Redeeming Love

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Review: Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love is not new to the shelves–it was published in 1991–but it is worth reviewing.

The Christian romance novel adapts the story of Hosea and Gomer to the time of the California Gold Rush. (Short version: Godly man told to marry prostitute; prostitute keeps running back to prostitution.)

The most important characteristic of the novel is that it is incredibly moving. The beginning and Angel’s last attempt to run away are particularly affecting. Angel’s slow transformation and God’s hand in her life are both comforting and inspiring. It is also an interesting book in terms of plot and setting and the adaptation is very well-done.

Still, Redeeming Love is not without a few less-than-redemptive qualities. One such quality is the constant repetition of thoughts.

Hosea: If God wants her to be my wife, she’ll be my wife, even if I struggle with it.

Angel: There is no God and I must run away to enjoy my independence.

I understand that these thoughts and movements keep the story similar to the Biblical account, but is it truly necessary to repeat these same thoughts so many times? The novel may have packed even more of a punch for me if it dropped 100 pages of these repetitive concepts.

Also, why shouldn’t Angel want to enjoy her independence? I understand that “independence” as it means “return to prostitution” is not to be desired, but she is essentially forced into marriage and, as a result, into traditional feminine roles she has little taste for. I understand that, at the time, women had little freedom to call their own, but Angel’s idea of freedom–a cottage to herself–is made to feel impossible and almost laughable.

I love that, near the end of the novel, she gains some independence and makes a proper job for herself, but this independence isn’t lasting, either. I can’t say anything more on the matter without spoiling the book. I suppose that, when it comes down to it, I prefer reading a story with more empowering female characters.

I’m also very annoyed with what happens to Paul–but again I can’t say much without giving the story away.

This is yet another novel where all the characters are physically attractive. Which bothers me because how can they all be so attractive when they lack indoor plumbing? Wouldn’t smelliness and oily hair detract from one’s attractiveness?

Also, the epilogue feels incredibly rushed. It reads like the end of a touching “based on a real story” film where the screen lists each of the character’s happily-ever-afters rather than tell it all through a believable, satisfying story.

Still, the faults of Redeeming Love don’t negate the fact that I couldn’t put the darn book down.

Recommendation: Fans of Christian romance and historical fiction would probably enjoy this read most. Victims of abuse might want to be careful with this one.

Unleashing My Opinion on “Capturing Jasmina”

This eBook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Rating: 1/5 stars

Review: Capturing Jasmina by Kimberly Rae is a young adult Christian novel about an Indian girl’s struggle to escape human trafficking and rejoin her family. I requested this book in the hope that it would be eye-opening to a world I know little about. I wanted to learn more about India’s culture and get a better understand human trafficking. In short, wanted a book that would make me cry.

That’s not what I got.

Right off the bat the novel rubbed me the wrong way in its speaker. Jasmina consistently crossed out words in favor of other words, as one would in writing a letter with pen, but rather than make her voice more realistic, the technique had the opposite effect.

I also felt like the author didn’t address Indian culture as well as she should’ve. One of the most interesting things for me about Christian literature is hearing how other cultures respond to missionaries. This book over-simplified it by speaking very little about Indian (specifically Hindu) culture in the first place, so it felt like Jasmina was less a young Hindu girl and more a figure conjured my Christian missionaries in their search to convert.

Don’t get me wrong here; I support missionary work. I’ve been on a few mission trips myself. But I know that we Christians tend to imagine other cultures as desperate to hear about our God, and while this is sometimes true, other cultures are not without their own beliefs. We cannot allow ourselves to be deluded into seeing natives as evil and missionaries as good. There are also natives who are good and missionaries who are evil–just look in a world history textbook.

And yet Rae seems to encourage that misguided viewpoint, particularly when Jasmina meets missionary women:

“There were people in the world who wanted to do good instead of evil. There were people who cared about something more than money and power. Who would not use others for their own gain.

Impossible. My mind said not to believe a word. To harden up again and hold tight to hate. But my heart—oh, my heart wanted to think there was hope.”

I know this is Christian literature, but I expect to see more understanding of other people and more understanding of ourselves. Everyone sins, but that is difficult to see in this book, where the natives sin but the missionaries are depicted as faultless. I am sure this was not Rae’s intent, but it feels that way nonetheless.

While the treatment of other cultures was my main quarrel with this book, I’m also thought the overall quality of plot and characterization was poor. I read this with the desire to learn more, but I feel like I knew more about Indian culture and human trafficking than the author. None of the characters felt real to me, so I struggle to sympathize with their struggles.

Jasmina’s main motivation, for example, was to find her family. But her family–with the exception of her mother–didn’t treat her well at all. And she didn’t speak of longing to return to her mother’s comfort, but of wanting to return her brother to safety and learn if her father knew what he had done when he sold her.

There were a lot of loose ends in the story, as well. Like why would Jasmina’s father sell his son, as well? What happened to her family? How could she write letters to her brother if she didn’t know where he was and if he couldn’t even read?

I see that this book is part of a series, but these loose ends don’t interest me enough to prompt further reading.

Since there was little to no graphic material in spite of the dark subject matter, I think it’s appropriate for middle schoolers and up, if you really must read it.

For someone interested in learning more about Indian culture, I recommend Michelle Moran’s Rebel Queen instead.