Thursday, May 27, 2010

‘Almost Forever: A Hanover Falls Novel’ by Deborah Raney – Book Review

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The latest book on my checked-off list is ‘Almost Forever: A Hanover Falls Novel’ by Deborah Raney.  I have heard a lot of wonderful things about her books, so I’d been wanting to read one for a long time.  This one lived up to my high expectations!

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

Unearthing a Lost Memory May Cause Her to Lose Everything She Holds Dear…But Could It Also Set Her Free?
Bryn Hennesey, a volunteer at the Grove Street Homeless Shelter, was there the night the shelter burned to the ground and five heroic firefighters died at the scene.  Among them was her husband, Adam.  Like the rest of the surviving spouses, Bryn must find a way to begin again.  But Bryn must do so living with a horrible secret…
Garrett Edmond’s, Molly, was the only female firefighter to perish in the blaze.  As her husband, it was his job to protect the woman he loved…  How can he go on in the face of unbearable loss and guilt?
And what started the fire that destroyed the dreams and futures of so many?  Investigators are stumped.  But someone knows the answers….

Here is the biography of the author:

Deborah Raney’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, was awarded a Silver Angel from Excellence in Media and inspired the acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same name.  Since then her books have won the RITA Award, the HOLT Medallion, and the National Readers’ Choice Award.  Raney is also a two-time Christy Award finalist.  She and her husband, Ken Raney, have four children and enjoy small-town life in their native Kansas.

The book’s opening scene is the tragic fire at the Grove Street Homeless Shelter.  Bryn had been volunteering at the shelter for a while, but she’d been keeping it a secret from her husband, Adam, who was concerned about her safety.  Ironically enough, his presence at the shelter cost him his life as he bravely fought the fire with many of his colleagues.  The scene was compelling and suspenseful, and I was instantly engaged in the lives of these characters.

In my opinion, one of the most important elements in a Christian-themed novel is to prominently feature biblical truths.  This book by Mrs. Raney is brimming with them.  Many of the main characters, including Bryn and Garrett, are Christ-followers.  Bryn is experiencing a great deal of guilt for her perceived actions with regard to the fire.  She not only had many doubts that the survivors of this tragedy would find it in their hearts to forgive her, but she also thought she’d never be able to forgive herself.  Isn’t that often the case – that we are often harder on ourselves than is anyone else?  

Here is an example of Bryn’s tortured soul, as she attended the memorial service for the fallen heroes:

The rest of the short graveside service was torture, and when the bagpipes began to play again – a mournful rendition of “Amazing Grace” – Bryn thought she might be going mad.
For if the hellish nudging of her imaginations were true, surely there was no grace on earth or in heaven that could save a wretch like her.  (p. 40)

Ultimately, she realized that God does not condemn her; He forgives and forgets our sins if we confess them to him.  Other biblical truths in this book are redemption, mercy, love, and gratitude.

One of the characters that really touched my heart was Charlie, a resident in the homeless shelter who had developed a close relationship with Bryn.  Charlie had developed a brotherly affection for Bryn, and a selfless act toward her on his part truly showed the love of Christ; Charlie was the hands and feet of Jesus.

Bryn and Garrett developed a healing friendship, nurtured by the care they had to take of two dogs which were ‘orphaned’ by the displacement of their owners due to the loss of the homeless shelter.  Here is Garrett’s perspective of this new friendship:

Molly was gone, and God had put Bryn in his life for a reason.  Hadn’t he prayed for help, for a way to get through his grief?  God had answered with a beautiful friendship.  He refused to feel guilty for rejoicing in that divine provision.  (p. 150)

And here is Bryn’s perspective:

In bed that night she smiled up at the ceiling.  It was like strong medicine to smile again.  She’d shed enough tears to last a lifetime….She would defend her friendship with Garrett to anyone.  She didn’t care what her dad would say.  Or what Garrett’s family might think….
What they had together was a gift from God.  They had each lost the most precious person in their world, they had both experienced the horror of being left alone in the prime of life.  God had sent her a person who understood her grief intimately because it matched his own.  Identically.  (p. 179)

This is the first novel in the ‘Hanover Falls’ series.  The second novel is ‘Forever After,’ which is schedule for release in January 2011.  And Deborah is working on the final novel, ‘After All.’  I thank Deborah for shining a light into the life of fire fighters, and look forward to see what the future holds for Bryn and Garrett!

You can order this book here.

This book was provided by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, for review purposes.

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