Janette Oke has long been considered an influential author within the Christian fiction publishing industry, so I was excited to have the opportunity to read and review her latest book. Where Courage Calls, was co-written with her daughter Laurel Oke Logan, and is scheduled to be released in February 2014. It is described as a prairie romance, and is set in the Canadian west during the early twentieth century.
The story’s heroine, Beth Thatcher is a pampered daughter from a wealthy family from Toronto, and has accepted a year-long teaching position in a humble coal mining town far from the comforts of home. She believes she is following God’s will for her life and is determined to prove to her overly protective mother that she is equal to the task, even after the conditions in the town prove more challenging and potentially dangerous than she had anticipated. Her luggage is stolen in her travels, and she arrives to find that modern conveniences like plumbing and electricity are unavailable. Nevertheless, she is determined to persevere.
The story is inspiring in that Beth adapts to her circumstances, continually seeks God’s will for her life, and ultimately makes a huge difference in the lives of her students and in the community. Christians looking for a safe and comfortable read, exploring the joys of leading a Godly life will find much to like in this sequel to When Calls the Heart.
That said, I was not as impressed with this story as I had hoped I might be, given the author’s reputation. I found the heroine hard to relate to. Her continual self-sacrifice and nobility made her come across more as a caricature or an ideal to be aspired to than as a real person. She is painted as selfless to the point where I’m not sure I could identify anything she wants for herself, with the possible exception of being out from under her mother’s thumb. Most of her desires seem to be for a better life for her students and to be able to better help her new friends and neighbors. Laudable, to be sure, but realistic? I’m not so sure.
The story started out slowly, with a lot of introspection and reflection on the heroine’s childhood as she traveled to her new home. Her day to day life in the mining town, and the details of what her life and career there turned out to be were very well developed and interesting. However, for a book described as a romance, the romantic element seemed lacking. I thought that Beth’s relationships with each of the potential suitors felt underdeveloped and her interactions with each of them limited, to the extent that I wasn’t sure who the hero would turn out to be until the book was nearly over. Even then, the outcome felt contrived, because it did not hinge on her relationship with either suitor, but rather on an outside circumstance introduced at the last minute, seemingly to tidy things up.
Overall, Where Courage Calls was a thoroughly sweet and innocent story and a pleasant enough read. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the historical detail, and Christians seeking a clean and uplifting story about the good that can be accomplished by someone persevering in God’s will, need look no further. This is your story. Additionally, fans of Janette Oke’s Canadian West series or the Hallmark Channel’s new When Calls the Heart TV series, will likely want to give this book a read. Just don’t go into this story expecting a great deal of emphasis on the romance, or you may be disappointed.
I would like to thank the publisher, Bethany House, for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book through NetGalley for my review.
Since I did not find any discussion questions for Where Courage Calls available elsewhere at this time, I have written a few for your consideration. If additional discussion questions occur to you, feel free to share them in the comments.
- How do Beth’s relationships with family and friends help or hinder her ability to reach her goals?
- In what ways is Beth’s relationship with Molly similar and different from her relationship with her mother? How do these relationships compare to mother-daughter relationships you have experienced or observed?
- In what ways did Beth change over the course of the story? In what ways did Edward change?
- Was there a moral to the story? What do you think the intended message is, and do you agree or disagree? How could this message be applied outside of the context of this story?