It’s easy to see why Francine Rivers is an undisputed master in the genre of Christian historical fiction. This semiautobiographical story is a sprawling saga covering half a century and two continents and a pair of troubled protagonists. The writing is solid throughout, spiritual without being preachy, and graced with nice touches of alliteration and poetic description – mostly in the European setting.
My two slightly negative comments are these. First, neither character is particularly appealing; Marta is a bitter and often needlessly harsh mother. Absorbing the repeated flare-ups and cutting moments of cruelty is less than pleasant. Also – and this reveals my admitted male bias – there’s an off-putting lurching about emotionally. A girl meets a nice-looking guy and instantly has her pulse pound; she’s weak in the knees; when he smiles, her skin tingles and she doesn’t trust herself to speak. That kind of overwrought giddiness. Two pages later, she’s screaming at him.
That aside, the dialogue is good, the grit and resourcefulness of the characters is admirable, and the expressions of faith are genuine and appealing. I especially admire how Rivers writes frankly but without any crudity about some adult themes: rape, sexual longing between husband and wife, etc. This part is very well-done, and the book would be rated as a mature PG-13, which I really like. The strongest part of the story is during World War II where the daughter’s husband is off to Europe to fight the Nazis. The emotional tension of that part of the novel is excellent.
Readers should be forewarned that this long novel does NOT stand alone; it abruptly ends in mid-stream, requiring the audience to also get the sequel.