A Life Once Dreamed By Rachel Fordham

What would cause a young woman of privilege and wealth to leave her family, her childhood sweetheart/fiancée, and move to a small town in the rugged Dakota Territory to become a school teacher? That is exactly what Agnes Pratt did. She is loved and accepted by the small community of Penance. Teaching school and loving the children has become her life calling. Her neighbors have no clue of her previous life, although they do wonder why such a young attractive woman has no desire to marry. Her past is safe until 6 years later when the new doctor arrives in town. Shock upon shock it is her fiancée she has been hiding from. It is a challenge for them to keep their previous relationship to themselves. Tensions rise with being near each other again and her reason for leaving still unexplained. Not to mention the other people involved in their lives at different levels that knew nothing of their shared past.
I would have assumed Agnes would be a spoiled little rich girl. I was very impressed by compassion, courage and work ethic, no matter how hard the job. James was so sweet and patient. Their love was strong and true even with all the misunderstanding and years of separation. The couple’s transition from ease and wealth to the hard life in a territory in the 1800’s showed they had true character. I was inspired by their faith and desire to seek God in all things. I loved the way the author gradually built the suspense in revealing Agnes’s hidden story. I tried to guess multiple times but was wrong on every one! An exciting, beautiful story of true sacrificial love!
I received this book from Revell Publishing in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have stated are my own.

Stories That Bind Us By Susie Finkbeiner

As soon as I see Susie Finkbeiner has a new book out, I HAVE to read it! She never disappoints! I was able to totally lose myself in the story and characters! The story takes place in the 1960’s.
Betty Sweet’s beloved husband of 23 years dies suddenly right before her eyes. She is only 40 years old and of course is devastated. They had one of those special sweet marriages and he was the love of her life. I could relate to so much of her emotions and experiences having lost my husband. Grieving the loss of the love of her life consumed her in every area. As if this was not enough to deal with, out of the blue, her sister Clara whom she has had no contact with for years, shows up at her door with her 5 year old son. She needs a place to stay and she needs help. Betty pulls herself together to welcome them to her home and life. Clara’s problems are serious. Their mother suffered from mental illness throughout their childhood, finally dying in a sanitarium. Betty lovingly shoulders the responsibility of her sister’ mental illness and the care of her young nephew, Hugo. It matters not to her he is black, but during this era others where not so accepting.
There was so much to the book! I don’t even know where to begin! Betty’s putting her sister’s and nephew’s needs before her own was an incredible Christian testimony. I couldn’t imagine being her shoes after losing my husband. She had never been able to have children so Hugo captured her heart immediately. He was such a sweet and gentle child. There were times I wished I could reach into the book and hug him! With his mother’s problems his short life had struggles that needed healing too. Betty’s love and sacrifice knew no bounds. I loved her in-laws. They were her true family and support. Her relationship with them was so comforting and loving. The interactions between them gave me such a warm fuzzy feeling.
This is a beautiful, heartening story, showing that with unconditional love and strong faith in God no problem is too big! I am amazed how the author wove an enthralling story with such difficult subjects as the grief of losing a spouse and a parent, parental rejection, family mental illness and racial prejudice. Yet the book is not depressing but inspirational and uplifting. A definite want to read!!!