Tuesday, July 1, 2014

"Out of the Ruins" Review

Abby Fischer is praying for a miracle. Her beloved sister Cecilia has leukemia, and the usual treatments are no longer working. When Dr. Robert King arrives on the scene with an experimental treatment for cancer, it seems as if he is heaven-sent. But the new radiation treatments are risky, and things become even more complicated when Robert and Abby begin to realize their feelings for each other.

In the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, thoughts of romance are pushed aside as everyone in the city struggles for survival. Separated from her family and from Robert, Abby is frantic. Will she ever find her way out of the ruins of the city – and her own heart – to find the love and faith she so desperately desires?

Out of the Ruins is the first in the Golden Gate Chronicles series by Karen Barnett.

My first impression of this book as I started reading was how the author is so good at paying attention to detail. From the historical and spiritual parts of the book to the setting, everything was meticulous and yet also really drew you into the story emotionally. This book started off rather slowly, but it really gave you time to get to know the characters and the time and place so that you could be fully immersed in everything.

That being said, the feeling of this novel is that it is actually two shorter books in one. The book is broken up into Part 1 and Part 2, and as the reader, you definitely feel this break. The second half of the book ultimately does connect back to the first, but it still felt as if I was reading two separate books that were just about the same characters.

In Part 1, I was completely fascinated with the medical aspect of the story. The emergence of radiation as a treatment for cancer was an excellent backdrop to everything that was taking place. Obviously this was a new technology in 1905 – the hazards of radiation were not known – and I cringed each time the doctors would test the X-ray machine on themselves! The thing about this part of the story, however, was that I thought it was a bit long, which goes back to my statement earlier about the book feeling as if it was actually two in one. I knew what was coming – the ultimate fate of Abby’s sister and also the coming earthquake – so I felt as if I was just holding my breath and dreading what was ahead.

Even though the first section was long for my taste, it was still well-written (in spite of the excessive similes and metaphors) and really invoked many emotions as I was reading. This was also true for Part 2. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 was devastating, and the author really paints the picture for the reader of the reality of those days. I felt as if I was right there with Abby as she searched for her family and dealt with the aftershocks of this historical event.

The overall spiritual aspect of the book was something that I thought was written well also. The author does not shy away from the gospel and the name of Christ, but even though it is a major plot point, you don’t feel as if she is beating you over the head with it. There are so many spiritual issues that are dealt with in this novel – some of them very difficult ones – and I think they were handled very well. I also really liked the references to old hymns. I found myself singing them throughout the days that I was reading the book.

The romance between Robert and Abby obviously takes somewhat of a backseat after the earthquake, since they are basically just trying to survive. I think their relationship could have been given more substance. Their romance seemed a bit flat, but it was understandable considering the circumstances.

Even though the novel was not presented in a way that I would not consider completely cohesive, it was still a good story overall. This is not a light, entertaining read but one that sends the reader through a range of emotions. There is tragedy upon tragedy which sometimes made it really difficult to read. Ultimately, however, the message is one of hope and faith in the God who never leaves us or forsakes us.

I will give Out of the Ruins ... 4 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Abingdon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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