Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: Within My Heart by Tamera Alexander

Within My Heart (Timber Ridge Reflections #3)
By: Tamera Alexander
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0391-6

About the book:

Sometimes the greatest step of faith is taken neck-deep in fear.

Determined to fulfill her late husband's dream, Rachel Boyd struggles to keep her ranch afloat with the help of her two young sons. But some days it feels as though her every effort is sabotaged. When faced with a loss she cannot afford, she's forced to trust Rand Brookston, the one man in Timber Ridge she wishes to avoid. And with good reason. He's a physician, just like her father, which tells her everything she needs to know about him. Or so she thinks....

Dr. Rand Brookston ventured west with the dream of bringing modern medicine to the wilds of the Colorado Rockies, but the townspeople have been slow to trust him. Just as slow in coming is Rand's dream to build the town a proper clinic. When a patient's life is threatened, Rand makes a choice—one that sends ripples through the town of Timber Ridge. And through Rachel Boyd's stubborn heart.


Following the tragic death of her husband in a hunting accident, Rachel Boyd struggles to keep the family ranch afloat, determined to make her late husband's dreams for their sons a reality. here is little time and less desire for her dreams or love, in spite of the persistent, hopeful attentions of the handsome town doctor Rand Brookston. Much like her self-proclaimed mission to see her late husband's dreams realized, Rachel determines that loving a doctor is not an option, since all members of the profession must be like her harsh father, harsh and driven. But when a typhoid outbreak threatens Timber Ridge, and the chronic illness of a dear friend requires all of Rand's skill, Rachel is forced to re-evaluate her dearly held assumptions and realize they may be proved a lie. Faced with a choice -- the relative safety of the emotional walls she's built and the iron-clad views she holds close, or risking her heart and family's future on the possibility of love, Rachel must decide once and for all if vulnerability, trust, and love are worth the risk of faith.

Going into this novel the knowledge that Rachel was the heroine was a hard sell -- I'd spent the previous two books in the series disliking her immensely. her animosity towards Daniel, the hero of From a Distance, was borderline irrational. And her seemingly complete inability to graciously accept (or decline) aid, coupled with a persistent distrust of Rand (based on memories of her father), made Rachel an extraordinarily prickly centerpiece for the conclusion to Alexander's Timber Ridge trilogy. While Rachel had legitimate, heart-breaking reasons for her issues, her consistently antagonistic attitude made for a challenging reading experience.

Thankfully, halfway through the novel Rachel turns a corner, and Alexander's trademark ability to tug at the heartstrings is given free rein to shine. As she shares in her author's note, Within My Heart was crafted during a particularly difficult time, involving her mother's illness, and the result of that experience is a master author laying her heart bare on the page -- a beautifully rendered, poignant reminder of the hope believers share in a heavenly promise, making goodbyes on this earth only a temporary heartache. Beloved store owner Ben's illness and the grace and raw honesty with which he and his wife face his mortality are poignant reminders of the precious gift of life, and the power of a life well-lived.

An on-going theme in this loosely connected series is facing fear, and Rand's journey is perhaps my favorite yet. If faith is believing in the unseen provision of an all-knowing God, then Rand's arc is the surest illustration yet of the joy and release found in surrendering, safe in the faith that God's love is the only surety to see one through their darkest hour. Alexander is at her best when crafting characters who make you feel, gloriously real, messy individuals, and Within My Heart is no exception. I love that through Rand's experiences she revisits the horrific toll of the Civil War on its survivors. And her gritty, authentic portrayal of the challenges of frontier medicine add a dose of realism and authenticity to the storyline. At its heart the conclusion to Alexander's Timber Ridge series is a beautifully rendered story of grace and faith, leaving me eager for Alexander's next offering!

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