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The Land Beneath Us: Book Review by Teen Blogger, Kathryn Dover

The Land Beneath Us is the third and final novel in Sarah Sundin’s Sunrise at Normandy series. I have read numerous Sarah Sundin novels and enjoyed them all; her stories are the perfect balance of romance and mystery in a well-researched historical environment. Sunrise at Normandy follows the stories of the three Paxton brothers, Wyatt in The Sea Before Us (my favorite!), Adler in The Sky Above Us, and Clay in The Land Beneath Us, who are divided after a tragic incident at home and are reunited at the Battle of Normandy in World War II.

The prologue of The Sea Before Us introduces the incident that is the basis for all three novels. Wyatt and Adler are in love with the same girl, Oralee. They have a fight which leads to Oralee’s death. Adler, who was engaged to Oralee, blames Wyatt for the argument and tries to kill him. His brother Clay stops him, and Wyatt runs for his life. Wyatt takes Clay’s life savings and joins the Navy. Clay also threatens to kill Adler, and Adler leaves and joins the Air Force. Clay, stripped of his family and money, joins the Rangers. With the prospect of death looming near, Wyatt and Adler reconnect and make efforts to reconnect the whole family, but Clay’s fate at Normandy is uncertain until this novel. Clay is the key to the family’s being reunited. But will he live long enough to make it happen?

Each brother meets a woman throughout his military career that helps him grow in his faith. During training in Tennessee, Clay meets Leah, a librarian and orphan who is searching to discover her identity (orphans endured much prejudice in the 1940’s). The story’s mystery arises when someone assaults Leah: a mysterious attacker is targeting young women. However, I found this mystery to be much less intriguing than the previous two novels. Sundin focuses more on the romance between Clay and Leah than on the mystery of Leah’s attacker.

The characters are realistic, and each has internal struggles with his faith that Christians can identify with. Also, the story contains many biblical allusions and parallels. Clay compares himself to Joseph’s being cast in a pit by his brothers. Like the elder brother in Luke 15, the parable of the prodigal son, Clay is loyal to his father and works for him, while Wyatt and Adler are the prodigal sons who squander their lives and come back to their father.

Readers can see Sarah Sundin does extensive research for her novels; they are all accurate, referencing real people, battles, ships, and elements of the home front. I enjoy the historical accuracy of her books because the characters and situations are even more real. While reading the Sunrise at Normandy series in order is not necessary, I highly recommend doing so.

I have always thought a good World War II story should end with the war’s end, and this series does. While I did not want the book to end, the ending is so complete that I felt satisfied. In addition, I have always thought a good story should span a long time, not just a few days. The Land Beneath Us encompasses two years, and by the end of the story, readers feel as if they know each character personally.

In all the novels I have read, I have rarely read anything as gripping, moving, and intriguing as these novels; I literally cannot put them down. The Land Beneath Us does not disappoint. I highly recommend this novel—and all other Sarah Sundin novels, especially The Sea Before Us—to teens and adults and promise you will not be able to put the books down!

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Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie, and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

HOPE HEALS: Book Review by Teen Blogger, Kathryn Dover

My mother and I were surprised to see Katherine Wolf at a Going Beyond Live conference we attended last summer; we had never heard of her. We had gone to see Priscilla Shirer and had not expected any other speakers. At this conference, Mrs. Wolf told a short version of her story from her and her husband, Jay’s, new book, Hope Heals. Her story is astonishing. The book switches between Katherine and Jay’s perspectives; they relate flashbacks of their wedding and life until Katherine suffered a massive brain stem stroke nearly four years later. She was only twenty-six years old, had a six-month-old baby and was not expected to live.

Her husband was in law school taking his final exams and had come home to retrieve some papers when Katherine had her stroke. Katherine was taken to the third-best hospital in the country that providentially had a renowned neurosurgeon on staff. That surgeon saved her life by performing massive brain surgery most doctors would not have done. In order to save her life, the surgeon had to “sacrifice” many of her physical functions, such as her ability to swallow and to walk. Amazingly, she had just won fifty thousand dollars on a game show, and that money enabled her husband to take care of her without needing to work. In addition, he had just taken out a catastrophic life insurance policy. Her family, friends, and church rallied around her to care for her and her baby.

Her miraculous recovery was a long and overwhelming process. She was in ICU for forty days and was then transferred to an acute rehab facility at UCLA medical center. After that, she moved to a long-term rehab facility, Casa Colina. Before leaving UCLA, Jay returned to her ICU room and took a picture of it as a remembrance. They wanted to memorialize this part of her experience as a reminder of God’s grace and how far they had come.

After Casa Colina, Katherine lived in a house that was part of the facility with daily therapy. On Thanksgiving, as she sat watching her family eat and fellowship, Katherine had what she calls her “epiphany of hope.” She was despairing about not being able to partake in the festivities of her favorite holiday when she suddenly heard God speaking to her. Her stroke was not a mistake; God was in control. From that moment on, everything changed. While most of her life was out of her control, Katherine could make the decision to have hope: Hope Heals. Later during her therapy, she realized that her story could be an inspiration to others and began writing Hope Heals with her husband.

While she will never be the same, Katherine’s life is amazing. The most fascinating part is that after her recovery, Katherine was able to have another baby. It was one of her main hopes to have another child, and the fulfillment of this was a testimony of God’s providence. Katherine Wolf underwent eleven surgeries. Her circumstances are unimaginable, and clearly her faith is the only way she made it through. Hope Heals is a compelling, emotional story that leaves the reader hopeful and encouraged. Our troubles seem small in light of her devastating loss. Katherine Wolf’s incredible testimony reminds readers of God’s faithfulness and strengthens their faith. Indeed, hope is healing for anyone, and I believe every reader will be inspired by this extraordinary book.

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Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including her cats, Prince and Harley; dog, Lady; and two fish, Minnie, and Gilligan. She is a homeschool student and enjoys math, playing the piano, reading, and writing plays.

 

Look Down by Guest Blogger, Sarah Hope

Sweat drips down my back. I can actually see the heat rising in a misty line from the asphalt of the streets. But we have to keep going. I hike my backpack higher on my shoulders, hoping for some relief from the weight of the water bottles inside it and turn to my three high school students, “Let’s stop and pray here.”

The building first caught my eye because of its beautiful architecture, but what stopped my prayer group in front of this Seventh Day Adventist temple was the sleeping mat and grocery bag of belongings that I spied tucked under the front awning.

Writing Down Under by Guest Blogger Penny Reeve

Last week our teen reviewer, Kathryn Cover, reviewed Penny Reeve’s book, CAMP MAX. This week, we welcome Penny back to our blog for an inside look at being a Christian children’s writer in Australia.

I am a Christian children’s and YA author living and writing in Sydney, Australia. My little red brick house is about an hour’s train ride from the Harbour Bridge and the famous white sails of the Opera House. There are no kangaroos jumping around our street, no koalas in the gum trees beyond our back fence, and apart from the lorikeets and cockatoos I get to watch as I write, being a children’s writer in Australia may seem quite similar to being a writer anywhere else in the world.

Maintaining Focus While Social-Distancing

By Debbie DeCiantis

How can a social-distancing writer focus on 1) writing progress and 2) spiritual wellbeing?

If you’re getting plenty of alone time, writing should be easy, right? But you’re still living in unfamiliar circumstances, perhaps removed from routines or places that inspire you. If you’re surrounded by children or other adults who suddenly find themselves without school, play dates, work, and outings, togetherness (as welcome as it may be) obviously forces a whole new writing paradigm.

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