Monday, September 30, 2013


Story Description:
Tate Publishing|January 22, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-62024-671-9
Anna Bertram was not prepared for this.  Not after all she had been through.  A mother’s love, so deep, wasn’t it her job to protect? Anna had poured her heart and soul into raising Justin. When he unexpectedly dropped out of her life, she was left devastated. 
Was it fate? A chance meeting with a young soldier on a beach in Maine, who had left a pocket-sized book in the sand, a photograph tucked neatly inside?  The photograph portrayed two soldiers in Army fatigues, one being the soldier, the other her son, Justin.  With this clue, Anna is desperate to find the soldier who could possibly lead to her estranged son.  Is it too late to reclaim the close relationship they once shared? 
Mistakenly Anna believed she was responsible for her son’s future.  In her zealous search to reunite, she finds the unexpected, love and forgiveness.  Journey with Anna, as she learns to let go and surrender to divine destiny.  And give thanks for the gift that she was entrusted. 
My Review:
Nineteen-year-old Anna was in the bathroom with her best friend Jessica at her house.  Anna had just taken a pregnancy test and it showed positive.  She was worried and panicked beyond belief that her parents were going to kill her when they found out.  Anna was to stay for dinner at Jessica’s but she left instead to go and talk to her boyfriend, Mike. 
Anna pulled her car up in front of Mike’s house and could see Mike walk by the window and hand his Dad something.  She slowly got out of her car and went to knock on the door.  Mike was surprised to see Anna as he knew she was supposed to be eating dinner at Jessica’s.  With a serious tone she told Mike that she had to talk to him.  Mike grabbed his coat and yelled to his Dad that he was just going out with Anna for a bit. 
Once in the car, Anna immediately told Mike she was pregnant.  His first reaction was one of disbelief saying “it was only that one time” and couldn’t understand how she could possibly be pregnant.  His disbelief quickly turned to anger when he slapped his open hand on the dashboard and told Anna to drive.  He didn’t care where they went he just told her to drive anywhere. 
The following day Anna went for an appointment at the Planned Parenthood Centre to get a proper pregnancy test done.  After a urine test and pelvic exam by a Dr. Jones, he confirmed her worst fear – she was definitely pregnant and in her first trimester.  He told her she would require continuing care and pre-natal vitamins.  Anna, still feeling stunned told him she had it covered, walked out of his office and vowed never to see Dr. Jones again because he had suggested both terminating the pregnancy and giving up the baby for adoption which infuriated her.  Neither was an option for Anna, come hell or high water, she WAS keeping this baby. 
Anna drove to the University of Maine Campus Library and parked in the lot.  She got out of her vehicle and headed to the Admissions Office when she heard Mike calling her.  He caught up to her and asked if she went to the doctor and was she really pregnant.  When she told him “yes”,he said he’d marry her and they’d be a family.  Anna said with or without him, married or not she was keeping the bby.  Mike said that they’d have to tell their parents that evening.  Mike asked what she was doing in the Admissions Office and Anna replied “withdrawing from school.”  She suddenly realized what time it was and if she didn’t leave right now she’d be late for her after-school dental office job.  She decided to return to the Admissions Office another day. 
Mike’s parents took the pregnancy news badly with Mike’s Dad calling Anna a whore and blaming her for ruining their son’s life.  Anna’s parents took the news much better.  They weren’t exactly overjoyed at the prospect their nineteen-year-old daughter was pregnant, but nonetheless accepted the news. 
Anna gave birth to a beautiful baby boy whom she named, Justin Michael.  He was a handsome devil for sure.  Anna poured her entire being into raising Justin and was as good a mother as anyone could possibly be.  She doted on Justin, disciplined him, taught him to pray and raised him to be a fine outstanding member of society.
However, Justin had other ideas when he became a teenager and disappeared.  Anna was literally heartbroken and crushed almost beyond functioning.  Then one day she met a soldier on a beach and that encounter changed her life forever.
Entrusted was a beautifully written novel.  I’m still crying from the ending, but are they tears of joy or sorrow?  You’ll have to read the story to find out. 

Friday, September 27, 2013


Story Description:
Koehler Books|October 1, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-938467-56-1
New York City flight attendant Annie Taylor is grounded, putting a halt to weekends in Rome and her jet-setting lifestyle.  Soon her noncommittal boyfriend’s true nature is revealed, and to top it all off, she loses her apartment.
With nowhere else to go, Annie leaves the city for the family farm in Kentucky, a place she’s avoided for years.  She finds a shotgun-wielding grandmother, a farm in disrepair, and a suspicious stranger renting the old stone house. 
The country quiet haunts Annie with reminders of a past that can’t be changed.  She tries persuading her grandmother to sell the farm, but is met with stubborn refusal.  Yet in the midst of her crashing life, Annie sees a glimmer of hope for a second chance. 
Jake Wilder is contemplating jumping off the corporate ladder to follow his passion for sustainable farming.  He’s almost ready to propose to Camille, a girl who wants more, not less.  Annie believes Jake is about to make a terrible mistake, but does she have the right to tell him? 
As the summer heats up, so do Annie’s unexpected feelings for Jake and her interest in the land. When a sudden phone call comes from New York, Annie is forced to choose between coming to terms with her past or leaving it all behind. 
My Review:
Thirty-two-year-old, Annie Taylor was a ten-year flight attendant with TransAir.  Right now she is warned about losing her job as there are other airline companies attempting a takeover.  Losing her job would make it difficult to pay her part of the rent on the apartment she shared with three other flight attendants.  However, her handsome boyfriend, Stuart told her not to worry about it that he’d look after her. 
Annie met Stuart six months ago at a costume party.  Not only was he extremely good looking, but successful and rich.  For her birthday just past, he gave her a pair of beautiful diamond earrings and asked her to move in with him. 
Soon enough, Annie finds out some very disturbing news about Stuart.  She accidentally bumped into someone she didn’t know and they struck up a conversation about Peoria, Illinois and Annie happened to mention her boyfriend had grown up there.  Well, she received some very unexpected news, with details, about her lover, Stuart.  Annie went directly to his office to in the financial district of New York, but Stuart wasn’t there. (I’ll leave it up to you readers to find out on your own what happened and where he was.) Feeling irritated and frustrated, Annie returned to work only to be confronted by her boss.  He told Annie the takeover had taken pace and now she was out of a job, effective immediately. 
Annie rented a car and made the twelve hour drive to her Grandma Beulah’s farm in Kentucky.  Beulah was so happy to see her granddaughter after almost a year, except for a very short stop-over at Christmas.  She planned on staying about a month, hoping by then that she could be re-hired at the new airline that took over TransAir. 
The following day, a Sunday, was Beulah’s turn to host the after church dinner.  With a beautiful beef supper and everyone happy to see Annie after all this time, they had a nice evening.  Evelyn was there whose son, Jake had grown up with Annie after her mother died when she was twelve.  It just so happened that Jake too was taking time off work to contemplate his future.  Evelyn told Annie that she hoped she and Jake would have some time together for old time sake.  Jake was currently dating Camille and had been since last fall, but Jake had known her father for years and he had been a mentor to Jake through banking connections.  Camille was also coming down to the farm to spend time with Jake. 
With the string of recent home invasions occurring lately, Annie suggested Gramma consider selling the farm and moving into town to a nice apartment with far less work for her to do.  At seventy-something she wasn’t getting any younger but Beulah slept with a loaded shot gun underneath her mattress just in case these home invaders dared to get into Beulah’s place looking for money to buy drugs which had become a big problem in the area recently.  But Beulah had no intentions whatsoever of selling the farm and that was the end of the conversation. 
One morning, Annie decided to go for a jog around the farm area.  On the way back she carefully took in the sites of the fences, the house, the old stone house out the back which had just been recently rented, the barn, and all the other out-buildings.  Upon this close scrutiny she realized how much the farm had fallen into disrepair since her grandfather passed away a couple of years ago.  At the same time, Annie did understand that it was a lot of upkeep for someone Beulah’s age.  Annie missed her grandfather and used to love spending time with him.  He always listened to her without judgment and encouraged her dreams for the future.  Her relationship with her grandmother was a bit strained as she always had to turn any conversation into a lesson for Annie to learn.  Her grandfather said they were too much alike. 
Jake finally stopped by to visit with Annie.  They reminisced about old times, talked about Jake’s girlfriend, Camille, and Annie’s break-up with Stuart. 
Annie asked Jake what his plans for the future were and he replied that was why he was here at the farm trying to decide and sort things out in his mind.  He was leaning toward farming where his real passion lay.  Jake realized farming now required a big operation in order to be successful and sustainable which is what he had to investigate while he was here.  However, Camille’s father wanted Jake to work with him in the hotel business as did Camille, but that wasn’t really his thing.  Farming was definitely at the top of his list.  After Jake left, Annie thought about how Jake was like a brother to her, but the years that had passed had pushed them apart.  But “being with him again reminded her of their easy relationship, of how he made her laugh and his positive view of life.” 
After walking through the old cemetery one afternoon and reading all the headstones of passed on family members, it really hit Annie at how much loss she and her grandmother both had suffered.  Annie and her grandmother were all that was left of the family and she made a solemn vow to her grandmother that she would do everything possible in her power to hold onto the old farm after her grandmother was gone.  Annie began to realize that the lack of visiting in the past had been a serious mistake and promised to visit more often.  The importance of family and feeling connected was a glaring reality for Annie.  She realized her poor visitation record had been hard and sad for her grandmother and she now regretted that. 
Jake’s girlfriend, Camille finally arrived and before Annie even met her she sees them hugging and embracing each other which bothered her for some reason. After a few moments she pretends or tries to tell herself that she doesn’t really care, but deep down she does.  It didn’t help matters any that from a distance, Camille looked to be about a size zero and with that blonde hair, it made Annie feel a tad jealous of her being with Jake but didn’t understand why it bothered her so much?  Was she beginning to have different feelings for Jake other than the brother/sister type relationship they’d enjoyed their whole lives?
The more Annie gets to know Camille, the more she realizes that Jake is making a terrible mistake in marrying her.  Annie found her to be deceptive, manipulative, and obviously a tad spoiled.  But, was it her place to talk to Jake and tell him what she thinks and feels?  And, what is she going to do about her job back in New York, will she return when or if she is re-hired by the new company? 
I was totally captivated by Grounded.  It was full of beautiful imagery that I could picture in my mind’s eye, it had just the right amount of romance to make the novel perfect.  I loved the fact of Annie and Grandmother living off their own land.  I loved Annie and Beulah, although their relationship was a wee bit strained at times, there was no doubt whatsoever that they loved and respected each other deeply.  Annie’s time on the farm only enhanced and reinforced their bond.  Their relationship made me think about my Grandmother and how much I loved her, we were very close but she’s been gone now for thirteen years. 
Beautifully written, Grounded is a skillfully woven story that takes you through unexpected twists and turns.  Immerse yourself in the heartwarming and surprising tale of love, forgiveness, the importance of family, and healing. 
 I guarantee your heart and soul will be touched by this charmingly written novel!!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Story Description:
Random House Publishing|September 10, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-345-52202-3
From Jamie Ford, author of the beloved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, comes a much anticipated second novel.  Set against the backdrop of Depression-era Seattle, Songs of Willow Frost is a powerful tale of two souls – a boy with dreams for his future and a woman escaping her haunted past – both seeking love, hope, and forgiveness. 
Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago.  On his birthday – or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday – William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost.  Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie start is his mother, Liu Song.
Determined to find Willow and prove that his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte.  The pair navigates the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star.  The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen. 
Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920’s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery.  Jamie Ford’s sweeping novel will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home. 
My Review:
Jamie Ford has definitely outdone himself with Songs of Willow Frost.  I has so thoroughly enjoyed his first novel, ‘Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet’, that I didn’t think it possible to outshine that one.  But, Mr. Ford has written a compelling, emotional, heart wrenching novel that will leave you invested in this story for a long time to come. 
Between the Great Depression and 1920’s Seattle lived Liu Song with her mother and step-father.  Her mother used to be a performer but now lay in her bed waiting for death.  Her ignorant, arrogant, filthy, Uncle Leo, her mother’s husband insisted on giving her her daily medications.  Most of them some Chinese concoction he’d made up himself and Liu Song didn’t trust him.  Whenever she tried to visit her mother or wash her, Uncle Leo always found some way to interrupt and kick her out of the room.  To Uncle Leo, Liu Song was nothing more but a maid and servant to be ready at his beck and call.  Liu Song’s other name was, Willow which most people referred to her as. 
Liu Song had the most beautiful singing voice anyone had ever heard.  During the day she worked for Mr. Butterfield at his music shop singing songs all day long while he worked the player piano.  After her mother dies, Uncle Leo tells Mr. Butterfield to begin giving all of Willow’s wages directly to him. 
Willow became pregnant but dared not tell anyone who the father was as she was too ashamed.  She had a beautiful little boy she named, William.  Now living on her own in an apartment she delved into motherhood with the tenacity of a mother lion.   She loved William more than anything on this earth.  It wasn’t easy for Willow to make a living, she struggled to provide food and clothing for William and pay rent on their small apartment.  She eventually became so destitute that she took a job at a dance club in the evenings.  Her only friend, Mildred, would come to babysit William overnight while Willow danced with man after man after man at the club. 
When William was five-years-old, Willow became very ill and was taken from her apartment and William was sent to Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage.  When Mrs. Preston, a social worker, shows up at the hospital to see Willow it wasn’t a social call but an ultimatum.  Willow was given the choice to either sign William over to the father or the Sacred Heart Orphanage.  It broke Willow’s heart and soul to sign her name to those papers giving up all parental rights to William – permanently. 
On William’s twelfth birthday, the nuns from Sacred Heart take all the orphans to the Moore Theatre, where William sees an actress on the screen whose name was, Willow Frost.  William knew deep in his heart that this Willow Frost was his mother whom he hadn’t seen in seven years.  He knew it was her by her features and knew she was really Liu Song – his long lost mother. 
William was determined to find her and prove she was really his mother and not dead as he’d been led to believe by Sister Briganti at the orphanage.  With his friend Charlotte in tow, they escape from Sacred Heart and begin to navigate the streets of Seattle.  William will learn that the “story of Willow Frost, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.” 
Songs of Willow Frost made me laugh, made me cry, and shattered my heart in other places.  It was such an emotionally charged novel and so well-written that I literally felt like I was inside the story following along behind Willow and William.  I could clearly picture in my mind’s eye the sights and hear the sounds of the music and the trolley cars, and smell the odours in the air.  I was so grossly invested in this novel that I just couldn’t put it down.  On one hand, I wanted to read faster to find out what was going to happen next, but on the other hand, I tried to maintain a slower pace because I didn’t want the book to end. 
My sincere hope is that Mr. Ford will seriously consider writing a sequel to Songs of Willow Frost as there is still so much more that could be told. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Story Description:
HarperCollins|September 9, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN:  978-0-06-077963-4
It begins with a call one snowy February night.  Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall.  This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation: helping “haunted souls” find peace.  And yet something in Sylvie senses that this call is different from the others, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town.  Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church’s red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car.  Not long after, she drifts off to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunfire.
As the story weaves back and forth through the years leading up to that night and the months following, the ever-inquisitive Sylvie searches for answers and uncovers secrets that have haunted her family for years. 
Capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King’s works and the quirky tenderness of John Irving’s novels, Help for the Haunted is told in the captivating voice of a young heroine who is determined to discover the truth about what happened on that winter night.  
My Review:
I found Help for the Haunted a bit too drawn out and long.  I kept thinking the author just kept adding information just to make the book long enough to call it a novel. 
The story was eerie enough and sort of had you looking around the room and a times I wasn’t sure I wanted to go down into our basement alone again.  Although the storyline was good, this just wasn’t my cup of tea.  One thing the book did for me was to ensure I never have “dolls” in my house.  Can’t tell you why but you’ll understand once you read the story.

Monday, September 23, 2013


Story Description:
HarperCollins US|September 1, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-222732-4
Yangsze Choo’s stunning debut, The Ghost Bride, is a startlingly original novel infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, and unexpected supernatural twists.
Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favourable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors.  Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances.   Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit.  Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price? 
Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets – and the truth about her own family. 
My Review:
The Ghost Bride, was an exhilarating ride through the afterlife in Malacca, China.  I felt throughout the book that I was being pulled up a huge hill and then let down for a wild ride on the other side.  Over and over throughout the book I was on this amazing journey. 
Li Lan, was the only daughter of a bankrupt business man whose mother had already passed away years before.  Her grandmother lived with them and doted on Li Lan as her father was usually too buzzed out on opium to even carry a conversation with her. 
One day, Li Lan’s father asked her if she wanted to become a “ghost bride” which apparently was a folk tradition of marriages to ghosts in order to satisfy the spirits or allay a haunting.  In other words, a living woman would be married to a dead man with a real wedding taking place with a “rooster” standing in for the dead bridegroom!
Of course, Li Lan thought her father was joking but he was dead serious.  He had been approached by a member of the Lim family, the wealthiest family in all of Malacca.  If he agreed to Li Lan marrying their dead son, Lim Tiang Ching, they would pay off all his debts and provide himself and the grandmother with a comfortable living.  Li Lan would live out her days in a beautiful mansion with servants at her beck and call and the all the riches she could ever hope for.  Li Lan did not think this was a good idea at all and said she would not ever consent to doing that. 
Then, Lim Tiang Ching began invading her dreams from the other side, even showing her the beautifully decorated reception hall done in red.  Li Lan told Lim Tiang Ching it wasn’t going to happen, that she would never marry him. 
Li Lan ends up visiting the Lim mansion and becomes even more haunted by Lim Tiang Ching but also lays eyes on Ching’s new heir, Tian Bai whom she found exceedingly handsome. 
Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the afterlife.  She meets Fan, a long deceased spirit she sort of befriends who helps, Li Lan but ends up turning against her later.  She meets Er Lang who is not of this world either but a guardian spirit, and Master Awyoung whom I despised, along with a host of other worldly spirits. 
Li Lan’s trek through the ‘Plains of the Dead’ had me biting my fingernails and glancing around the room I was reading in every few minutes.  The puppet servants scared me to death. 
Can Li Lan find out the secrets of the Lim family before her spirit is out of her body too long and is trapped in the ghostly world forever? 
Believe me, The Ghost Bride will keep you reading long after bedtime.

Saturday, September 21, 2013



Story Description:
Random House UK|July 15, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-099-51656-9
It is 1899, London.  A young girl is abandoned by her feckless family and finds lodging and work assisting a doctor.  But Jane Stretch is no ordinary girl, and Mr. Swift is no ordinary doctor.
Jane does her best to keep up with the doctor, her twisted bones throbbing as they hurry past the markets, stage doors and side shows to appointments in certain boarding houses across town.  The young actresses who live there have problems, and Mr. Swift does what is required, calmly and discreetly.  Grateful to her benefactor and his wife, Jane assists him and asks no questions – the desperate young women not minding that it is a cripple girl who wipes their brows. 
When this unlikely pair become involved with a rakish music hall star, Johnny Treble, who calls on Swift’s help for his rich mistress’s predicament, it seems that Jane’s spell of good fortune is not going to last.  The police come knocking – how will the doctor explain the absence of his medical certificates?  How will they explain their connection to Johnny Treble’ sudden death?  And how will Jane argue her innocence?  It seems that no amount of wand waving will make their problems disappear. 
Little Bones conjures a tawdry, tantalising, troubling world of unclear morality and conflicting sympathies – richly evocative and full of curiosities.  Two people act against their consciences simply to get by, and the choices we make are called into question.  Is it possible to commit abhorrent acts without being corrupted by them? 

My Review:
Jane Stretch is only thirteen-years-old but smart as a whip.  The bones in her body are bent and twisted like a rope coiled in knots.  People make fun of her, throw stones at her and make inappropriate comments but Jane takes it all in stride. 
Her mother and father are drunks and her older sister, Agnes isn't the smartest bulb in the pack but they all desert, Jane and each seek out their own futures leaving young, Jane to save herself.  She ends up in a rooming house with a doctor and his wife but Mr. Swift is no ordinary doctor.
He hires Jane on as his assistant tending to the girls in the theatres and dance shows who find themselves in the family way and offers his "tincture" as a cure.  During one of their runs at the theatre they meet Johnny Treble, and their lives change forever.  Both Jane and the good doctor are arrested and are sitting in jail awaiting their trials after Johnny is found dead.
Little Bones was a short book that I read in one sitting, at only 282 pages it was a quick read but not just for the fact of its shortness, but also due to its content.  The story was fantastic and I loved the characters.  Who couldn't help but love Jane, she was intelligent, lovable, and her politeness would put us all to shame.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story from beginning to end. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

RETURN TO ME (The Restoration Chronicles) Book One - (LYNN AUSTIN)

Story Description:
Baker Publishing Group|October 1, 2013|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7642-0898-0
Bestselling Author Lynn Austin Launches New Biblical Saga
After years of watching his children and grandchildren wander from their faith, Iddo’s prayers are answered.  King Cyrus is allowing God’s chosen people to return to Jerusalem.  Jubilant, he joyfully prepares for their departure, only to learn that his family, grown comfortable in the pagan culture of Babylon, wants to remain. 
Zechariah, Iddo’s oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather’s ancient beliefs and the comfort and success his father enjoys in Babylon.  But he soon begins to hear the voice of God, encouraging him to return to the land given to his forefathers. 
Bringing to life the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, Return to Me tells the compelling story of Iddo and Zechariah, the women who love them, and the faithful followers who struggle to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home. 
My Review:
Eighty-two-year-old, Daniel was awoken in the middle of the night by loud pounding on his door.  It was two of the King’s servants come to tell him he was wanted at the palace.  King Beshazzar and the queen mother were summoning him to come immediately.
When Daniel arrived at the palace banquet hall, a large gathering of people were enjoying food and wine.  The King asked if Daniel was one of the exiles his forefathers had brought from Judah and Daniel confirmed that he was.  The King said: “I am told the spirit of the gods is in you…they say you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom.”  The King pointed to the wall behind him and told Daniel that the fingers of a hand had appeared and wrote markings on the wall and he wanted Daniel to tell him what it said and what it meant.  Daniel stepped closer to the wall and saw they were letters and words, writing of some sort.  Daniel silently prayed for wisdom. This is what these words mean Daniel said: “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.  Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”  Daniel turned away from the writing readying himself to leave. 
Daniel went home realizing that God had made it clear tonight, that the kingdom of Babylon was finished, Belshazzer and his father, Nabonidas were doomed.  What their downfall would mean for Daniel’s own life or for his people, he couldn’t guess.  Ever since the Babylonians had taken him capture in Jerusalem as a young man, his life had been in God’s hands – the same hand that had written on the wall tonight.  No matter what came next, Daniel rested safely in the grasp of his Sovereign God. 
Iddo and Dinah lived in Babylon.  Iddo was suffering from dreams and woke gasping.  The nightmare had almost devoured him.  Dinah tried to soothe her husband resting her head on his chest as if she thought she could calm his pounding heart.  But for, Iddo, they weren’t dreams, but instead visions that made no sense in the daylight hours.  He relived memories, powerful memories, as real as on the day he’d lived them as a child.  Iddo got up from his mat to make something warm to drink telling, Dinah to stay in bed and keep warm. 
During daytime hours he could control the visions he saw in his mind’s eye, but at night when darkness descended the visions and images pounced on him again.  Once they pounced, they would reduce him to the ten-year-old boy he had been when Jerusalem fell – helpless, terrified, naked, and shivering before his enemies – Forty-seven years had passed since he’d lived through that, and Iddo spent those years in Babylon.  He had his wife, Dinah, children and grandchildren, all born here.  But the nightmare of Jerusalem never faded, never blurred. 
Iddo knew it wasn’t his sons fault that they didn’t believe because when they were young, Iddo’ own faith had been too weak to support their doubts and questions.  But, Iddo felt he had a redeeming grace, he would teach his 11-year-old grandson, Zechariah to believe as perhaps then, God would hear their prayers and end His people’s exile from Jerusalem. 
Iddo asked Dinah if she was unhappy about maybe returning to Jerusalem someday.  Dinah told, Iddo that she was born in Babylon and it was the only home she’d ever known.  She said she never experienced what, Iddo had, what he did or known his grief – Dinah said she wished that Rebbe Daniel and the other prophets had never offered this hope of returning to Jerusalem to him saying that Babylon would fall and they would be free from exile to return from whence they came so long ago.  She asked Iddo: “What if they’re wrong and this turns out to be another loss in your life?”  Iddo replied: “They won’t be wrong.”  Dinah feared that if his hopes were thwarted, the disappointment would kill him. 
Zechariah asked his Abba how seventy years of exile had already passed when Abba wasn’t even the age of seventy.  Abba explained that their captivity began before he was born and that groups of their people were forced into exile three different times in a little more than twenty years.  Abba didn’t remember the first two invasions, but when Judah’s King last rebelled against the Babylonians, their armies demolished everything and brought him there.  Abba told Zechariah he was ten-years-old when the Babylonians broke through the walls and destroyed the temple, and now he and Zechariah would be among those blessed to return and rebuild it.  Zechariah felt pulled in two directions – Babylon was his home, Jerusalem a distant place he knew only from the Torah. 
After their move back to Jerusalem, Dinah was very unhappy.  She didn’t want to leave Babylon but because, Iddo was her husband, she had no choice but to go with him.  Jerusalem had been so destroyed that there was nothing left but ruins and rubble.  Rebuilding was going to take years but, Iddo was adamant that it would be done and they would accomplish their goals for God so He would be pleased with them. 
As the days wore on, Dinah became more and more despondent and she was truly beginning to hate, Iddo.  They used to have such a close and happy marriage but now they barely talked.  Dinah missed her other children and grandchildren who had chosen to stay back in Babylon.  It bothered her that, Iddo never even so much as mentioned them nor even seemed to miss them at all.  Iddo, knew, Dinah was unhappy and finally confronted her, asking why she was so unhappy and what he could do to help her feel more invested in what they were doing.  Dinah told, Iddo that Babylon was where she truly wanted to be.  Iddo responded with: “And so now you’re simply going through the motions without love in your heart?”  Dinah told, Iddo there was nothing in her heart, that her heart was still in Babylon. She then turned the tables on Iddo and asked: “Why are you enduring hardship?  Why do you want to perform all these rituals at the temple?  Is it love or from duty?  Is it merely to appease the Almighty One because you fear more punishment if you don’t?”  Iddo, didn’t know what to say.  Was it true that he served God only out of fear?  Could he say that he loved God or that he believed God loved him? 
It is clear to me that, Iddo is confused and needs to sit and do some serious praying and soul searching. 
To give, Iddo more food for thought, Dinah said: “Why don’t you ask Zechariah the same questions?  Why don’t you explain to him why you treated him so harshly after he was attacked?”  Iddo’s only response was: “I was only doing what any father would do.”  Dinah couldn’t believe what she was hearing and continued: “You believe that’s how God treats us.  We have to follow all the rules, do everything exactly right, or He’ll punish our smallest misstep.  And so you made the boy limp up the hill for prayers when he was in pain, and you humiliated him in front of all the others…” 
Dinah, here has certainly given, Iddo food for thought.  But, I personally have known many people who believe exactly what Dinah has said to Iddo.  They believe it’s true that we are meant to never make an error, to follow all the rules without making a mistake or we can expect a huge and severe punishment from God. 
After years of exile the Jewish people were finally allowed to return home to Jerusalem but it wasn’t without problems as we read through the story.  They faced much turmoil and many hardships that shook even the most faithful of people. 
Return to Me is really the story of Iddo and his grandson, Zechariah who live by faith in the midst of doubt.  Book One of Austin’s ‘Restoration Chronicles’ makes for some compelling reading and I can’t wait for Book Two.  Excellent job, well-done!!
Thank you both to Lynn Austin and Bethany House for the advanced copy.