Leota’s Garden by Francine Rivers

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Plot & Storyline Quality (4 points)

Leota’s Garden is Francine Rivers’ best novel because it has both real-world application and well-crafted moral arguments that do not try to entice the reader to one side or another. The novel weaves together the Biblical principles of forgiveness, unconditional love, and reconciliation together to form a beautiful story about how God can bring beauty from any circumstance in our lives. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the main character, Leota Reinhardt. Leota is a lonely, elderly widow who cannot see God’s purpose in her life. She has lived alone ever since the death of her husband, and her family is highly dysfunctional. She exists inside her small house, living off of monthly Social Security checks and hoping that someday she and her daughter Eleanor can be reconciled. On many occasions she considers hastening her path towards death, but every time the Lord gives her a reason to keep living. Leota longs for God to bring someone her way to ease her pain and give her purpose. Corban Solsek is a prideful, arrogant university student attending an elite school with only the smartest students. He feels that he knows everything he needs to know about life and that no one should tell him otherwise. Corban is working on a term project about nursing homes. He sees no reason why the elderly shouldn’t be out of sight, out of mind, and cared for by unattached individuals who could care less if they live or die. This sounds bad, but he is truly ignorant in the fact that he is wrong….about many things. When Providence causes Corban and Leota’s paths to cross, both of their lives will be forever changed. Overall, this novel has an excellent, creative storyline with great continuity and an engaging structure. The plot does not drag along, as one might expect from the topic at hand, rather, the reader is presented with many social scenarios that may cause them to search their own hearts. For these and other reasons, Rivers receives a perfect score in this section.

Character Development (3.5 points)

The two protagonists dominate much of the novel, but the minor characters have meaningful contributions that make for a well-rounded read. Rivers does an excellent job of weaving together the lives of four seemingly dissimilar individuals, and shows how God can work together all things together for good. Each character has a realistic journey that reflects the many different paths people take before they realize their need for a Savior. Additionally, Rivers embarks on a new kind of depth and rawness with this cast that reflects personal maturity. The only real flaw to point out here is that Eleanor comes off as a bit of a strawman. However, we are given realistic reasons for her behavior, and her actions are believable in the context of American families. Additionally, sometimes Annie seems a bit too perfect. However, her good qualities may be unintentionally emphasized when compared to her slightly crazed family members. Therefore, Rivers earns just shy of a perfect score in this section for these, her best characters to date.

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

Finally, Rivers earns a full point in originality for portraying multiple social issues without being preachy or overbearing. She makes every effort to leave the door open for the reader’s own conclusions, which is greatly appreciated by us here at BOR – this is how people should be treated. Rivers also earns a rarely awarded x-factor point in creativity for crafting a novel that stands apart from its genre as something we would actually recommend to non-Christians. Additionally, we here at BOR feel that this novel would make an excellent Christian epic film. However, a Christian filmmaker could go multiple directions with the novel, they could make it an epic about Leota’s life, and downplay the subplots of the other characters, or they could make it a drama film that included equal input from all the main characters. In conclusion, this novel is a must read for any Christian fiction lover, and an excellent source of quality content for any prospective filmmaker.

Wish List Rating: 9.5 out of 10 points

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