Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers ~ Book Review

Lena Scott is a rising star in Hollywood during the 1950's.  With an ambitious agent she is on her way up.  Everything should be perfect for her.  But Lena is weary.  Not just physically but in her heart.  She's tired of playing a part even in her off screen life.  Though her real name is Abra Freeman, no one knows her as such, even her husband/agent refuses to call her anything but Lena and she must play the part of the starlet 24/7.  No one knows of her humble background as a young girl raised in a small town with Christian roots.  Found under a bridge as an infant by the local pastor and taken home she was nurtured by a loving family.  Until tragedy struck and she found herself given to another family who adopted her and tried to love her.  But now Abra had deep scars of rejection to deal with and that built over the years to the point where she couldn't see the love that was right in front of her.  Bitter and disenchanted, bored with what she perceives is her dull life , she easily falls prey to the attentions of  the dashing and older young man who rides into town with a fast car and slick words.  Knowing Abra is vulnerable he charms her with promises of a more exciting life.  But the life he leads her to causes her to leave everything behind and too late she realizes the price she has had to pay for the attention and love she feels she must have.  She's left her past behind but now all she wants is to go home with no way to get there.  Too late she realizes the life she shunned.

Pastor Ezekiel has never given up hope for Abra and prays for her continuously.  His son Joshua has loved Abra since childhood but being drafted to war has separated them in more than distance.  When he comes home from war, amidst having to deal with his own heart wounds,  he finds an Abra who is closed off and rebellious and he finds he has no influence to what Abra thinks she wants.  After she leaves he has tried to find Abra but all the looking he has done has led him nowhere.  In frustration he finally does what his father advises him to do and that is to let Abra go and to let God in His time work on her.  But his heart is having a hard time letting her go.  No one is more shocked than he when he hears she is a movie star in Hollywood.  Now what does he do?

I finished this book quite a while ago but it's sat waiting for me to review.  Notes from the author in the back tells us that the story is based on the scripture from Ezekiel 16 *"where God speaks of His chosen people as an unwanted newborn whom He cared for, watched over and eventually chose as His bride despite their rejection of Him".  She relates it to her own life of going her own way and the consequences and regrets until finally being brought to her knees and surrendering back to the Lord.  It is worth the read of the Author notes to know how she felt about the main characters in her book.

The author brought the lifestyle of the 1950's small town and Hollywood to life in her descriptions.  I found the story very heartbreaking and I could see myself a lot in the character of Abra, not necessarily in the circumstances but in the heart attitude.  I think the story in that sense if very relatable to all.  Although it is a story that is long in length I could not put it down.   Some have criticized  some of the actions of the pastor in the book in that he didn't discuss things with the 5 year old Abra when she overhears him and his wife talking about the hardship on the wife's health that the taking in of Abra was.  They feel that didn't jive.  And then again when the pastor gives Abra to another family.  It was criticized that the church family would have rallied around and helped him.  But to me it rang true to the decade setting of the book.  It was the 1950's after all, not 2014.  Children were seen and not heard and were treated as children not as little adults.  The actions and decisions of adults were not discussed with children.  They were made and the children's opinions were not sought out.  Anyway, that was a little point I found odd in other critiques.  When reading a novel we should keep in mind the culture and mindset of the time and not hold it up to how things are done today.

Anyway, the reason I found it so hard to review this story was not because of the story itself, that was wonderful, but because of some instances of graphic content.  It is not going to be every Christian's cup of tea even though it is in the Christian fiction genre.  Some of the imtimate scenes were much more described than one usually finds in this genre.  In the context of the story I can see what the author was trying to show, however.  that said, I do feel I have to make mention of it to my book review readers as I feel some would want to be aware of that within the story.  The author answers to why she wrote it the way she did here.  It is well worth the extra minute to read about where she was coming from.

All said I did find it a great prodigal son type of read, a story of hurt and stubborness, of mercy, grace and unconditional love.  I've always loved this author for the emotions she is able to draw out of me throughout the story, how she involves my heart and draws me right in from the beginning and how she is able to parallel a biblical story to a more modern time.

*quote from Notes from the Author, pg 481, Bridge to Haven.


Sandra said...

Love Francine Rivers and haven't read this one yet, will look it up at the library :)

nikkipolani said...

I have this one in my Audible "basket" -- thanks for the reminder and your helpful review, Susanne.

Barbara H. said...

Hmm. I was thinking this sounded like something I wanted to get til I got to the part about graphic content. I'll have to think about it. I do like this author's writing but she does lean too far that way some times. I agree about needing to keep the culture and times in mind rather than evaluating a story based on the current mindset.