Release date : June 30, 2019
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. Just wow. I'm really blown away by this novel in so many ways. Being my first experience with Janet Ferguson's writing, I wasn't sure what exactly to expect, but this is one I would love to share with just about everyone I come in contact with. My heart is really filled to bursting with the hope and passion embodied in this story. I fell in love with the real, broken characters Ferguson created and followed their journey with bated breath every step of the way. If you have known or loved someone who struggles with addiction or grief, put this on the top of your must-read list.
When her fiancé is brutally murdered, Rivers Sullivan is forced to continue on with life, including the chore of cleaning up the estate left to him in St. Simons Island. An art therapist, Rivers is used to helping people walk through trauma, but her journey to healing might take more than the training she's received to aid others. A difficult task gets harder when she arrives at the beach cottage and gallery to find more baggage waiting for her, along with some characters that will challenge the constructs she's developed and test her faith.
James Cooper Knight has been haunted by his past for half of his life. His ghosts fresh, pushing him to dedicate his life to rescuing people from addiction and the dangers of the coast, but when he stumbles upon a strange woman, his life gets upended in ways he never thought possible. Tragedy has left a glaring mark on both James and Rivers, making them wary, but connecting them on a level they never could have imagined. Unfortunately, the pain they share could also be the force that drives them apart.
A painter who uses her gifts as an art therapist, lives a charmed life, engaged to Jordan Alexander Barlow III. Rivers has the perfect life until everything goes horribly wrong in a vicious attack that leads to the death of the man she was going to marry. Struggling to make sense of the hows and whys, she takes a leave of absence to attend to her fiancé's affairs, specifically the house he inherited from his grandmother. As Rivers navigates this new life, she has to deal with the questions that accompany her circumstances. When she meets James "Cooper" Knight, the attraction is quickly combated by her distrust and resentment of his past. Cooper struggles with guilt, the kind that drives you to live a life dictated by fear and an overwhelming drive to earn grace. Both characters are beautifully written - deep, with facets that come alive as they play off of one another and deal with their predispositions and world views.
Characters seem to have a great, consistent relationship with the Lord. The fact that he's intertwined into every struggle they face and they have constant exchanges with him in prayer leads to a good consistency in the book.
The men talk and think like real, honest to goodness bro-dude men. Very straight forward and to the point. First noticing visual, trying to be honorable, sometimes brash, sometimes a little poetic, but not over the top - very accurate portrayal for the artist-type without being frilly. The women are strong and passionate and emotional without feeling fickle or flippant.
|Naomi Watts as Rivers Sullivan|
|Thomas Beaudoin as James "Jay" Cooper Knight|
When her fiancé is murdered and she barely escapes the same fate, Rivers Sullivan is left to pick up the pieces of her life, and those left behind by the man she had hoped to spend the rest of her life with. One year later, she finds herself in Georgia sorting through an inheritance she didn't want. When she discovers that the new-to-her art gallery is being run by a recovering addict, aided by others from a nearby Sobriety House, her demons come back to attack her once again.
Unfortunately, I have a hard time being really in-depth in my analyses when I get invested in a book. Pretty much the only note I was able to make myself make was "great flow" because I simply couldn't put the book down. I never felt like the story was dragging, being propelled forward through the romance and the suspense, with a peppering of wonderful characters to allow the plot to flow comfortably and feel light in spite of heavy topics.
Contemporary - The story starts with the characters entrenched in the "muggy Memphis breeze" of late September. It then transitions to summer on St. Simons Island, Georgia.
The scene descriptions are wonderful. There are situational references tucked into common communication, really fleshing out the environment and overall feel, as well as beautiful detailed imagery of various places. You really feel like you're walking through an abandoned beach cottage with Rivers, or sitting on a sandbar with her taking in the beauties of the ocean and the sky.
Third person narrative. Multiple points of view.
Love the introduction with the different depictions of love, as an artist would see it. The character descriptions are great and really bring each individual to life, although sprinkling a little more in could bring a little more depth.
The "Stink Bug" is just one of many quirky features that I adored about this book, Janet has a wonderful sense of humor that really shines through, giving the story a light-hearted feel even when the overall themes can be very serious. The flow of conversations and thought processes are natural and transition so smoothly.
Some authors use poetic flair to compensate for lack of imagination, but the word art in this book is well-placed and doesn't feel forced. I particularly love the depth, sincerity, and power behind the prayers. I want to pray like Davis.
Do not want to put the book down for the night... Just makes my soul feel good. Deep and heavy, but soul cleansing with enough humor to re-lift your spirits, and even some mystery to keep you guessing.
Wow - some really stirring messages:
Sermon on Jonah (sharing the Gospel despite discomfort) will really light a fire under your rear.
Living through grief (abundant life, He is the resurrection)
Forgiveness for our sins "But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed."
"Her breath hitched. He was a bit of a masterpiece in his own haphazard way."
"God doesn't exempt the godly from hard realities. We live in a fallen world, but it's temporary."
"Every tub has to sit on its own bottom."
"Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
**I received a copy of the book from the author and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All comments and opinions are solely my own.
To be honest, I wasn't really interested in starting this book. I had a major book hangover from the last book I'd read that fell woefully short of my hopes and expectations, so starting a book by an author I was unfamiliar with did not hold any appeal. I was delightfully surprised to get immediately drawn into this great story. Have you ever read one of those books that pulls you so far in that you get upset when life interferes with the beautiful fiction world that you've been immersed in? This is one of those books.
Having myself lived through plenty of God's grace for my mistakes, I can really relate to Cooper. His constant war with understanding that he really is forgiven, not because of what he's done or who he's become, but because of Christ's sacrifice is something I think we all struggle with on some level. If you're a Christian, you have to understand that you fall short of God's perfect example, hence the need for Jesus, but even as non-Christians take a look at their lives, I think we can all see areas where we could have or should have been better.
While the challenges I've faced don't seem to measure up to what Rivers faces, I've had plenty of moments that have left me asking God "why"? Life's curve balls can seriously derail us from the faith that we are to hold on to if we do not return to the truth of who God is. We may not be able to understand the ins and outs of why certain things happen, but when we look at the scriptures, we see that He is faithful. He is just. He is also our comforter, but His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are unfathomably higher than our thoughts. If we can rely on him to get us through the hard times when we don't understand, someday we will be face to face with our Lord and His glory will be revealed to us.
I love books that point back to the hope of God's truth, which is exactly what The Art of Rivers does. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
In Him with Love,