Author’s Note: We were provided with an ARC of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)
Karen Kingsbury’s newest Baxter series novel tells the story of Ashley and Landon’s son Cole and a young woman named Elise. Cole is just starting his senior year in high school, and has big plans to be a pre-med major at Liberty University by the next school year. Elise is a hurting young woman who has just moved to the area and is staying with her eccentric aunt and uncle. Cole has a stable family life, good friends, and a strong faith in Christ. Elise has never known her father, and her mother has worked full-time – sometimes at multiple jobs – for as long as she can remember, leaving her little time to spend with Elise.
Elise’s dream is to be an artist – a dream her mother disapproves of. She doesn’t see how God could love her after the bad choices she has recently made. Cole has never been interested in dating and wants to wait to start a relationship towards the end of his college years. That changes on the first day of school. He finds himself drawn to Elise and her difficulties – a fact that soon leads him to more involvement than he bargained for. Elise soon spills her secrets to him – she just left an abusive relationship and thinks she could be pregnant – and both of them are left floundering. Cole seeks God for wisdom, while Elise retreats deeper inside herself. In the end, God orchestrates a divine plan that involves healing many hearts, and leading some back to Him. First, there are several positives to this novel. I was impressed at Kingsbury’s apparent spiritual growth as an author which was reflected throughout the story. Her examples of God’s perfect plan for each person’s life are relatable and encouraging to the reader. Additionally, her characters’ commitment to prayer is the central theme of the novel. (spoiler) I also liked that Cole and Elise do not end up married. In comparison, there are also some flaws. First, the Baxter family theme is a bit repetitive at this point. Second, at times the novel lapses into the information-dump style of writing. Finally, the product placement for LU is not exactly subtle and could be offensive to some. Therefore, Kingsbury earns an above average score in this section.
Character Development (2.5 points)
Kingsbury’s commitment to character development is mostly upheld in this novel. Cole and Elise’s characters are shaped by their past experiences, and both are pretty realistic and have a clear purpose in the story. The secondary characters are also quite good because they add continuity and depth to the plot. Furthermore, Kingsbury does a good job of connecting her characters together without being too predictable. One special note here is that the characters are used to present the Biblical view of the unborn in a down-to-earth manner. The unexpected plot twist with one of the minor characters is also quite good. Additionally, the flaws here include a bit of melodrama -a norm for this author – and some characters who feel like copies of one another. Needless to say, Kingsbury earns an above average score here as well.
Creativity & Originality (1 point)
In conclusion, Kingsbury earns a full point in originality for writing a novel unlike most I have read from her before. She avoided most of her usual pitfalls and turned out a poignant read that is sure to inspire many readers. For this reason, I feel that this novel could either be a part of the Baxter Family TV Series already in progress, or a standalone film. As a film, it could promote the Biblical view on life before birth as a drama/coming of age storyline. The casting would have to be on point, for the characters drive the plot. Good production quality is also a given, not to mention good continuity. It may also need a bit of editing and some more everyday dialogue. In the hands of a proven or budding filmmaker, this could be a great pro-life film.
Wish List Rating: 6 out of 10 points