Saturday, January 21, 2012

REVIEW: Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go (e-book)


Jem Perkins has it all – money, a fine house, a handsome husband, and a new baby boy. But when her family fortunes turn, Jem’s husband Seth leads her to a new home: a sod house on a Nebraska homestead.

It is a season of growth for Jem as she reluctantly confronts her new realities: back-breaking labor, dangerous illness, and mind-numbing isolation. She learns to embrace her new role as a capable woman and marriage partner and discovers an awareness of God’s hand in her life.

Then, on January 12, 1888, the history-making Children’s Blizzard sweeps across the land, ushering in a season of hardship she never expected. Can Jem’s confidence, marriage, and new-found faith weather the storm?

An Interview with the Author
from her website

How do you fit writing into your life?  Do you have a regular routine?

I would love to have a routine!  Life is pretty complicated right now.  In addition to all the activities that come with a teen and a ‘tween, I’m the full-time caretaker for my husband, who is totally blind and chronically ill.  He had a kidney-pancreas transplant in 1994, so his immune system is suppressed.  Still, we both worked full time until 2005, when his health declined. He was in the hospital 9 times in 2010 with various infections and problems. This year he was in twice before the third time on April 13, when he went into the hospital and is still there now.

Three of my four books were written at my husband’s bedside, as well as many commission writing projects and editing jobs.   I once wrote 10,000 words on a novel in a single night at the Emergency Room.  I know, because I added them up.  I have no idea whether I ended up keeping any of those words, but I wrote them.

What are you passionate about?

My passion is making the moments of my life count. I’m deliberately idealistic in the face of reality: The world is broken and it’s going to stay that way until Jesus comes, but I believe we have to pour ourselves into making it better anyway.  Second to that, launching my children well. I pray that they’re prepared, that they’ve learned to rely on Jesus, and that they will find God’s path for their lives. If I do nothing else well, I want to do this. And if I do everything else well but this . . . it just doesn’t count.

It’s also really important to me to help people; it’s my drug.  If I think someone is in distress, I get all twitchy and strain to find a way to help.  God had a fight on His hands when He decided it was time for me to learn to accept help instead of give it, but I’m getting there.

What is your writing process?

I usually begin with some core idea – character, concept or conflict.  And sometimes I write out a scene if it plays in my head.  But before I begin officially working on a book, I plan it out from beginning to end, down to the individual scenes.  Sometimes I even plan next books for a potential series.  The plan is flexible; things will change as I go along.  But it’s a lifesaver when I haven’t written in weeks, I’m mind-numb with exhaustion and surrounded by beeping IV’s and rattling hospital machinery.  I can check the map to see where I’ve been and where I’m going.  I just plow through.  When I can’t write well, I write badly. Then later I fix it.

How would you define your unique writing style? What sets you apart from other authors?

I’m a Christian author, but I struggle with the guidelines of the Christian Bookseller Association standards.  It feels so unrealistic.  Modern Christian readers connect with characters who make mistakes, lie, have blunt conversations with their girlfriends, and enjoy sex with their husbands.  This is my standard:  my characters make their mistakes, but I won’t write a yummy scene about them doing something dumb with a man they’re not married to.

Married sex, on the other hand . . .   Our culture delights in glorifying perversions.  Why not give the good stuff – trusting, genuinely loving married sex – a little airtime too?   Young readers today are only exposed to images of sex outside of marriage.  Romance novels, for example, have lots of explicit scenes, but if the characters are married, the story no longer constitutes a romance (trust me – I’ve grappled with this one for years).

I have been told – adamantly – that I’m leading people into sin by writing this way.   That may be so – I’ll ask God when I see Him.  Meantime, in my life, He has dealt with me where I am and how I am.  That’s the only story I know how to tell.

What else would you like to tell us about yourself?

I believe the Bible is the word of God, and that my job as a Christian is to serve and love. I’m in no hurry to leave this earth, but when I do go to heaven, I’m going to learn to play a musical instrument. Ten thousand years ought to do it. I’m going to sing, write, paint, keep a garden without worrying about the water bill, and I’m going to savor the fact that geographical distances no longer separate me from my loved ones.

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My Thoughts
January 12, 1888

At midnight, Charley woke shivering in his trundle bed. "Ma?"

The story begins in St. Paul, Minnesota, moves into Kansas, and ends in Nebraska.

This story offers a glimpse into how hard life was (and still is to a great degree) in the west, and brings to light the story of the Children's Blizzard, which took place in January 1888.

Hot, scorching summers and brutal and unpredictable winters, the land is unforgiving and only the most stalwart individuals can survive. What chance do a couple of city folk stand?

Seth is a good man, brave and strong. Fair and ethical. He’s been a good provider for his family, a good father to his son, if a bit estranged from his wife.

Jemima has been raised a spoiled daughter and is now a somewhat indulged wife. 

Jem and Seth married "liking" one another, "lusting" after one another, and perhaps even "loving" one another, but they didn't really know one another and weren't friends. Seth is with the military and has been gone traveling much of their marriage. Jem has been coddled and indulged by her father, who lives nearby and gave Seth and Jem the house that they live in with their infant son Charley.

Life takes a turn, and Seth chooses to move the family out West to become homesteaders in Nebraska. They know that life will be tough, but Seth seems to underestimate just how hard things can get.

In the beginning, Jem is spoiled, selfish and annoying. She isn't very likable by any means, often using tears to get her way with the men in her life. But the more that life throws at the family, the more Jem rises to the occasion.

My greatest disappointment with this story and the characters was Seth. I was disappointed that he only saw Jem for who she had been, and did not acknowledge the amazing woman that she had become. She showed herself in many circumstances to perhaps be even stronger and tougher than Seth.

This was my first e-book, and I've gotta say, I came to love being able to just pick up my phone and read a little here and there. It was a comfortable way to settle down at night, turn out the lights, and read one more chapter before giving way to sleep. This was the perfect introduction to the world of e-books!

My final word: This was a lovely story, and it really held me throughout. I kept wondering what was going to happen next? Would they survive the West? Would they find their way back to each other? Would life cast them a lifeline? I've been interested in the past with the Children's Blizzard, and this was a nice introduction to it. Tragic and stirring, leading you through the story with little drops of hope like Gretel's trail of breadcrumbs, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a moving story that can touch your soul.

My Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. 

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