A heart-touching, emotionally moving story of family.
I've read every single one of Beth Wiseman's Amish stories and have not been able to put them down, this contemporary novel is no different. From the very beginning we are introduced to a typical American family, every member is complex, and has their own hidden struggles.
I think the character that touched my heart most was Grace, because I have known people who struggled with the same things she struggled with. And I totally agree, great friends can really be God's way of reaching out in tough situations.
I really liked the character of Skylar though, she was a great girl who had her battles in the past, but came out stronger. She was probably my favorite character. I also really liked the character of Layla, because she is so much more than first meets the eye. That's one of the reasons I love Beth Wiseman's books so much, all of her characters are so well developed. I feel like I know alot about them just upon first meeting them, yet I want to find out more at the same time! And I really liked how the author used the role reversals between Layla and Darlene.
Overall, Need You Now though different in sub-genre, is another winner from Beth Wiseman. Emotionally driven, with moments that made me smile and others that broke my heart, Need You Now is a thoroughly satisfying literary journey from beginning to end.
I received this book from the publisher through B&B Media and FIRST Wild Card Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
PROS: Approaches difficult issues respectfully and realistically; relatable characters
CONS: Some storylines and characters could have been developed further; one character took an unpleasant turn
For Darlene Henderson, life in Round Top, Texas feels much more safe and secure than it did in Houston. Her teenage son has been removed from the rough crowd he was spending time with in the city, and she and her husband are making plans to renovate their old farm house. Darlene's so comfortable with her family life that she's given up being a stay-at-home mum and started working at a school for disabled children. So she's entirely unprepared when a series of catastrophes hit her family. Her seemingly perfect teenage daughter is revealed to have been self-harming for quite some time, a secret her brother was keeping from their parents. No one understands the enormity of what Grace has been going through, least of all Darlene. Her husband, Brad, is determined to sweep this situation under the carpet and deal with it without any outside help that might damage the reputation of their family. Brad's reaction stuns Darlene, and his insinuations that Grace wouldn't have been so destructive if Darlene spent more time at home drives an unexpected wedge between them. To complicate matters further, the father of a child at her school is starting to pay Darlene a lot of attention, at a time when she most needs someone to lean on. Darlene is struggling to stay strong and make decisions about Grace without the support of her husband, and needs all the help she can get to stay away from the open arms of another man.
Having recently become a fan of Beth Wiseman's Amish fiction, I couldn't help but be intrigued when I heard that she was releasing a contemporary novel, and a non-romantic one at that. Contemporary women's fiction is a genre that is slightly lacking in the Christian market. There are some writers who approach this genre very well, but I've yet to encounter anyone who can rival Barbara Delinsky or Diane Chamberlain in their complex plots and family dynamics. While Beth's debut into this market didn't excite the same reactions in me that Barbara's most recent instalments have, I will admit that it was incredibly compelling. I devoured it in two days straight, and I honestly think I need to go back and reread the last few chapters as I was struggling to keep my eyes open at the end, but determined not to go to sleep until I'd finished the book!
I didn't have any major expectations for Need You Now, as I imagined it would be very different from Beth's Amish fiction. But she has lived up to her trademark of complex, realistic characters with believable struggles, even in a contemporary setting. I was even more impressed by the way that she approached her teenage protagonists. Some brilliant authors have let me down in their portrayal of teenagers - notably, Jodi Picoult's The Pact, which I repeatedly wanted to throw across to the room when I read it as a sixteen-year-old - but Beth does not join their ranks. While I never suffered to the extent that Grace did, I did struggle with unexplained feelings of depression throughout my teen years, which has now been diagnosed as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even now, I can't put my emotions from this stage of my life into words. Somehow, Beth has managed to explain how overwhelmingly confusing teenage depression can be, making Grace an incredibly relatable teenage character. Grace's older brother, Chad, was equally realistic, although I felt that Beth could have developed his character a little more. There are hints that Chad is possibly going to head down the wrong route, like he did in Houston, and although he makes some positive choices towards the end of the novel, his character never had the depth that Grace's did. Likewise, I did mostly enjoy the storyline about their neighbour, Layla, but she sometimes felt a bit caricatured. Her relationship with Darlene was very touching, but I think the fact that this novel attempted to focus on so many different characters meant that some of them - particularly Layla and Chad - were a little neglected and didn't seem quite as fleshed out as Darlene and Grace.
Some readers may find it difficult to read about the struggles Darlene and Brad's relationship faces, and the temptations that Dave presents her with. Need You Now illustrates how dangerous a seemingly innocent relationship can become when it starts to provide that which your marriage cannot. I will admit that I got a bit annoyed at Darlene towards the end of the novel. She overhears a phone conversation with her husband and makes several assumptions, but takes a long time to confront him about it. I know that this is probably the way that many women would react, but I'm not that kind of woman. But although I couldn't relate to Darlene in this particular incident, I will say that for the majority of the situations she found herself in, I could emphasise with her. I do wish that Dave's character had taken a different turn. He was painted so sympathetically at the start of the novel - a widower with a challenging daughter who just wanted to find love again - but I felt he almost became somewhat of a villain, and Darlene the victim. Of course he was wrong in coveting a married woman, but if Darlene can be forgiven for her mistakes, so can he. I wanted some hope for Dave at the end of the novel, but there wasn't any. Perhaps Beth will write another novel about Dave's redemption?
Beth's debut into the contemporary market is strong, and hopefully a sign of better things to come. Her characters are just as realistic and relatable as those in her Amish novels, and she continues to address controversial issues that some authors shy away from. While perhaps the number of topics that come up in this novel might seem a little overwhelming - self-harm, adultery, death - the novel ended on a hopeful, uplifting note. I think the only major pitfall of Need You Now is that the novel has a large cast, and some of the characters seemed less credible than others. A few characters could have benefited from some further development, but perhaps this had to be sacrificed for the sake of the main storylines. But hopefully this is something that Beth can improve on in later novels, of which I'm sure there will be many. Fans of Beth's Amish fiction will likely enjoy this foray into a new genre, and those who can't bear to pick up a novel with the bonnet on the front will now also get the chance to enjoy Beth's challenging yet uplifting stories.
In her first contemporary novel Need You Now, Beth Wiseman introduces readers to the Henderson family. Hoping to find peace in a simplified lifestyle, Brad and Darlene move their family to Round Top, Texas. Once there, though, the adjustment is more difficult than any of them anticipated. Brad is working overtime trying to make partner at his accounting firm. Darlene starts working outside the home for the first time. Chad is drinking and hanging out with a bad crowd. Grace is struggling to make friends and begins cutting.
I was impressed with how Beth tackled a number of really difficult issues in Need You Now. Adultery, cutting, divorce, anger at Godâ€”they are all shown fairly realistically and in light of God's grace. In fact, I've never read another book that addressed the issue of cutting, and I think this could be very enlightening to teenagers and parents alike.
While Brad, Darlene, and their children were the focal point of the book, I enjoyed "meeting" their neighbor Layla and Grace's friend Skylar. Their stories really interested me and I wish that they would have been featured more throughout the book.
I enjoyed Beth's writing style and found the story to be intriguing and captivating overall. Unfortunately, though, I felt that there were so many story lines that it was pretty unbelievable. It seemed that Brad and Darlene had a nearly perfect marriage (after 20 years, no less) and within a few weeks everything was falling completely apart. It just didn't ring true with me. The secondary characters in the book also had some pretty drastic issues that came to light in the book, and it just seemed a bit unrealistic that everyone in this small town would have such horrible problems to deal with all at the same time.
Overall, I enjoyed the story, but I'm not sure this is a book I would rush out to buy. It's definitely worth your time to read and prompted a lot of interesting conversation at our house. I'll be interested to see what Beth's other contemporary novels are like. [3 stars]
I received a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson via The B&B Media Group and FIRST Wildcard Blog Tours in exchange for my fair and honest review.
When big-city life threatens the safety of one of their children, Brad and Darlene Henderson move with their three teenagers from Houston to the tiny town of Round Top, Texas.
Adjusting to small-town life is difficult for the kids, especially fifteen-year-old Grace who is coping in a dangerous way.
Married life hasn't always been bliss, but their strong faith has carried them through the difficult times. When Darlene takes a job outside the home for the first time in their marriage, the domestic tension rises.
While working with special needs children at her new job, the widowed father of one of Darlene's students starts paying more attention to her than is appropriate. Problem is, she feels like someone is listening to her for the first time in a long time. If Darlene ever needed God_it's now.
Experience a family's triumphant defeat over lies, betrayal, and loss while still clinging to the One who