In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert--and into a sandstorm.
Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies' maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.
I have a Lynn Austin book on my shelf that's been sitting there for several years now. But I haven't read it yet. See, I'm one of those people who doesn't read a series unless she has all the books and has done research to make sure they're worth reading. And since that book is the first in the series, I still haven't read it yet. Thank goodness Nuts for Books decided to put a stand alone book up for review, otherwise I might not have discovered some good, deep historical fiction.
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect of Austin's writing...after all, how could two rich girls who have no memory of their mother, go off running about the world, ending up in the Sinai desert...how could that be managed from a writer's point of view without compromising Christianity? Well, I'm not sure yet that I like the way all the ethics and morals are handled in this book, but even when situations are handled in a questionable manner, the characters' focus is on God and what His purpose is for them and mankind.
Rebecca and Flora have been born wealthy. That's all they know really, but that doesn't stop them from finding adventure and begging their father for international trips. They have little recollection of a mother in their life, but their father does a decent job of caring for the young girls. I really appreciated the way he interacted with them and reared them. Some readers might think he's distant and uninvolved and to a certain extent he is, but he is always willing to listen to them and provide them with whatever he can to broaden their education and mature them. In plain, he treats them as adults, and while the sisters may not always act like adults, the father's training does more to influence them and teach them than they probably know.
Later on the father remarries, much to the girls dislike. I don't appreciate that the "evil stepmother" character is used, because I think there are some good stepmothers out there, but Mrs. Worthington's character is needed to point the girls in the direction of their future. Rebecca is a thinker and knows that God has a plan for her even though she doesn't know what it is yet. Flora is gentle and sweet and doesn't want to offend or hurt anyone. But she's a follower and often allows her sister to lead. Mrs. Worthington brings with her all the ideals of the wealthy and precious little about faith in God. Flora acquiesces to her demands and decrees, but Rebecca notes that none of it is important for finding God's will for your life. And yet despite the fact, that the girls' lives are order about (for a time) by a proud stepmother, they don't allowed the fact that they are wealthy to turn them into snobs. In fact, one time they dress up as if from part of the slum area of town and get hired in a factory to see what the conditions are like, in order to attempt to understand how to help the poor people better.
This book is divided into four parts, each written from the view of one of the main characters: Rebecca, Flora, and then their two servants, Peterson and Kate. It tells all of their faith journeys and includes a bit of their past history, but this doesn't interfere at all with the natural flow of the story.
I could tell immediately that some of the refutes for Christianity and research of the Scriptures came from Lee Strobel's books The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, as Austin notes in her Author's note. It brought a refreshing reminder of the truth of Scripture to the whole book and an example of how to witness to the unsaved.
There are some elements of lying in the book that I don't agree with, and some other ideals that I'm not sure I'd practice in my own life, but they are not big situations, and all in all Where We Belong is a book of growing in the Lord and seeking His will for your life despite what authority and society might desire. Join Rebecca and Flora through their adventures as girls and later as grown women as they navigate marriage, relationships, the Lord's will, and personal safety in order to mature into the women that God would have them be.