19 July 2016

Review: When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell

Unexpectedly Brilliant

I admit it: I didn’t read Julie Cantrell’s award-winning debut novel, Into the Free, mostly because there were faults in the review copy I downloaded which rendered it unreadable (my copy was missing all the c’s and all the h’s, which meant there would be references to a “fres at of fis” instead of a fresh catch of fish. It’s hard to get into a novel when you find yourself having to sound out words like a six-year-old.

I also didn’t request the sequel to Into the Free when it released the following year, because I tend not to enjoy sequels if I haven’t read the first book in the series. So why did I request When Mountains Move … which is that same sequel, only from a new publisher? Because I somehow missed the fact it was a book I elected not to read two years ago, but requested on the strength of the good things I’d heard about the author’s writing.

And they are all true. Even though When Mountains Move is a sequel, it’s not necessary to have read Into the Free in order to understand or appreciate this.

When Mountains Move is not an easy read: it starts with Millie, our heroine, having a dream/flashback to her rape six weeks earlier. She’s now marrying Bump (Kenneth Anderson, and that’s probably the only thing I never understood: where he got such a ridiculous nickname), and they are leaving Mississippi for Colorado, where Bump has a job managing a run-down ranch.

While the ranch is the main setting, ranch life isn’t the core of the plot or theme. Rather, the story is about Millie coping with the attack and the after affects, and the strain this puts on her marriage. It’s a story of love and trust and mistrust, the story of a marriage, and it’s riveting.

The novel is told entirely in first person present tense from Millie’s point of view, which is an interesting literary choice for a historical novel—most tend to be third person and past tense. First person seems to be reserved for young adult and new adult novels, and in a way that fits: When Mountains Move is an extension of the coming of age novel, and seventeen-year-old Millie is certainly in the right age bracket to attract YA/NA readers.

I like first person because gives us a deep insight into Millie and her problems. It also demonstrates the strength of Cantrell’s writing in that I still understood a lot of Bump’s thoughts and problems, even when Millie seemed not to.

I get that the combination of an edgy topic and first person writing won’t appeal to everyone. But if you can get past that—as I did—I’m sure you’ll find When Mountains Move to be excellent. Even if you haven’t read Into the Free.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Julie Cantrell at her website, and you can read the beginning of When Mountains Move below:


  1. I thought this book was ok, but Into The Free was soo good. If you get a chance to read that one again, go for it! Thanks for your review.

    1. Into the Free was better? Wow - that's saying something. Thanks for the recommendation!