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Friday, March 22, 2013

Faith-Promoting Historical Falls a Little Flat

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Sarah Carr's husband drowns, the 17-year-old widow is left penniless and alone.  She has no family to take her in, no one at all—except for the babe growing inside her.  Throwing herself on the mercy of a brother and sister-in-law she barely knows, Sarah hopes for the best.  But it's not to be.  Sold into slavery, she's herded aboard a rat-infested ship and taken from Cornwall to the American Colonies to be an indentured servant.  With no means of escape, she puts her life in God's hands, praying to Him daily for deliverance.  

In the midst of her struggles, Sarah meets Alex Hutton, a handsome doctor whose kindness stuns her.  Never has she had a man treat her the way he does.  But, she's a lowborn servant girl and he a gentleman doctor.  It's ridiculous for her to imagine building a life with him.  And yet, she does.  When Alex declares his love for her, Sarah's joy is complete.  He's her savior, her love, the man she wants to marry.  If only she were free to choose him.  She's not—as a woman and a servant she has no rights at all.  

Soon, Sarah's torn from Alex, but she can't give up hope.  Once again, Sarah must give herself over to God's will.  He won't let her down again.  Will he?  Armed only with her faith, she will face every danger, risk everything, if only for one more chance at love—at life.

I've read plenty of books about slavery, but none featuring a young, white woman sold into bondage.  Any human being treated so cruelly is abominable, of course, but it does make for an intriguing subject for a novel.  Unfortunately, Beyond the Valley by Rita Gerlach just doesn't live up to the potential of its premise.  Part of the problem is Sarah herself.  While she spends lots of time reacting to the things that happen to her, she doesn't spend more than a few pages acting to change her situation.  Already a rather flat character, Sarah's also a weak heroine—not good things in a character-driven novel.  Gerlach's dull prose doesn't help matters.  It's just not strong enough to make the story really come alive for the reader.  I do appreciate the fact that Beyond the Valley is a clean, gentle, faith-promoting novel, I just wanted more from it.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.)

Grade:  C

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for violence, scenes of peril and mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Beyond the Valley from the generous folks at Abingdon Press via those at Pump Up Your Book Promotion.  Thank you!    

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, I hate when books fall flat. :-( the cover is cool, though.


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