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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Reading For Craft

Welcome to Last Chance

How can you resist a title like that? What kind of story will it tell? We are all drawn to different genres for the special insights they offer according to our reading whims. Some of the reasons I enjoy a good contemporary novel are to visit other places, meet new characters, or feel at home in a family or friendship. And sometimes get a flavor of how other people might handle the ups and downs of life. Especially when critical choices loom. Seasoned novelists offer these getaways with complexity and satisfaction. However it’s not often to see such a high level with a debut novelist.

However Cathleen Armstrong hits the mark with her invitation to this fictional small town in New Mexico. Along with Lainie Davis we find ourselves stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Some town residents would like a little more highway traffic to come through their town and others prefer the anonymity. To any local outsider its only claim to fame is the Dip’ n’ Dine roadside diner. For other outsiders it’s a place to drive through on the way to anywhere else.

Lainie is on the run, from her past and maybe even herself. She knows how to hide in big cities like Los Angeles, but how does she stay hidden in a small town where gossip is faster than speed dial. At first she stays because she must, then she stays because the people offer her a home-style life she never had. The charm captures her and finally she prepares to stay because she really wants to—except what will she do if her past catches up with her. This really is her last chance.

Welcome to Last Chance is Lainie’s story, but the small town does truly weave its own charm with unexpected twists and turns. I am really glad to know there will be more opportunities to visit it again and step back into the complexities, secrets, and hope that Last Chance offers as shelter on a dusty highway.

Quirky characters. Small town ambiance. Danger and decisions.

This is the best kind of contemporary novel.

Share: What do you look for in a good contemporary novel?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reading For Craft

Reading For Craft also means reading quality stories in the genre of your choice. Over the next few weeks we’ll look at some wonderful stories by excellent novelists in different categories. There’s a reason that as readers we become fans. When we find a storyteller we can trust we always want more.

On Distant Shores

One of my favorite novelists is Sarah Sundin, Wings of Glory historical series, and now Wings of the Nightingale series. Yet you don’t need to only enjoy an historical to appreciate Sundin’s works because her stories capture timeless elements. Her committed accuracy to historical details is the icing. The history weaves seamlessly though lives, as honestly as breathing—simple and complicated together. Her dedication to detail raises the bar, both for the story and for the genre. She makes it look so natural that as a reader you are transported to the common day of her characters.

Recent release On Distant Shores, by Sarah Sundin is the second of the Nightingale trilogy and a welcome return to the World War II battle zone where the flight nurses struggle for their patients and for themselves.

Lt. Georgiana Taylor loves her job and her life, but as the war continues to batter resources and stamina she begins to wonder if she can genuinely fulfill her role as a flight nurse or if she is in over her head. Especially with her family demanding she return stateside. Then she meets Sgt John Hutchinson, a non-commissioned pharmacist who challenges her to prayerfully make her own decisions and let God lead her instead. 

In return, Georgie’s attempts to now mend her unraveling circumstances re-challenge Hutch to live his own words of trust instead of accepting the debilitating misery creeping into his own heart as the war erodes his personal life at home and on the battlefields. Even his friendship with Georgie is perilous as rules forbid any fraternization.

On Distant Shores catches you by the heart and keeps you reading until the very last sentence. And not want to say goodbye. Just what a well-written novel should do.

Share: Who is one of your favorite historical novelists? Why?
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