Title: Redeeming Love
Author: Francine Rivers
Genre(s): Inspirational Romance, Historical
Publisher: Multnomah Books
Redeeming Love has over a million copies in print and has been through several editions since it was originally published in 1991. I just finished reading the 2005 edition, which includes a study guide by Peggy Lynch with some really thought provoking discussion questions. As I write this review in December 2013, Redeeming Love remains on the ECPA and CBA Best Seller Lists. I think the case can be made that this book has become a classic of Christian fiction. I am happy to have read it and I would recommend it highly to Christians and non-Christians alike. It can be read as an allegory with significant Christian themes, exploring God’s unconditional love, even for those who don’t feel worthy of that love. And it can be read as a beautiful and emotional love story between two very complex and memorable characters.
Redeeming Love is set in California during the time of the Gold Rush. It tells the love story of a godly man named Michael Hosea who is called to marry a prostitute known as Angel. She is a beautiful woman who was sold into prostitution as a child, and feels herself incapable of loving Michael back or living any other kind of life than the one to which she is accustomed, despite the unhappiness it brings her. Michael loves her continually and forgives her repeatedly, despite the pain she brings him, and God uses this to begin the process of redemption in Angel’s life. But it isn’t until she comes to know God’s unconditional love for herself that her redemption can be complete.
I found this to be an engaging and deeply moving story that dealt with tough issues revolving around sin, shame, and forgiveness in a very tender hearted way. The allegory is there, just as it is in the Book of Hosea from the Bible on which this story is loosely based, but it’s subtly woven into the fabric of the romance and doesn’t feel at all forced or contrived.
The prologue sets up the story by describing Sarah’s childhood and how she came to be the woman Michael would know as Angel and later as Amanda. It goes a long way toward making her feel real, believable, and sympathetic, even when her actions might tend to make her seem cold-hearted and unsympathetic, much as she is seen by Paul and other characters who do not know her well.
“Head-hopping” is a storytelling technique that has fallen out of vogue in recent years, in which the viewpoint from which the story is told jumps from one character’s thoughts to another character’s thoughts and back within a single scene. The argument against head-hopping, is that these jumps can confuse the reader and prevent him or her from developing a close rapport with a single character. In some cases, I think that can be an issue. In this case, I thought the technique was handled deftly with clear clues provided each time the viewpoint was changed preventing confusion. And I thought it added depth to the story to be able to see it from multiple viewpoints more or less at once. Given the dichotomy between Angel’s thoughts and actions and the way her actions were interpreted by other characters, I think the technique played a useful role.
This story moved me to tears at a couple of points near the end of the book. I felt my heart breaking right along with Michael at some of the decisions Angel made over the course of the story, but I just had to keep reading to see how it would end. Redeeming Love was a beautiful exploration of love in all its manifestations from the platonic love of friends to the love between a husband and wife, to self-sacrificial love, to the love of God for mankind. All in all, an enjoyable and thought provoking read. Highly recommended.
As I mentioned before, the 2005 edition of Redeeming Love comes with a study guide with scripture references and some excellent questions for book discussion groups at the back of the book. Some of the questions deal with the story itself, and others deal with applying its themes to our lives. For those with a different edition of the book, many of those same discussion questions can also be found on the author’s Web site.
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