa and Catherine do together and then they do it individually and with their husbands so that it becomes a habit within their homes. Along with that, they also develop a pattern of prayer in their marriages and their friendships. It’s encouraging and uplifting to see prayer portrayed in this way—a regular yet power part of life.
The story and its people feel very real—as if they once lived. The various side characters such as community members and family members feel distinct and have personality. Janette Oke has a unique way of handling her characters. She can tell her stories as if from a distance—taking readers a step back so they can see the larger picture rather than diving deeply into any one character and maintaining their limited view throughout the story. And yet, despite this, you can still come to care deeply for the characters and their well-being. Oke and Bunn do a great job at putting faces to historical events.
The book starts off slowly with a lot of description and day-to-day life. The different conflicts simmer for awhile before coming to a rolling boil and by then you are invested in the characters and rushing to find out what happens. The plot is interesting and engaging and wrought with potential conflict. Two women become friends who shouldn’t be friends; two women continue to meet each other secretly even though there’s danger in being found out; two women sacrifice for each other despite the hostilities surrounding them. See? Interesting. And the way the story unfolds hooks you in!
The atmosphere of anticipation and dread of an impending war is hard to shake off. Yet, in the turbulent times there’s also a thread of peace and hope woven throughout the story, intertwining the main characters.
It ends with looking to the Lord, relying on Him, and having hope for the future. If you enjoy Janette Oke then this book isn’t one to miss!
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