Join Two Incomparable Sisters on Adventures That Span the Decades And Cross the Globe
In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules and expectations for Victorian women are strict, their roles in life limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents have taken them out of society ballrooms and delivered them to the Sinai Desert–and into the teeth of a sandstorm.
Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a plucky street urchin learning to be their ladies’ maid, the two women are on a quest across the desert chasing rumors of an important biblical manuscript.
As the expedition becomes ever more dangerous and uncertain, all four travelers sift through memories and adventures of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the journeys and providence that brought them to this very time and place.
I’ve enjoyed previous novels by Lynn Austin. I also like that this isn’t being marketed as a romance novel that happens to be historical.
Sometimes, a novel will have an unexpected emotional impact on you. You’ll go through the motion of reading it – perhaps with a dislike of one of the major characters – but, when you’ve finished that final page, you’ll find yourself with a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat. Such was the case with me and Where We Belong.
Life is too short to deliberately pick up a book you know you won’t like. I expected to like Where We Belong, but the first part was dedicated to Rebecca and I didn’t like her. The novel is divided into four sections – each dedicated to a particular character – and the narrative within those sections jumps back and forth in time. Rebecca and Flora were raised by their widowed father, who didn’t appear to care about making them presentable for society until it’s almost too later. Young Rebecca likes to believe she’s acting as an adult, but I felt she came across more as a spoiled and selfish child. Her determination to have her own way continues into her adult years until something happens that turns her into a guilt-ridden woman trying to make up for everything in the past. She comes across as the main character, but the story doesn’t quite end with her. If it had, I don’t think I’d have been quite so emotional.
The storyline regarding Kate and Soren was something else entirely. While it has comedic value, this is where the notion of belonging really comes into focus. They’re teenagers lost in a desert wilderness, torn apart from everything they’ve known. They’re shown grace and, in return, come to realize what it means to extend that grace to others. I would’ve liked to known what happened to Kate and Soren as they got older.
This is a good novel and perhaps I would’ve loved it if Rebecca hadn’t been such an overwhelming force. There are some great descriptions of locations and events, such as the old cities of the Middle East and the Great Chicago Fire. The information about the documents at Saint Catherine’s Monastery, while informative, isn’t dry and lecturing. It’s fascinating to learn that the pivotal document Rebecca and Flora seek was actually discovered by two sisters on whom Lynn Austin based her characters. It’s just a shame I didn’t like Rebecca.
Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy of Where We Belong, which I received in exchange for my honest review.
Have you read Where We Belong? Do you plan to read it? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing)
Publication Date: 03 October 2017
Page Count: 480