All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese is the most beautiful contemporary Christian novel that will leave you smiling as you celebrate the goodness of God.
The story is about the riches of life. These riches are never found in possessions or bank accounts. These riches are found in people. We see characters’ lives opening up as they realise that their true worth is found within. They are more than the clothes they wear. They are more than all their mistakes. They are all priceless sons and daughters of the King.
The main setting is in a house for older teens who have left the foster system. They are all trying to make a life, whilst carrying their baggage from the past. They “were more than the scars they wore from their pasts.”
Everyone is unique and everyone has individual talents. We need to celebrate our uniqueness and stop trying to mold ourselves into the shape of another. “Stop trying to hide what God has created to be seen.” Celebrate the gift you have been given.
None of us know what tomorrow brings. We need to trust God and “don’t borrow worry.”
Lives are not always able to be controlled by us. Things will always happen that are out of our control. In the midst of the storm, rest in the arms of the Father. Trust His timing. “God continued to prove His timing was right on schedule. Even when that schedule wasn’t made by me.”
A character has known God but drifted away. “I spoke to the God I’d believed in as a girl.” All of heaven rejoices when the prodigal returns home.
The Secret Keepers Of The Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox is the most delightful Christian dual timeline novel that filled my soul with love.
The novel is set in present day and from 1965 working forwards. It is a story of family and love and life.
A character has been grieving her whole life for a boy who went to Vietnam and never returned. Life still kept turning and she had to learn to live again in spite of her grief. Grief never leaves us. We just need to find our way through it.
We witness the horrors of war in the lives of those who return. “How could they find normal after that? Love when they’d been baptized in hate.” Some lives buckle with PTSD and they escape through alcohol and drugs.
There is the theme of guilt. A character is drowning in it, carrying burdens that were never meant for her. “I’d become so tainted by darkness that I couldn’t feel the warmth of the sun anymore.” It is time to let go and let God.
Charming! Delightful! Wonderful!
The Continued Times Of Isabella M Smugge by Ruth Leigh is an absolute delight. It is the third book in the Isabella Smugge series but can be read as a stand-alone. I recommend reading the previous two books first for maximum enjoyment and to follow character progression.
I absolutely adore Isabella Smugge. She is open and down to earth, speaking her mind, and yet she comes from a privileged background, so is slightly out of touch with the masses. She has a huge heart and is also as a new Christian, a work in progress. I recognized some of her thinking. “And what did she mean, God was far away?… He stayed in the same place and waited for people to approach Him.” She also thinks that God would not want to be bothered with her small concerns as He would be busy with bigger problems. Issy Smugge is very easy to relate to.
As a new Christian, Isabella Smugge has some unusual views of God. “I thought God waved His magic wand and sorted everything out.” It comes as a surprise to her that Christians have problems too. “I don’t understand why God lets this kind of thing happen, Claire ticks all the boxes in the world of religious people.” We were never promised a trouble-free life, quite the opposite. Jesus tells us that in this world you will have problems but He also promises to never leave us but to walk beside us throughout all of life.
Isabella Smugge occasionally misses church, believing that God will understand (which He will). Her attitude to going to church is hilarious at times. “I was ready to go [to church] and collect some more holy points.”
I found the scene in church where Isabella Smugge is clearly touched by the Holy Spirit, incredibly moving. As God touches hearts, the tears often fall but they are good tears as they are the healing tears of God.
An Ethereal Beauty
Brisbane by Eugene Vodolazkin (translated by Marian Schwartz) is an epic contemporary novel that drew me in from the start.
It is a novel that focuses on a life in both relatively present day and the 1970’s moving forwards.
Brisbane is also a celebration of the arts – Gleb is a musician but he also loves words, exploring their impact in the novel. He is conflicted between the Russian and the Ukrainian in him.
The main character has a mixed relationship with his father, also a musician, who seems to enjoy putting his son down. Gleb strives to make his father proud.
In contrast there is a loving relationship with his grandfather who sustains and encourages Gleb. He also introduces him to God. Religion was not encouraged in Soviet Russia as a communist country, when Gleb was growing up. Gleb dreads having the dilemma as to whether to acknowledge his faith or to deny it. Gleb finds comfort in knowing God.