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A Review of Surviving the Stillness, by Jessica White
Surviving the Stillness is recommended for Christian readers, and in particular those looking for a feel-good story!
Abigail and her little brother Samuel press West in the 1920s until they find themselves stuck for a winter in rural Montana. The mountains are cruel, and the weather harsh. St. Catherine's orphanage takes them in in spite of a lack of information about their past. Though not Catholic themselves, the two of them find solace within the walls of the orphanage and with the nuns who call St. Catherine's home.
At the same time, Matthew and his father, the town's Dr. Mason, find themselves struggling with the relationship between father and son, fighting to overcome the loss of Matthew's mother. Torn apart by their grief, the pair find it difficult to get along, until two families collide within the walls of St. Catherine's Orphanage.
My Thoughts on Surviving the Stillness
I cannot begin to explain the extent to which Surviving the Stillness exceeded my expectations. I'd been following the author's progress throughout the final stages or writing (she began the novel in the late nineties) and felt sure, until she asked me to read and review the book for her, that it just wasn't for me. I'm only being honest with you here because I think that it will help you to understand this book, and what blew me away about it.
The one thing that stood out the most to me with this novel was the way that Mrs. White manages to pull the reader in right from the start of the story. It starts instantly and grips you into the character of Matthew Mason. You'll find as the story goes on that Mrs. White pulls you through it by feeding the character's history and backstory a tiny bit at a time. It's like eating a meal in morsels, the story fed in bite-sized pieces that keep you begging for more.
Before I picked up this book, I thought I was done with Christian fiction, but Mrs. White brought me back to the genre. This novel is uplifting and remarkable in the way that the author is able to remind the reader that even in our darkest hours, sometimes God is just waiting for the right moment to remind us of His love.
This is an incredible first novel that I believe Christian readers will enjoy. Its style is well-suited to readers in their teens through adulthood, an easy and compelling read you won't want to put down!
I am eagerly awaiting book two in the series, which Mrs. White is currently writing!
Thoughts on Style
I can honestly say that I don't have a lot of complaints about style in this novel. While I must admit that the only reason I'm not giving it five stars is because of some editing issues in the second half of the book (and I'm told the Kindle version has some of these errors revised), this is a remarkable first novel -- and especially a first novel which is self published in that it lacks many of the typical style errors.
- The author knows the difference between active and passive voice. I must confess that I don't read a lot of independent fiction precisely because of this issue, but of those novels that I have read, the majority use passive, rather than active, voice. Mrs. White uses active voice throughout the novel, though there are more style errors (passive voice) in the latter half of the book.
- The use of flashbacks is incredibly effective. Flashbacks can be annoying in fiction, but the way that Mrs. White handles the flashbacks in this novel is highly effective. Each flashback tells a portion of the history of the characters involved in the novel, and Abigail herself actually has trauma-driven flashbacks. What an incredible way of handling the telling of this story!
- The characters are solid, unique and realistic. Though neither of the main characters in this book are particularly extreme, they are each unique, and the author has a way of building their personalities in layers without pushing them straight up in the reader's face. She builds them gradually and beautifully.
- The religious overtones begin slowly and then build. While I will say that there are moments I felt like the religious element of the story was a bit much, for the most part the author did an excellent job of keeping it understated until it was needed to make the point of the story (God's provision).
It's obvious that this book was written over the course of multiple decades, because the amount of effort poured into the revisions of this novel. It was edited by the author's husband, and therefore you will find some grammatical errors in the pages. All in all, however, this was a very well-done book in terms of style and editing, but I would encourage the author to hire a professional next time.
Is This Book Appropriate for Kids?
I would be completely comfortable allowing my children or step-children to read Surviving the Stillness, by Jessica White. This book is a wholesome, feel-good read suitable for mid-grade through young adult reading levels. It is also fully appropriate for adults, and is a very clean, Christian read.
Who Might Like this Book
This book is most likely to be enjoyed by people who enjoy the following:
- Christian Fiction
- Wholesome Romantic Fiction
- Mild Mystery
- Redemption Stories
If you enjoyed The Sisters of Holmes County by Wanda E. Brunstetter, you may also enjoy Surviving the Stillness, by Jessica White. If you've read Surviving the Stillness but not the Sisters of Holmes County trilogy, you may purchase Brunstetter's trilogy to the right. See below to purchase your copy of Surviving the Stillness.
Books Like Surviving the Stillness
Years ago I read The Sisters of Holmes County by Wanda E. Brunstetter, and the trilogy changed my life. While Brunstetter is a traditionally-published author with an advantage over White in this regard, I would like to suggest that if you enjoyed Surviving the Stillness you might also enjoy the redemptive themes in Brunstetter's trilogy as well.
The opposite is also true, for reasons I should hope would be obvious!
If you've read Surviving the Stillness, what do you think? Buy, Borrow, or Bypass?
Would You Buy, Borrow, or Bypass Surviving the Stillness?
I read this book slowly not because it bored me but because I wanted to savor it. My recommendation, therefore, is that you buy Surviving the Stillness, by Jessica White. I'll be reading it again as soon as my reading list is clear enough for me to do so comfortably. This book is highly recommended.
I'm recommending the Kindle Edition of Surviving the Stillness at this time because the author informed me that the Kindle version is somewhat better edited than the paperback version. I personally own the paperback edition, sent to me by the author. Please consider supporting the author by purchasing her book, and make sure to review it on Amazon!