Summary from BN.com: It is 1936 and Kate Merritt, the middle child of Victor and Nadine, works hard to keep her family together. Her father slowly slips into alcoholism and his business suffers during the Great Depression. As her mother tries to come to grips with their situation and her sisters seem to remain blissfully oblivious to it, it is Kate who must shoulder the emotional load. Who could imagine that a dirty, abandoned little girl named Lorena Birdsong would be just what the Merritts need?
When I first picked up this book, I thought the plot was just going to be about a teen girl and the new sister she found along the way. I did not expect such a rich, deep and beautiful story about forgiveness and how bitterness can take a hold of oneself for years. The words in this story are so moving and powerful. I got swept into the lives of these characters and I did not want to leave. This book was absolutely a joy to read.
The frame of the story deals with Kate, a young teen during the mid 1930s. Her father is an alcoholic and her mother has to deal with his addiction while trying to keep the family together. One day, Kate finds a young girl who has been tossed out of her family's car because they couldn't afford to keep her. This girl, Lorena Birdsong, brings new life into the family. She's not the ultimate solution to everyone's problems but the family makes turns into a different direction because of her presence.
Within this frame, the story goes into the past of Kate's parents, Victor and Nadine, as we learn about how they met, fell in love, got married, and persevered during WWI. There's a lot of pain and suffering that happens in this book. The majority of it stems from the fathers of Victor and Nadine. They have never seen eye to eye for years and their animosity towards each other trickles to the way they see their own children. When Victor and Nadine decide they want to marry, it just fuels the fire even more. Victor's father is bitter and sees his son as weak compared to the older son that he had lost. Because he had built up Preston Jr. to become the person he himself wanted to be only to lose him, he has never forgiven Victor and treats him as an afterthought. Meanwhile Nadine's father is the preacher of the town and has never been happy with her or the choices she has made. He sees her as weak too and never one to succeed. When he remarries, he allows his new wife to walk over Nadine and treat her in the same way too. It isn't until his stroke happens that things start to change. Even then, it's not fully the relationship that Nadine would have wanted to have.
There are so many wonderful things about this book but what stood out most to me was the ending. It's not a perfect, tidy ending. There are some things that just never get fully resolved. And that's wonderful because that's how real life is. There are situations that we face that will never have the outcome we truly hope for and when I see books constantly having happy endings, it makes me want to gag. However even though it's not tidy, the book does have a sense of hope and faith that things will get better even if not perfect. This is how I wish more Christian fiction would be like. Don't tell me that just because I'm a Christian my life will always work out. I wish more authors would show that the way out isn't always going to be magical and neat. I hope this is another one of those books that will set the new standard for Christian fiction.
There is one minor storyline in this book that made me cry. It deals with Preston Jr and the girl he loved and then what happened to her. To me it was so sad and heartbreaking, all the circumstances that happened and then the aftermath. It's beautifully done, but oh so emotional to read.
I absolutely loved this book. The characters are real, their situations are realistic, and I felt that faith issues are true and valid. The writing is also beautiful and I really felt as if Gabhart took the reader into the story and guided them to let them know the fullness of the entire situation. If Christian fiction had more literary works, I would classify this book into that category. It's so wonderful to read a book that does not include a romance plot that overtakes the story. It's an outstanding read and honestly one of the best books I've read so far in 2011. This is one that I will be telling others about to put on their reading list. HIGHLY recommended.
Angel Sister by Ann H. Gabhart is published by Revell (2011)
This review copy was provided by the publisher