Author: Meg Moseley
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry, a division of Simon and Schuster
Release Date: April 5, 2011
Hardcover, 320 pages
ISBN 10: 144240339X
ISBN 13: 9781442403390
The Book Depository / Amazon
Freedom. Safety. Love. Miranda vows to reclaim them--for herself, and for her children.
A widow and mother of six, Miranda Hanford leads a quiet, private life. When the pastor of her close-knit church announces his plans to move the entire congregation to another state, Miranda jumps at the opportunity to dissolve ties with Mason Chandler and his controlling brand of “shepherding.” But then Mason threatens to unearth secrets only he knows, and Miranda feels trapped, terrified she’ll be unable to protect her children.
University professor Jack Hanford is more than surprised when he gets a call from his estranged sister-in-law’s oldest son, Timothy, informing him that Miranda has taken a serious fall and he has been named legal guardian of her children while she recovers. Quickly charmed by Miranda’s children, Jack brings some much-needed life into the sheltered household. But his constant challenging of the family’s conservative lifestyle makes the recovering mother uneasy and defensive—despite Jack’s unnerving appeal.
As Jack tries to make sense of the mysterious Miranda and the secrets she holds so tightly, Mason’s pressure on her increases. With her emotions stirring and freedom calling, can Miranda find a way to unshackle her family without losing everything?
As the book opens, we find Miranda Hanford, a widowed mother of six children, finding out that her church pastor has called a meeting of the single women of the church. He informs them that the church and its flock will be moving to another state and that the parishioners with property are expected to sell, pull up stakes, and donate the proceeds to the move. (Obviously, this set up warning bells in THIS reader's mind!)
Ever the black sheep of her strict fundamentalist group (no caffeine, homeschooling with no science or fiction books included), Miranda determines that she will not sell her property OR move with the church. The problem is that the pastor holds a secret over her head and threatens her with calling children's services and having her children taken away. Her dilemma is now how to avoid moving with the church while keeping the pastor silent.
As she is taking pictures one morning, Miranda takes a serious tumble down a steep slope and ends up hospitalized. Some time ago, she changed her children's guardianship from her church pastor to her husband Carl's half-brother Jack, a literature professor. When Jack is called to take care of the children while Miranda recovers, he drives up from Chattanooga and re-acquaints himself with the nieces and nephews that he was not able to know while Carl was alive. He brings a touch of modernity to the Hanford household, sometimes against Miranda's wishes, but in a gentle fashion, taking the children to the library to pick up real books to read, making coffee, and falling in love with the children whose lives have been so circumscribed that the girls dress in basic shift dresses only.
As Miranda recovers, she finds an unlikely ally in the pastor's own wife Abigail. Will Miranda be able to break away from the church and still keep her children?
This was an involving read. From the beginning, I had my fingers crossed for Miranda, who was isolated from everything by her husband Carl. The women of the church are not even allowed to vote, and Miranda was banned from making money from her photography by the church council. It may be hard for many of us to imagine a life so "backward", and I, for one, would have told the pastor in no uncertain terms to stick it where the sun doesn't shine (but that's just me).
In this novel, however, we see how easily a woman married young to a controlling man and brought into a similarly controlling church society could be placed in this position.
This is Christian fiction, so it is a clean read, but it could be considered a general fiction read as well. The fundamentalist church that Miranda belongs to is not portrayed in a good light, and Jack has a quiet, understated faith that makes him a wonderful person to read about.
QUOTESHe still spoke softly, but this wasn't the genial pastor who preached on Sundays and prayed for the sick and made a mean chili for potluck suppers. This was a different man. A hard, unreasonable man.
"What's right for the church as a whole isn't necessarily right for me," she said, quaking inside.
"Remember, Miranda, 'rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft."
Jack asked more questions and learned that the children had never set foot in a school building or a McDonald's or a mall. A trip to the grocery store was an unusual event.
He gave himself a mental slap. She was his sister-in-law. Mother of six. Weird homeschooler whose religion forbade nicknames, fiction, and attractive clothing.
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Characters: 3.5 out of 5 starsReading Immersion: 3.5 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 3.75 out of 5 stars
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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher through Waterbrook Multnomah's Blogging for Books program to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received and I was not required to post a positive review.