Monday, April 29, 2013

A Questionable Choice

I am a person who gets obsessed easily. Therefore, despite the fact that I am in the throes of my Spring Quarter right now, I have recently managed to stumble upon one of the most addicting aspects of the popular book review site Goodreads (of which I am a member, found here): the First Reads Giveaway section, in which publishers/authors/associated underlings of the publishing universe/ etc. may post free copies and galleys of books up for grabs for those who express interest.

In the month or so that I have been involved with this section of the site, I have been deemed worthy of six galleys, of which, A Lady's Choice, by Sandra Robbins, was the first.

One of many titles in Sunnyside Publishing's "An American Tapestry" series - a franchise revolving around love stories set in pivotal moments in American history, including the Alamo, the sinking of the Titanic, and the American Revolution - A Lady's Choice follows the story of twenty-year-old Sarah Whittaker, as she accompanies her ailing mother back to her home town of Richland Creek, Tennessee, a place Sarah has been only a handful of times. While she pines for her own home city of Memphis, she finds interest in the town in the form of Alex Taylor, a handsome, strong-willed young man, with a focus on his family, talent in the baseball diamond, and a job waiting for him back in Memphis at a celebrated law firm. They quickly strike up an attachment... however, Sarah's own stubborn decisions keep getting in their way of ever being together: Sarah is a suffragette, and Alex's unwillingness to accept her opinions, to further promote his chance of succeeding in his firm, condemn the relationship from the outset. However, as tensions heat in Richland Creek, so they are as well in Memphis and Washington, D.C. The world is ready for change, but will Alex have a change of heart, and can Sarah ever recover from a broken one?

I will not mince words, when I state that this was probably one of the most questionably written novels I've already read. It was a struggle to get past the first 50 pages... which were riddled with both continuity problems (for instance, Sarah is written, within the book, to be 20 years old, but the back cover explicitly stated she was 18), as well as straight up issues with reality (Tell me, would you ever "gasp aloud" at the "kindness" reflected in someone's eyes, or "grope" a chair and stutter because someone made eye contact with you? Please tell me we women are made of stronger stuff than that). Other issues included insta-love, which is almost always a problem, and over-predictability (if I can spot a murderer the second he's introduced, you need to re-evaluate, or at least expand the character list).

However, after a certain point, the composition of the novel shifts from predominant description, to dialogue, and the conversations were a lot easier to believe than the majority of what was running through Sarah's head. And as you neared ever closer to the climax of the novel, you began to realize exactly what this book was all about: the relationships between the characters, not only with themselves and their peers, but with God.

Okay, I was wondering why the book focused so much on religion, until I finally reached the point where I looked up the publishing company, and realized the reason that the only truly successful elements in this book were the ones that described and built on Christianity, was because this was a Christian book series and publishing house. The most well-written and interesting parts of the book are those in which Sarah and Alex's faiths are put into question, contested, and discussed, and the emotional payoff from the book came, for me, not from Sarah and Alex's (spoiler alert, but not really, due to the ultimate predictability of the novel) finally accepting each other and becoming a couple, but from Sarah's journey back into faith and Alex's adoption of Jesus' teachings of acceptance for everyone.

I'm not going to go around recommending religious material for my friends to read (particularly because I'm in college right now, and in a realm as emotionally and intellectually volatile as this, it would probably be a good way to get verbally assaulted), but I'm born and baptized and confirmed, loving Roman Catholic, and I thought this book, no matter how questionably written, really spoke beautifully about Christ, and it kind of made me miss my old church, the one I essentially grew up in, back in Federal Way. Anyone looking to get a new take on faith, or just explore some light, frivolous love stories, should really check out this series.

Meanwhile, I'm going to go find more Goodreads giveaways to enter, in the hopes that some other decent material comes my way. And when I say "decent," I mean "homework-avoiding" and "procrastination-inducing".

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