Monday, June 27, 2011

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

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I had the good fortune to just finish reading ‘Forever After,’ the second novel in Deborah Raney’s ‘Hanover Falls’ series. Having enjoyed the first book in the series, ‘Almost Forever,’ I was anxious to read this one. And I was not disappointed!

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

A fire killed his best friend and his lifelong dream of being a firefighter. The same fire killed her husband and hopes for a family. Can new dreams be replaced?
Lucas Vermontez was a proud firefighter like his father. Now, not only has he lost his father and his best friend, Zach, in the fire at Grove Street homeless shelter, but the devoted rookie can no longer do the work he loves after being crippled in the tragic event. When friendship with his buddy’s beautiful widow turns into more, he wonders, what could he possibly offer Jenna?
Jenna Morgan is trying to grieve her husband’s death like a proper widow, but the truth is, she never really loved Zach. His death feels more like a relief to her. But that relief is short-lived when she loses her home and the financial support of her past threatens to destroy her future.
Can the two forget the painful past and discover new reasons to live and love?

Here is the biography of the author:

Deborah Raney dreamed of writing a book since the summer she read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books and discovered that a little Kansas farm girl could, indeed, grow up to be a writer. After a happy twenty-year detour, as a stay-at-home wife and mom, Deb began her writing career. Her 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; she is also a two-time Christy Award finalist. Raney enjoys speaking and teaching at writers’ conferences across the country. She and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy small-town life in their native Kansas. The Raneys enjoy gardening, antiquing, art museums, movies, and traveling to visit four grown children and small grandchildren who live much too far away.
Deborah loves hearing from her readers. To e-mail her or to learn more about her books, please visit her website or write to Deborah in care of Howard Books, 216 Centerview Dr., Suite 303, Brentwood, TN 37027.

Here is the trailer for this book:

I saw a lot of myself in the main character of Jenna Morgan, in terms of the poverty and difficult home life that she endured as a little girl. Going along with that, I also was exasperated by her at times! She was a little bratty toward poor Lucas more than once, and he extended a lot more grace toward her than I was! Fortunately, she made some decisions in her life later on in the book that changed her character and made her more likeable. It was a relief, quite frankly!

It was interesting to see how Jenna related to people based on her view of herself and her past (it is hard to get past the issues in our formative years). Here is the explanation of the relationship between her and her mother-in-law:

Clarissa had quickly become the mother Jenna’s own mother could never be to her. She’d never treated Jenna like trailer trash, but taught her how to dress, how to do her makeup, and later – after she and Zach were married – taught her how to hold her head high and act as if she deserved to carry the Morgan name.
It had taken a dozen years of Clarissa’s mentoring, but most days Jenna could almost believe she was worthy of associating with Bill and Clarissa’s crowd. Could almost believe she deserved to live in a beautiful home in the Brookside development and that she wouldn’t be turned away trying to gain entrance to her in-laws’ home in Clairemont Hills, the new gated community on the outskirts of Hanover Hills. (p. 11)

I loved how the faith of Lucas positively affected Jenna:

        “I’ll pray you get the job.”
“Thanks.”  She didn’t put a lot of stock in prayer, but it touched her to think of him praying for her. (p. 161)

Despite his faith, there was still some doubt at times:

….Why did this have to happen? The last thing he needed was a setback like this. “Can You cut me a break, God? Come on!” His own voice startled him.
He didn’t usually pray out loud. Or did he dare call that a prayer? The words had come out more like a curse.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. It wasn’t right to take it out on God. He knew better than that. His faith had been tested almost beyond what he could bear in this past year. And still, God had proven faithful every step of the way. Lucas knew beyond doubt that he would never have made it through without God’s presence with him every second. He’d pushed away the memory of the darkest moments of those awful days – times he’d actually prayed to die. God had been there, even then. He was thankful now that God had refused to answer those prayers. Eventually hope had quickened his passion for life again. (p. 187)

Later on in the story, Jenna shared with Lucas that she was comforted and encouraged by the love and faith in God that was in evident in his family. Here he explains what faith and belief feels like to him:

“I’ve gotten past the need to know. There’s just this…feeling inside. Peaceful, I guess is the best way to explain it. I know God has everything under control and whatever happens, as long as I know it, I’m okay.” (p. 329)

Jenna shares her wishes, and Lucas shares his heart for her:

        “I wish I could believe like you,” she said.
“I want that for you, too, Jen. To believe how much God loves you. To have a faith that understands what true love is. It’s all I want for you, because it’s all that really matters.” (pp. 329-330)

There are Reading Group Questions at the back of the book that are quite insightful. I took the time to answer them, and was challenged in my thinking on some of the main themes in this book.

I really like the cover of this book, as well as the cover of ‘Almost Forever,’ the first book in the 'Hanover Falls' series. It is really appealing, and no doubt grabs one’s attention in a bookstore. I would definitely pick it up and check it out if I saw it on a bookstore shelf!

I also enjoyed the first book, ‘Almost Forever;’ you can read my review here. The final novel in the series, ‘After All,’ is completed and a bonus excerpt is included at the end of this book. 

I would recommend this as a light summertime read. Mrs. Raney is quite a talented writer, and you will want to keep reading to see what happens next in the lives of Lucas and Jenna.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, and provided by Glass Road Public Relations for review purposes.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Blessings and prayers,

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