Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan. Where Courage Calls. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2014.
A little background on why I decided to read this book:
I am part of Bethany House Publisher’s blogger review program. Each month, I receive two newsletters from them. On one, I can request a non-fiction book from Bethany House to review on my blog. On another, I can request a fiction book to review. People in the program are offered choices in both, and they can only select one fiction and one non-fiction book. It’s on a first-come-first-serve basis, too.
One of the fiction books stood out to me was Where Trust Lies, by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan. The description of the book said: “After a year of teaching in the West, Beth Thatcher no longer feels at home among her wealthy Eastern family. Torn between two worlds, will she find the place where her heart belongs?” That intrigued me: a person coming back home after a time of service and having a new perspective. I enjoy books in which life changes a person.
I saw that Where Trust Lies was the second book of the Return of the Canadian West series, so I thought that I should read the first book, Where Courage Calls, which is about the time that Beth Thatcher was teaching in Western Canada. I also noticed that there was an even earlier series than that, Canadian West, and that some of this concerned Beth’s cousin Elizabeth going out to the Canadian West and teaching. But I decided not to attempt to read all of those books before I got Where Trust Lies. And, after reading Where Courage Calls, my conclusion is that I did not need to read the entire Canadian West series to understand Where Courage Calls. Still, as I read some of the Amazon reviews of Where Courage Calls, I did see that reading the Canadian West series can give readers a certain perspective of Where Courage Calls. One of the reviewers wondered how Beth’s parents could have become so socially-snobbish (not that this is entirely the case, for Beth’s father seemed pretty level-headed).
Well, I requested that my local library put Where Courage Calls on hold for me. I was expecting for Bethany House to send me Where Trust Lies, since it has sent me every book I have requested so far. Bethany House then told me that I would not be receiving a review copy of Where Trust Lies because the quota of people requesting it had already been reached. I then debated with myself: should I cancel my hold of Where Courage Calls? I decided not to do so, since I would not want to put my local library in the position of receiving the book, then having to send it back to the other library. Plus, I figured that Where Trust Lies would eventually be in the library system anyway—-and it is, though most of the copies are currently checked out. So I chose to go ahead and read Where Courage Calls. I got that book, and also Lynn Austin’s book on Reconstruction, All Things New, which I wrote about here.
To be honest, I did not really enjoy Where Courage Calls. I was just bored with it. The writing-style was all right, I guess—-it was grammatically correct and the author was trying to be reflective—-but the book did not grab me. At the book’s end, when Beth was saying good bye to the people in the Canadian West, I wanted to feel something, but I struggled to do so. I did not particularly care about what was going on. Also, Where Courage Calls required a bit of an adjustment after I had read All Things New, which was an awesome book, one that drew me into the plot.
Don’t get me wrong. The book did have some excellent things. I could identify with Beth, one who did not like her friend Edward and was looking forward to going away so she would not have to see him anymore. Christians can find themselves in that sort of situation? They’re not perfect and in love with everybody? Apparently so. What I like about Christian fiction is that it acknowledges that even Christians are not perfect. I also appreciated the homespun Christian wisdom that Beth received from Molly, who lived in the West, and who gave Beth sound advice on pursuing a calling and honoring her parents. On pursuing a calling, Molly said that Jesus promised that his burden would be light, and so, if one finds that one’s burden is too heavy, maybe Jesus does not expect her to carry it. On honoring parents, Molly said that Beth can honor her rather controlling mother in her thoughts, even if she does not in her feelings, and that she can work that out with the Lord. Molly’s advice can probably be fleshed out, but I appreciated it for this reason: Christianity gives us all these commands that are hard to live up to, and it’s nice when one can have a mentor to help her obey them, without beating up on herself for being imperfect.
The visit of Beth’s sister Julie to the Canadian West was also rather interesting. Julie was technically polite, but her scorn for the people in the West still managed to come through. I struggle with that, albeit not in the way that Julie did: I try to be polite, people may detect that I’d rather not interact with them, I get rejected, and I wonder what exactly I did wrong! Beth apologizes to Molly for Julie’s behavior, and Molly responds that Julie may have some rough edges, but nobody’s perfect. Beth had to laugh at what Molly said about Julie having some rough edges, for Julie had been trained in the fine art of social etiquette! Notwithstanding Julie’s flaws, Julie tried to change after Beth challenged her. Julie became caring to the people in the Canadian West, and she offered Beth insight about where their mother was coming from, so that Beth would not resent her mother so much. The scenes in which Beth had brought different people together and Beth came to empathize with her mother after a certain experience were also all right, even if they were not effectively executed.
In criticizing Where Courage Calls, I am not saying that I can do any better. Writing a fiction book can be difficult. I am just sharing my reaction as a reader. I was wondering if I should read other books by Janette Oke or if they, too, would bore me, but I read Amazon reviews that said that the Canadian West series and other Janette Oke books were good, even if Where Courage Calls was not-so-good. I’ll still feel free to read Janette Oke. I may even read Where Trust Lies sometime in the future. I may go through it quickly to get it over with, though!