In the third novel of the “Inn at Shining Waters” series by Melody Carlson, Anna and her daughter, Lauren, are anxious for any word of what has happened to their precious Sarah. She has been missing for a very long time after leaving for parts unknown with her boyfriend. When Sarah suddenly returns to the inn and the river, what should be a happy reunion turns into the struggle of their lives.
With Sarah and Lauren in a constant battle, the tension mounts and Anna finds herself caught in the middle. Will the three generations of this family ever be able to come together and find the peace and healing that can only come from God?
After having some mixed feelings about the first two books in this series (I liked the first better than the second), I was interested to see how the last book would wrap things up. It could have gone several different ways, and since the second book in the series, River’s Call, ended on such a cliffhanger, this was one series I definitely wanted to finish.
The biggest thing was that I kept getting so frustrated with Sarah in this novel. A lot of times she acted like a selfish brat. She had such a loving family to go home to, yet she kept running away, always searching for something better. I guess this could be an example of how we as Christians sometimes run from God. We have a wonderful, loving Savior who welcomes us with open arms and forgives us, but so often we are stubborn and want to do things our own way.
While I was frustrated with Sarah’s character, I was once again frustrated with the parents in this novel and their attitudes toward their children. It just still seemed to me as if the parents and grandparents left Sarah on her own to figure things out for herself. I just kept wanting the adults in the situation to get this poor teenager some help! Anna, the grandmother, eventually led her to the Bible so that she could read what God says about forgiveness. But, up until that point, they just seemed to be of the opinion that Sarah was a teenager and that all teenagers go through these messed up sorts of things before they eventually come around and grow out of it. The adults walked on eggshells with Sarah, always afraid that she would up and leave again. They didn’t want to do anything at all to upset her in any way, and they definitely didn’t want to make her do anything she didn’t want to do. If I did that with my daughter, she would never have any discipline in her life at all!
One thing I did like in River’s End was the relationship between Anna and Clark. They seemed to grow closer throughout the series, and their love was so sweet and true. I also liked the way that the author depicted the different changes that occurred to the inn and to the river throughout the three novels.
The inn and the river almost seemed to be characters in their own right. This was an interesting aspect, although I do think the character of Anna placed too much emphasis on the river as a place of healing. I guess the point was that the river was so peaceful that it could lead to relaxation and healing, but to me, it came across as almost being mystical. Anna oftentimes seemed to put her hope in the river instead of in God. I sometimes found the characters’ faith to be a bit misplaced. They seemed to put their trust in other things – the river, dreams, feelings – rather than in Christ.
Another interesting facet of this novel was the 1970’s communes that were depicted. I thought it was interesting how the author contrasted several of them – how some were peaceful places where people lived and worked together – and how others were places where people were held against their will and practically brainwashed. Even though I was frustrated with Sarah for continuing to run back there, I was at least better able to understand how someone who was searching would think that they would be able to find peace in such a place.
Even though I thought the characters in this novel were frustrating, I did think River’s End was an appropriate conclusion to this series. The topic of forgiveness was a main theme that wove throughout these books, and it came through very well. I also really enjoyed the epilogue to this novel – it was a great way to bring the series to an end.
I will give River’s End … 3 BookWorms.