2 March 2017

Review: Door to Freedom by Jana Kelley

Fascinating Insights into Islamic Life

Door to Freedom is the sequel to Side by Side, but can easily be read as a standalone. If you read Side by Side and enjoyed it, then I’ve no doubt you’ll enjoy Door to Freedom as well. If you felt there were some writing and characterisation issues, with Side by Side, then I suspect you’ll see those same issues in Door to Freedom.

Both books centre on the Weston family, living in Sudan while husband Michael works with a secular aid organisation, the Kellar Hope Foundation, doing we never find out what. Most of the story is told from the viewpoint of his wife, Mia, the stay-at-home mother to their three children. The remainder of the story is told from the viewpoint of Raina, a teenage Muslim girl from an upper-class family … whose sister converted to Christianity in Side by Side.

I was initially confused, as I thought Mia and her family were serving in Sudan as missionaries, yet her early behaviour didn’t seem very missionary-like (meaning, when it became apparent that they might have to leave Sudan, her first reaction was closer to whine than prayer). My error: Sudan is under Sharia law, so Christians have enough problems working with secular aid organisations, let alone actively working as Christian missionaries.

Having said that, Mia and Michael are both Christians, and they do experience a growth in their faith that brings them closer together and encourages them to attempt to share their faith. At the same time, it opens them to opportunities and threats from Muslims and Christians alike as they make opportunities to share their faith with friends and colleagues. There are some interesting insights into Muslim beliefs and practices. Despite this, I found the Mia scenes slow and the dialogue wooden.

I found the Raina scenes far more interesting. Raina is sixteen, and wants to study art at college, not get married. Especially not to some man old enough to be her father (as happens to one of her school friends), or some random cousin. She also wants to investigate that book her sister left behind … Raina’s scenes gave an insight into the mind of a teenage Muslim female living under Sharia law. She has more freedom than I might have assumed, but that doesn’t change the fact that all the big decisions in her life will be made by her father or her husband.

There were a lot of typos, but I was reading the unedited review edition so hopefully these have been fixed in the final print version. The writing ranged from below average with added Christianese (“this was a good time for Mia to extend some grace”) to excellent:

Mia and her family loved living in Sudan. Even when they hated it. It was wonderful and terrible all mixed up in one giant ball of confusion.

That pretty much describes Door to Freedom. Overall, my impression was that the writing style was best suited to middle grade students or early teens, but the subject matter more appropriate for older teens or adults. Recommended for those looking for an insight into Islamic beliefs or life in an Islamic country. Not recommended for children, despite the writing style.

Thanks to New Hope Publishers, Litfuse Publicity, and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can click here to read more about Jana Kelly at her website or click here for the Litfuse Publicity blog tour information, and you can read the introduction to Door to Freedom below:


  1. "Inspiring, exciting, and moving, Jana Kelley's second novel captures the vibrant culture of North Africa...Door to Freedom realistically portrays the real life victories and challenges that face missionary families overseas, especially in closed countries.

    1. Yes, that was what the book description said. But I didn't think it delivered.