Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)
Finkbeiner’s latest novel, Stories That Bind Us, is a great depiction of the struggles we all face in the everyday. While the novel is imperfect, Finkbeiner continues to set what should be the standard in Christian fiction. Betty Sweet loves her simple life with her husband Norman. When Norman dies suddenly of heart failure, Betty is thrown for a loop. For the first few weeks after his death, she shuts everyone and everything out, determined to hide from the world until it makes sense again. Shortly after her sister-in-law Marvel intervenes by forcing her out of the house, Betty’s estranged sister Clara and her son Hugo show up on the doorstep one rainy evening. Betty finds a new purpose in caring for the two of them, but soon notices that all is not well. Clara is extremely moody and often spends long hours in bed, and Hugo shows signs of abuse. Clara’s mental state takes Betty back to her difficult childhood with a mother who struggled with the same difficulties. Even though she has the support of her husband’s exceptional family, Betty struggles with loving her sister, caring for Hugo, and dealing with her husband’s death. This leaves her feeling a bit frayed at the edges. In order to go forward, Betty must trust in Jesus, come to peace with the difficult parts of her childhood, and learn to accept the ways her life has changed. What will happen to Clara? Will Betty weather the storm? To answer these questions, read the book!;) The plot and storyline in this novel are well above average. Among the novel’s strengths are excellent dialogue, great continuity, and a strong storyline. Additionally, the poignant messages about perseverance and the healing power of love give the story meaning. In comparison, the weaknesses are minor. First, the plot could have had added depth if we heard a first-person perspective from Clara as well as Betty. Lastly, the first quarter of the book doesn’t always hold the attention, and the ending is a bit rushed. In spite of these errors, Finkbeiner has turned out another great novel that has the potential to be an excellent Christian series. Because of this, she earns an above average score for her plot and storyline.
Character Development (3.5 points)
Similarly, the character development in this novel is also above average. Betty is a realistic and relatable protagonist who has believable responses to life crises. Clara is also an above average character, but as we mentioned earlier, her character could have been even better if she had told the reader her side of the story. Comparatively, Hugo is one of the best characters in the novel. It is refreshing to see a child character who is portrayed as intelligent and fully aware of all the goings-on in his life. There is simply not enough good to say here. The minor and secondary characters are very strong and their subplots make significant contributions to the plot. Other than the minor error with Clara, there are no other flaws to note in this section. For this reason, Finkbeiner earns just shy of a perfect score for her strong character development.
Creativity & Originality (1 point)
Lastly, it was a very original idea to portray a widow who has to deal with her husband’s death, her difficult childhood, and troubled sister without further complicating things by starting a new romantic relationship. Too many Christian novels make this mistake, as we’ve said before, it is just not a good idea to encourage people to start new relationships during the grieving process. Any-who, we’re very glad Finkbeiner did not do this, and award her a full point in originality for this and other reasons. Likewise, we believe Stories That Bind us would make a great Christian series. The screenwriter(s), one of which should be Finkbeiner, would have very little difficulty adapting this novel for the big screen. The dialogue, character depth, and storyline concept are already there. If the screenwriter made Clara a protagonist alongside Betty and included flashbacks to the girl’s childhood, this content could change American Christian culture for the better. In summary, we commend Finkbeiner on another job well done and recommend this book for filmmakers who want to bring exceptional Christian books to the big screen.
Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points