22 August 2012

Review: The Widow of Saunders Creek by Tracey Bateman

I almost didn’t pick The Widow of Saunders Creek out to review, because I thought from the title that it was going to be historical fiction. But it is contemporary Christian fiction, with a bit of romance and a bit of suspense, and I thought it was well worth reading.

Corrie Saunders was widowed six months ago, when Jarrod, her army husband, died a hero in the Middle East, leaving her with a flag and the family home in the small Ozark town of Saunders Creek. Corrie has returned to restore the old house they had planned on raising their family in. Eli is the friend, cousin and contractor undertaking the renovations. He is also Jarrod's cousin and childhood friend, and was left with a a permanent limp and an army discharge after a riding accident with Jarrod.

Strange things are happening in the house. Doors slam. Objects move of their own accord. Corrie thinks someone is lying in her bed, but when she turns around, no one is there. Several of the women of the family dabble in magic, and believe that Jarrod’s spirit has come back to care for his widow. Eli, a seminary graduate and part-time preacher, believes the source is demonic, but knows that Corrie has to make her own choice.

The story is told in the first person, alternating between Corrie and Eli. For this to work, the author has to be able to create two characters that readers both like and could relate to. Tracey Bateman has certainly succeeded in this. Corrie still loves her husband, and while she is slowly getting over the grief, the idea that he may be present in the house is very seductive. Eli is falling for Corrie, despite knowing she still loves Jarrod and that she might be tempted by the very real spirit world.

Some readers might find this almost paranormal aspect of The Widow of Saunders Creek offputting. I was a bit hesitant – some of Bateman’s previous books have skated very close to the line. But this is more in the lines of the early Frank Peretti novels, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, in that it makes no apologies for the fact that there is a spiritual realm, and that the name of Jesus is the answer. A touching story of a developing relationship. Recommended.

Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah and Bloggingfor Books for providing a free book for review.

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