11 June 2012

Review: Yesterday's Stardust by Becky Melby

In 1924, 15-year-old Francie Tillman of Osseo, Wisconsin, runs away from home to join her sister in Chicago and follow her dream of being a fashion designer. But life doesn’t always work out how you planned, and she finds herself living her sister and illegitimate nephew under the ‘protection’ of local bootleggers who control her every move with threats to her family.

In the present day, award-winning journalist and Christian Dani Gallagher is finding that it's harder to write the story when there is a personal connection. In following up a story about a gang suicide, she meets handsome chef Nicky Fiorini, and his sister, Renata. Dani finds a diary that seems to link to Nicky’s restaurant, so the two of them read together and discover Francie’s story. Meanwhile, Renata is facing problems with her gang boyfriend, but has no way to escape his influence, and Dani wants to help, to share God’s love with Renata and the other gang ‘sisters’.

Yesterday's Stardust alternates back and forward between the past and the present, with gradual clues showing the physical links between the past and the present, and the underlying theme of change: the more things change, the more they stay the same, as Francie and Renata face similar problems decades apart. There is also the hint of a romance between Dani and Nicky, if he will allow himself to trust God again.

The past-and-present is an interesting plot device, and Melby works it to her advantage. I was also impressed by her use of language (I particularly like Roman Catholic Nicky’s thought that “he knew the exact moment he’d stopped praying to the figure on the cross and started talking to the living God. He also knew the exact moment he’d stopped”) and the sense of mystery.

Recommended, perhaps not so much because of the story but because of the way Becky Melby uses Yesterday's Stardust to challenge us, as Christians, to step out of our comfort zone and see the downtrodden in society the way Jesus would - and to do something about it. Her reasoning as to why teens join gangs is chilling.

Yesterday's Stardust is the second book in Becky Melby’s Lost Sanctuary series, and it is much better than the first (Tomorrow's Sun), in that the characters are much more human and therefore likeable. The stories are designed to be read as stand-alone novels, as they are related only in theme: a contemporary romance playing against the historical suspense.

Thanks to Barbour and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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