I just turned the final page of The Wonder of You, the most recent release in Susan May Warren’s Christiansen Family series, and I’m a little heartbroken. Not by the story–that was fabulous! But by this tragic news, which the design team sneakily inserted in the back of the novel:
You’re the One That I Want, the finale of this wonderful series, won’t be released until–wait for it, wait for it…which is what I’ll be doing 😉 —SPRING 2016.
That means that except for Evergreen and I Really Do Miss Your Smile (novellas), I will be bereft of fresh Christiansen stories until next year! Plus, after Owen’s story is finally told in You’re the One That I Want, the Christiansen brood’s love-and-faith stories will all have been shared. Surely I will weep the day I finish the last pages of Owen’s novel….Or I’ll just hop back to Darek’s story, the first in the series!
But on to my review of The Wonder of You, baby sister Amelia’s novel.
As a family youngest myself, Amelia’s story resonated with me more than the other siblings’. Family expectations can be confining, encouraging, terrifying, freeing…and Amelia has felt all of that. Her siblings’ recollections of their “hovering” attempts as children were hilariously nostalgic, and I found myself remembering a few similar moments from my own history as I followed her from Prague to Deep Haven to a plane trip to Uganda, and finally into God’s arms to shelter, thrive, and stay.
Throughout this novel, I watched Amelia and Roark each struggle with family expectations, histories, individual choices–and especially with their own faith. Their relationship was prominent in this book, as the Christiansen Family saga is comprised of inspirational romances wherein faith journeys are every bit as integral to the story as the romance.
One element I particularly loved was the parallel Susan May Warren drew between defining a romantic relationship as a fling (the definition Amelia initially thought fit her and Roark’s relationship in Europe) and treating your faith in God as a fling. This was obvious throughout the novel, but it was more evident near the conclusion as John Christiansen, family patriarch, brought it home to Roark that faith in God can’t be just a fling. (See the end of chapter 18, pages 367-370 of the original edition of The Wonder of You, to read this scene for yourself.)
I found myself facing up to this truth right alongside Roark as John spoke, and somehow this one scene between a father and the man who loved the father’s daughter showed me clearly the central theme of this book–and faith. This brief, painfully honest moment in a hospital hallway tied all the threads of this novel together, and summed up faith in God for me:
“‘You refused to give up because you believed in Amelia and her love for you. You believed that love was worth pursuing. It was not a fling for you, and it was not a fling for her, as she has told me. Yet you’re treating your relationship with God like a fling. As if it means nothing to Him and nothing to you. As if you can walk away from each other. But God doesn’t operate that way.'” – John Christiansen, pg. 369
I flat-out loved this book, which may be why I read it in less than 2 days! It was full of romance, faith-strengthening moments, and wonderful writing. Like the rest of this series, it will remain firmly planted on my bookshelf of favorite novels (oh, who am I kidding? I have over a bookcase-full of favorites, if we’re being realistic!).
Susan May Warren is simply one of those authors whose new releases I keep an eye out for, and I’d recommend her almost unreservedly. (Please see my earlier review of Always on My Mind for an example of when I might not unreservedly recommend one of Warren’s books.)
Recommended for: mature adult or older teenage readers who favor Christian romance (this novel is faith-heavy and includes some elements which more mature readers will appreciate better); fans of clean, faith-focused fiction; and of course, those in the Susan May Warren fandom (this latest novel surpasses her excellent authorial reputation).
I would suggest that younger teens or less-mature older teens not read this without some consideration first. Some of the faith pieces are complex, and there is a short remembrance of an evening in Prague where Amelia could have been victimized. Nothing explicit or even especially detailed, but I know my mother would have wanted the option to consider if this novel was okay had I read it anywhere around age 11-14. Other than that, this novel is fantastic, and I would offer a 5.0/5.0 stars for it.
So scurry off, dear readers, and find this series in your nearest library, bookstore, or e-book source. Definitely not one to miss!
Note: Everything will make a whole lot more sense if you start at the beginning with the Deep Haven series that precedes the Christiansen Family saga. That series will give you background on the community of Deep Haven and the characters in this series. Then start this series with book 1, Take a Chance on Me, and gleefully read your way through the whole Christiansen shebang of 6 novels and 2 novellas!