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Photographer Maggie Henry has never let go of Marco Firelli who is now married to her best friend. When she learns of his sudden death, she rushes to the Firelli home to help his wife Lena care for the three children. Maggie enters a photography competition, but has a difficult time leaving the family. Instead she takes a series of photographs documenting the life of the family hoping these will help her win.
|Format: DRM Protected ePub|
Vendor: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2017
"Winsome kids and family friends add depth and warmth to the well-developed cast of characters. Readers will eagerly await future offerings from this promising new author."--Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
"Lindens debut novel is a bittersweet tale of enduring friendship, family ties, and the complexities of love that will engage readers of thoughtful womens fiction."--Library Journal, STARRED review, Debut of the Month
When globetrotting photographer Magdalena Henry loses the only man shes ever loved, she risks her stellar career to care for his widow and young children on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest.
Free-spirited and fiercely independent, Maggie adores her life of travel and adventure. But she has a secret. She cant let go of her first and only love, renowned architect Marco Firelli, now married to her best friend Lena.
When Marco drowns in a kayaking accident, Maggie rushes to the Firelli familys summer home on San Juan Island. Once there she discovers that Marco was hiding something that could destroy his family. As fragile, perfectionistic Lena slowly falls apart, Maggie tries to provide stability for Marco and Lenas three young children.
When Maggie is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete in the worlds most prestigious photography competition, she thinks shes found the answer to their problems. Then Lena makes a choice with unexpected and devastating consequences, forcing Maggie to grapple with an agonizing decision. Does she sacrifice the golden opportunity of her career or abandon the Firellis just when they need her the most?
Gradually the island begins to work its magic. A century-old ritual to beckon loved ones home offers hope in the midst of sorrow. And a guilt-ridden yet compelling stranger hiding on the island may offer Maggie a second chance at love, but only if she can relinquish the past and move forward to find joy in unexpected places.
Rachel Linden is a novelist and international aid worker whose adventures living and traveling in fifty countries around the world provide excellent grist for her stories. She holds an MA in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College and a BA in Literature from Huntington University, and she studied creative writing at Oxford University during college. Currently, Rachel lives in beautiful Seattle, Washington with her husband and two young children. Rachel enjoys creating stories about hope and courage with a hint of romance and a touch of whimsy.
. . .there is a beautiful redemptive strand running through the story.
Winsome kids and family friends add depth and warmth to the well-developed cast of characters. Readers will eagerly await future offerings from this promising new author.
'This is a heartfelt, tender story with a strong, intelligent and independent heroine at its center.'
ADFehlArden, NCAge: 25-34Gender: female3 Stars Out Of 5Liked the environments, but the soapy plot... not so muchNovember 4, 2017ADFehlArden, NCAge: 25-34Gender: femaleQuality: 2Value: 3Meets Expectations: 3For years, globetrotting photographer Magdalena "Maggie" Henry has been in love with her first love, architect Marco Firelli, whom she met in college. Problem is, Marco is married to Maggie's best friend (and college roommate) Lena. Or at least he was, that is...Maggie just got news that Marco has been killed in a kayaking accident. Now Maggie must rush to Lena's side to offer emotional support to the fragile widow as well as help with the Firelli children.
While helping Lena through this difficult time, Maggie can't help but revisit old emotions she thought she had overcome. Memories of early days with Marco come swirling back, the possessiveness she felt over him, having known him first before introducing Lena to him. Lena had tearily confessed that she was struggling to make friends at school. Thinking she was doing a good friend a favor, Maggie introduces Lena to Marco, having no idea that the two would hit it off quite so well, quietly slipping under her radar and falling in love. Though she loves (in different ways) both of them, she can't help but feel a combination of jealousy and annoyance at the turn of events.
So as you can guess, it was largely an unrequited love for Maggie. Marco expresses interest, even a love of sorts, but confesses being drawn to Lena because he and Maggie are too alike in their intense, all-consuming artistic temperaments while Lena was more level-headed and easy-going in nature, more suitable for building a life & family with him. Taking into account Maggie's behavior up to the moment of this confession of Marco's --- her desperately reading into every passing glance from the guy, speaking of them as "kindred spirits", "twin souls" etc --, she likely found this revealing speech quite romantic. To me, however, it came off more as "let her down easy" spin.
But rather than go the crazy "he's MINE!" route, Maggie bows out of the running with a fair amount of grace, serving as main witness at Lena & Marco's wedding and then promptly starting up her work as globetrotting picture-taker extraordinaire. Over the years, the trio is able to put the college drama behind them and become the close-knit crew they were before. Maggie even becomes "Aunt Maggie" to the Firelli children as they grow up. Now, in the wake of tragedy, Maggie doesn't hesitate to be at Lena's side. But only too late does she realize the timing could not be worse.
While staying with Lena and the kids, Maggie's agent calls to notify her that she has been offered an opportunity to submit some of her work to one of the most prestigious photography competitions in the world. But how is she to find the time to prepare a presentation for submission in the mix of everything else going on? Will she have to decide between helping a friend and need and jumping at the chance of a lifetime (professionally), or will the fates allow her to have a solution to both?
There is also the mystery of this Daniel guy who spends most of the book hanging out creeper-style in Lena's bushes, observing the family from afar, always hesitating to reveal himself. What is his connection to Marco's death and what does he feel so guilty about?
One of my favorite aspects of Ascension of Larks was the exceptional environment building author Rachel Linden offers. Whether on location with Maggie in Nicaragua, moving through her memories to past international travels, or at the Firelli summer home in the Pacific Northwest (where the bulk of the novel is set), the reader is fantastically immersed in the textures of all the various landscapes. Just as an example, check out this little snippet where Maggie recalls a distinct memory of her Puerto Rican mother:
"The kitchen was always warm, redolent with the smell of cilantro and oregano, and in the background, playing on the crackly cassette player on the fridge, was the music of her mother's youth -- folk singers like Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary, songs of peace and protest from the sixties. Ana had especially favored Joan Baez and Linda Ronstadt because of their Hispanic heritage. She would let Maggie rifle through the shoe box of cassettes and choose one tape after another. In those moments, in the tiny kitchen with a pot bubbling on the stove and the calls for peace and love ringing out with the strains of guitar and tambourine, it felt as though nothing could touch them, as though if they could stay there in the kitchen forever, nothing bad would ever happen."
That being said, the plot itself had its share of tiring moments for me. I enjoyed the secondary characters such as Daniel and the charming motorcycle riding Pastor Griffin (the way Linden writes his character reminded me a bit of John Corbin's portrayal of the DJ Chris on the 90s tv show Northern Exposure). But storyline-wise, it veered on the soapy, most noticeably when it came to Lena's accident. When Lena acts all weird at breakfast that day, I immediately guessed (correctly) where Linden was headed with the plot. And that is where a good chunk of my investment in the plot checked out!
Still, this novel offers up another, unexpected but important side story that serves almost as a moral lesson to readers with children -- the importance of having your final wishes regarding dependents, godparents, etc all clearly outlined on paper! What Linden illustrates here, the power of the state to come in and completely tear up a home because they don't agree with the living arrangements (regardless of how happy and well-taken care of the children seem) is seriously terrifying! I don't even have kids and I was disturbed at the thought! So, people, get your final wishes on paper!
"The children's lives were suddenly being decided by people who understood the letter of the law but knew nothing about them, not who they were and certainly not what was truly in their best interest. They didn't know Gabby would fall asleep only if Bun Bun's head was tucked under her chin, or that you had to keep sweet snacks hidden behind the bins of beans and flour in the cupboard so Luca couldn't sneak them. And Jonah... she winced when she thought of Jonah, those dark, somber eyes and the downward slope of his young shoulders. He was a little boy carrying a misplaced guilt so heavy it was slowly crushing him."
While maybe the plot fell short for me here, as I mentioned earlier I did quite enjoy Linden's writing style in general and would be interested to check out more of her work in the future.
FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.
RobbyeFayeAnniston, ALAge: 55-65Gender: female3 Stars Out Of 5Ascension of LarksSeptember 26, 2017RobbyeFayeAnniston, ALAge: 55-65Gender: femaleQuality: 4Value: 3Meets Expectations: 3Ascension of Larks is Rachel Linden's debut novel, and although it could have very easily become a dark tale of loss of love and death, it didn't. However, it is not a happily ever after story by any means.
Magdalena "Maggie" Henry has three constants in her life: her friendship with Marco and Lena Firelli, her career as a world renown photographer and her hidden love for Marco Firelli. When Marco accidentally drowns in a kayaking mishap, everything Maggie knows and lives for is shattered, leaving her rudderless and confused.
The story is complex, dealing with friendships, careers and choices with far-reaching consequences, giving a glimpse into human nature and why some people do the things they do.
The book is listed as Christian fiction. Conversely, there is virtually no true mention of God or the Bible. There are some small references to a character's Catholic upbringing. Several references deal with mysticism and the rituals of German settlers to the island where the Firelli's live.
I sometimes had a hard time connecting to and understanding the characters. The love triangle was an uncomfortable element to the story, as were some of its supernatural aspects. Ms. Linden's writing is poignant, powerful and descriptive, but the subject matter is controversial for Christian fiction.
I received a copy ofAscension of Larks from The Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to provide a review.
Angela BycroftOwhango, New ZealandAge: 25-34Gender: female4 Stars Out Of 5Stunning debut full of heart and soul.September 25, 2017Angela BycroftOwhango, New ZealandAge: 25-34Gender: femaleQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4What a fascinating story - Rachel Lindens debut novel is a fantastic saga which I found hard to define. Its a love story which takes place after the main love interest has died in a tragic boating accident, its a story of long held friendship tested under the most extreme of circumstances and also a family story with a bunch of precious but precious children keeping us all on our toes.
Magdalena, a international recognised photographer returns home to help her best friend who has just lost her husband and Magdalenas secret first love. Upon her return she finds a home in turmoil and a family on the brink of tearing itself apart.
She tries her best to step in and help but unsurprisingly, secrets long buried begin to surface and more than one person will be changed as part of this season of all their lives.
I throughly enjoyed Ascension of Larks - it was different, imaginative and heartbreaking, all at the same time and sometimes on the same page. So many twists and turns I never saw coming. Perfect reading for a chilly afternoon by the fire.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via The Fiction Guild, and was not required to post a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.
Yvette K.5 Stars Out Of 5Heartwarming and Heartbreaking debutSeptember 25, 2017Yvette K.Quality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Every so often I come across a work of contemporary fiction that breaks my heart in the best way.
With prose that ranges from beautiful to mundane, this is an outstanding debut. Set primary on Washington State's San Juan Island, the brief descriptions were so evocative that I felt instantly transported, though I haven't been to the island in years.
Through backstory we learn of Maggie's unrequited love for her college friend Marco and the need to distance herself from the marriage between him and her college roommate, Lena, that led her to a globe-spanning photography career.
Though called by her mentor for a once in a lifetime opportunity, Maggie is drawn back earlier than her usual annual trip to their island home by the death of Marco, and the needs of Lena and her two children conspire to keep her there.
While ostensibly about the loss and grief experienced by those who loved Marco, the children remained peripheral and though we see Lena's grief and the effects of her decisions, this remains very much Maggie's story.
Not since Michele Phoenix's Of Stillness and Storm has a novel affected me this deeply, with prose that flirts with the label "literary." Highly recommended, whether or not you are a fan of Christian fiction. I am anxiously waiting to get my hands on this author's next book.
I voluntarily received a finished copy of this book for review through Book Look Bloggers. An additional copy was received through Thomas Nelson and Zondervan's Fiction Guild. All opinions expressed are my own.
SemmieAge: 35-44Gender: female4 Stars Out Of 5A Story of Loss & HopeSeptember 7, 2017SemmieAge: 35-44Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4** "Faith is an open door for everyone. It's not closed to you just because of how you were born. ... I imagine God standing at the door, inviting us to come back. And the door is wide open for us if we want to come in. It's as simple as that." **
In her debut novel, "Ascension of Larks," Rachel Linden offers a story that defines home and deals with loss and hope.
Maggie Henry, a documentary photographer, is on scene in Nicaragua when she receives devastating news -- the husband of her dearest college friends, Marco and Lena Firelli, died in a tragic drowning accident. She quickly rushes to their home on San Juan Island, off the shore of Washington, to care for Lena and her three children in the aftermath of Marco's death.
But when the family learns of financial difficulties Marco left them in, and another accident rocks the family, Maggie must decide between her burgeoning career and her love for her "family." She must figure out how to protect the family she has grown to deeply love.
"Ascension of Larks" is a lovely story of facing loss -- lost loves, lost relationships and lost clarity -- and how one deals with these losses. Does one turn to despair or hope? The book does offer a vague concept of hope and the idea that everything will turn out OK in the end, especially for those who have faith.
It has a slight -- albeit very slight -- religious undertone, with discussions on faith and how God invites all to him. It also includes some "mystical" aspects, with quotes from some well-known mystics and a "beckoning" ceremony -- one that helps lost loved ones find their way back home -- performed by Maggie and the children.
Linden's novel also touches on the topics of devotion and sacrifice, choosing to do the right thing in all circumstances, acting out of goodness versus ulterior motives, and where and in whom home can be found. Through these lessons, she allows her characters to grow, learning new things about themselves and those around them.
"Ascension of Larks," although at times a dark, depressing read, is also filled with many moments of levity and tenderness. Linden also fills her novel with beautiful imagery -- including the image of the skylark.
Four stars out of five.
Thomas Nelson provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.