I’ve been reading a lot of buzz about Joanne Bischof’s books lately. Her first, Be Still My Soul, is up for several awards this year, and the second in the series, Though My Heart is Torn, recently released. So, I decided to check them out. I’ll review them both here. (Disclaimer: I received a copy of Be Still My Soul free through a promotion of Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group, with no expectation of a review, and a digital copy of Though My Heart is Torn through the Blogging for Books program, in exchange for my review.)
First, Be Still My Soul.
It’s the story of Lonnie Sawyer, a shy 17-year-old girl living in an abusive home in Appalachia, who lets womanizer Gideon O’Riley kiss her while walking her home one night. When Lonnie’s father finds out, he forces them into marriage. Lonnie is relieved to be out of her father’s home but reluctant to enter a loveless marriage. Gideon resents everything about the arrangement and seeks to start his life over. He and Lonnie leave their homes for the promise of work in another mountain town. They travel for days and Lonnie becomes weaker and weaker, unable to continue the journey at the pace Gideon has set. Pride and anger overcome Gideon and he takes it out on Lonnie. By Providence, they are rescued by a kind mountain man and taken in by him and his wife while Lonnie recovers. Gideon continues to feel trapped by his circumstances and has to decide whether he’s going to serve himself, as he has most of his life, or learn to serve his family.
Bischof artfully sets the scenes in this story. I have never walked through the Blue Ridge Mountains, but I can imagine the journey. The characters are full of emotion and flaws and the story held me from the start. I cried several times during the story, which isn’t my usual reaction to a story, but I felt so deeply for Lonnie and Gideon that I couldn’t help myself. I finished the book in less than day, a credit to Bischof’s storytelling. I didn’t want to put the book down. I had to know what would happen.
Two minor complaints: I couldn’t place the time setting of the book. In parts of Appalachia, I know time stands still, but I couldn’t tell you if this book was set in the 1800s, 1900s or present day. Maybe I missed something in my eagerness to read the story. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment, but I did wonder. I also didn’t know where in Appalachia they were until about two-thirds through the book. (The answer: Virginia.) Like I said, minor, but those were two things I wanted to know from the beginning.
Next, Though My Heart is Torn.
What an appropriate title! I felt like my heart was being ripped out of me while reading this book. I don’t want to give too much away, especially if you plan on reading the series, but let me just say that it was probably a mistake to read these books back to back over two days. I set myself up emotionally and I haven’t been this involved in fictional characters’ lives since Downton Abbey Season 3. (It’s almost that bad, let me tell you.)
BUT. This is book two of three, and the middle book of a series is sometimes forgettable without much plot of its own, a bridge between book one and the conclusion. Not so, here. As hard as it was to read, I enjoyed Though My Heart is Torn more than Be Still My Soul. It is one of the best middle books of a series I think I’ve ever read.
Just prepare yourself. I was reading it on my Kindle. If I had been reading a physical copy of the book, I might have thrown it across the room. (I did startle my husband when I yelled, “THAT’s how it ends!” when I was done. He thought I’d seen some critter in our living room.)
The road to redemption is rarely pretty but always worth it.
And now I am counting the days until the series conclusion releases this fall.