Be Still My Soul, Cadence of Grace Series #1
Review: Be Still My Soul
Be Still My Soul, book one in The Cadence of Grace series by Joanne Bischof, is a beautifully crafted and moving novel set in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia at the turn of the last century. Joanne writes that this series "weaves together the threads of yearning, hope, and redemption to form a tale that I hope will touch your heart, stir your senses, and evoke a greater understanding for the majestic God who created every hue and surface of the mountains I hold so dear."
NightÃ¢ÂÂs chill tickled her skin. Lonnie pressed her hands together and glanced up. He was even more handsome up close. Having grown up the shy, awkward daughter of Joel Sawyer, sheÃ¢ÂÂd hardly spoken to any boy, let alone the one who had mothers whispering warnings in their daughterÃ¢ÂÂs ears and fathers loading shotguns.
Pretty Lonnie Sawyer is shy and innocent, used to fading into the background within her family, and among the creeks and hollows of the Appalachian hills. Though her family is poor and her father abusive, she clings to a quiet faith. But when handsome ladiesÃ¢ÂÂ man and bluegrass musician Gideon OÃ¢ÂÂRiley steals a kiss, that one action seals her fate.
Her father forces her into a hasty marriage with GideonÃ¢ÂÂa man she barely knows and does not love. Equally frustrated and confused by his new responsibilities, Gideon yearns for a fresh start, forcing Lonnie on an arduous journey away from her home in Rocky Knob. Her distant groom canÃ¢ÂÂt seem to surrender his rage at the injustice of the forced matrimony or give Lonnie any claim in his life.
To put it simply, I fell in love with everything about Be Still My Soul - Joanne's lyrical writing, the Appalachian setting, rich characterization, the use of music, and the theme of God's grace. The phrase "heartfelt fiction" on her website is certainly an accurate description. Jebediah and Elsie, warm and endearing supporting characters, play a strong part in this story.
The Blue Ridge mountains of Appalachia felt like one of the main characters. If you grew up with the Walton family or read Catherine Marshall's Christy, you will appreciate how beautifully Joanne captured the essence of the region - its rugged beauty amidst great poverty, the occasional moonshine still and shotgun wedding, a proud and hard-working people who expressed joy and hope through music.
There's not a lot to like about Gideon in the beginning. He's a ladies' man, immature, cares only about himself, and looks to blame others for his actions. Lonnie, in spite of growing up with an abusive father, is a sweet, gentle, shy young lady with a quiet faith, instilled by her loving aunt. Happiness and contentment seem doubtful when marriage is forced on this unlikely couple. On their wedding day, "Lonnie glanced around the churchyard decorated only with dried summer grasses and early autumn leaves. She'd always imagined her wedding would have peach cobbler and plenty of waltzes. Her friends would have toasted to the happy couple, and she would want this day to last as long as possible. She would have danced into the night with her new husband, until the stars lighted their path home. But when Gideon's shoulder brushed against hers, she knew that dream was gone."
The spiritual theme is quiet in this story, evidenced by Lonnie's quiet faith, but ever present nonetheless. It is a sign of an author's talent when you can be drawn to such an unlovely character as Gideon - and his slow, gradual redemption is moving and inspiring. "Gideon tried to remember what it was he'd seen in Lonnie. It was more than her sweetness, her goodness. He saw faith. He didn't know what it entailed, but he knew she had always believed there was something redeemable in him. Could he not think the same?" Lonnie's faith is shown through the words of this beautiful hymn that she sings . . .
Come, Thou Fount of every bless, tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount. I'm fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love.
Be Still My Soul is a story of gently growing trust and love, grace and redemption. I found it to be a beautiful, haunting story. I highly recommend it to all lovers of romantic historical fiction that inspires.
The next book in this series, Though My Heart Is Torn, released on April 2, 2013. To learn more about Joanne and her books, visit her website at joannebischof.com.
April 29, 2013
Fabulous Debut Novel!
In her debut novel, Be Still My Soul, author Joanne Bischof, takes us on a compelling, emotionally stirring journey amongst the creeks and hollows of the Appalachian Mountains -- a vividly beautiful land yielding a wealth of resources, but surrounded by poverty and simplistic living.
Lonnie Sawyer is a shy, innocent young woman, who after being physically abused by her father for years, is yearning for the day she turns eighteen and can move in with her loving Aunt Sarah. It is through Aunt Sarah that she learns of God and the beautiful scriptures that bring comfort to her lonely life. After a night of singing and playing instruments in the woods, Lonnie finds herself alone and pressured into being escorted home in the moonlight by handsome ladies' man, Gideon O'Riley. It is a decision and a night that changes her destiny forever, and one that Lonnie lives to regret many times over.
Gideon finds himself forced into a marriage he doesn't want and feels frustrated by the sudden responsibilities thrust upon him. Yearning for a fresh start, he forces Lonnie on a long and arduous journey away from her home and everything that she is familiar with. Lonnie is almost destroyed by Gideon's callousness, but is determined to hold onto her faith through it all. But when Gideon does the unthinkable, will her unwavering faith be enough to forgive him? Can a couple with naught but the clothes on their backs survive in the unforgiving Appalachian hills?
I am quite taken aback by Joanne Bischof's first novel! There is definitely nothing amateurish about it! It is amazingly well written and I finished it rather quickly because I simply could not put it down. The characters were well developed and realistic, and I loved the way Gideon evolves throughout the book. I simply thought him intolerable at first, but had to realize that most young men forced into the same situation would have reacted the same way. With a tremendous spiritual thread throughout and a strong, heartrending plot, this one will have you literally burning the midnight oil! Very nicely done, Joanne Bischof!
I received an ARC of this novel by Multnomah Publishing in exchange for my honest opinion.
April 17, 2013
This is the first book since Picture Perfect by Janice Thompson that I just could not put down. Seriously. I read it in two sittings. After all, a girl has to stay hydrated and fed!
Be Still My Soul is a remarkable tale about Lonnie and Gideon and their shot gun wedding over a misunderstanding on Lonnie's father's part. I don't want to give too much away in this review, so I'll try to remain as tight-lipped as I can. OK, back to the book... My heart went out to Lonnie as she dealt with her circumstances and her obstacles. Her faith almost never wavered and she never complained- that I can recall.
I say I enjoy a lot of different books, and I do! But this one really hit the spot for me and I am eagerly awaiting my review copy for Though My Heart is Torn from Blogging for Books to arrive. Bischof's writing style is easy to read and it hooks you from the first page. Lonnie and Gideon are great examples of characterization and I'm so happy the book ended on a satisfying note.
The reason you need to go out and get your own copy is simple. If you are a fan of historical fiction, love really good writing, like characters you can sympathize to, and enjoy a good read then this book might be worth checking into. ;-)
My grandmother bought this book for me (thanks, Grandma!), no review required.
April 14, 2013
Appalachian Mountain Love Story
After reading wonderful reviews about this novel and already having a love for the Appalachian Mountains and marriage of convenience stories, I knew I had to read this book. Joanne Bischof does a lovely job of creating an atmosphere that makes one live and breathe in the location and time period. I could feel the cool, mountain air and hear the leaves crackling underfoot. The characters were so well-written I felt like I could walk into a cabin and find them sitting there. The pain of sorrow ached within me for all Lonnie had to go through in her difficult, bordering on abusive, life. She was a beautiful, sweet-spirited, long-suffering heroine who gave me much to admire. Gideon had alot of lessons in kindness and basic growing up to do. I liked the way he grew throughout the story and how Lonnie loved him. He developed a respect for her that eventually turned into love. Overall , I greatly enjoyed the book, but couldn't give it five stars. I wanted scenes to go just a little farther. We need longer books!:) There was some romantic tension, but I felt like this couple needed some good kisses and the hint (not detailed) of married love expressed in the final pages to give good closure to the end. I felt cheated. Just up the romance a little more!:) Lots of potential for a great ending, but it was rushed, flat and abrupt. I know there are two more books in this series and I definitely will read them because the characters are delightful and ones I have grown to love.
April 4, 2013