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Where We Belong by Lynn Austin
In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert–and into a sandstorm.
Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.
Where We Belong was my first Lynn Austin book… but I don’t think it will be my last, good Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise. 🙂 This beautifully-told, often-funny story brings us back to Victorian-era Chicago, spanning nearly fifty years in the lives of the Hawes sisters, whose middle name appears to be “adventure.”
I loved many things about this stand-alone novel (which is deliciously long!), but one of the things that really stood out to me was the way that these sisters are not merely the same cliched “women ahead of their time” that I’ve found in many a novel. Rather, these women ultimately move forward in their specific calling as Christians, regardless of whether society approves or disapproves – because they are following the will of God for them, not because they are trying to be rebels. That was refreshing!
Another wonderful part of this novel regarded a strong emphasis on us as Christians showing the love of God through our actions. At one point, when Rebecca is contemplating adoption, she explains to her sister that the person she wishes to adopt has never experienced human love, so how can the person understand God’s love? Rebecca desires to adopt out of a passion for sharing the Gospel through it – knowing that actions speak louder than words, as the old saying goes. This attitude of following your words with actions permeates the book and really added a great deal of depth.
There is also a hilarious story thread involving an “amorous sheik” that runs throughout the book. I can’t say more for risk of spoiling the surprises and humor of the situations, but it definitely provided some genuinely funny, light-hearted moments in a more-serious novel. I loved it!
Austin’s manner of storytelling reminds me of one of my very favorite authors, Michael Phillips: slow but not dull, methodically peeling back and adding layers, bringing several different storylines together seamlessly to show one grand spiritual theme. This was really well done, and as with Phillips’ novels, I was saddened to see the last page! 🙂
If you love fascinating historical fiction with only a smidgen of romance (another refreshing bit!), a strong but not forced Christian theme, and a well-told, well-woven story, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Where We Belong, available HERE.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher and was under no obligation to provide a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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