|A well-known favorite for many..|
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Multnomah Books, pub. 2004
California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep. Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside. Then she meets Michael Hosea. A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go. A life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.
So I have been on this kick lately to read whatever I want whenever.. you know, like REAL people do. So glad to kick that whole reviewing for others thing; so toxic to my sanity. It seemed logical that in my awesome reads for 2016 that my first Francine Rivers novel should be Redeeming Love. Everyone raved about it. It's got five stars on Amazon. I have the "new" aka "redeemed" edition. And I think perhaps that's what killed it for me. The original 1991 Bantam novel apparently did not completely skip the romantic love making scenes where our two protagonists got together emotionally, spiritually, sexually.. at least, that is what I could ASSUME is happening with my "redeemed" edition.
The gist of this thing is that poor prostitute Angel has had a very horrible time of it, pretty much being a whore because that's all she was ever born to be. Lo' and behold a handsome man wants to save her from all that. A real-life honest to God knight in shining armor. And she is like, no thank you. I was born to be a prostitute and God is dead to me. You're great for asking me to marry you on sight but no thanks because I love being a sex slave. And this is where you really can't feel too bad for Angel/Tirzah/Marah/Amanda anymore.
So Michael Hosea (surprise! from the biblical story of Hosea who marries a prostitute) manages to bring her to his humble home, show her how to cook and farm, and pretty much saves her life (and gives her several names because Angel won't say her real name). He loves her to pieces because God told him to.
She runs away because she just doesn't feel like she deserves him.
He gets her back.
She runs away again.
It can feel a bit stalkerish actually.
All the real character building and "redeeming love" that happened behind closed doors -- and deleted from our "redeemed" edition really did no favors for me. I love Christian fiction, I love biblical fiction. This was beginning to seem like a waste of my time personally because I would love to have that Christian man myself, begging me to just love him back and I was a but jealous of our beautiful harlot. Having said that, I can say that the last chapter was really a special one, and it very aptly sums up the title. If you have an open heart to hear God's word, and are in a place to be open to the message of forgiveness and renewal, it can be a very touching novel. There is a rebirth/renewal theme along with compassion and mercy that goes through all the required motions in order for it fully come about, and this takes the entire novel to achieve but can be very moving for the reader.
The biblical quotes at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch, and if you are at a place where you are ready to explore God's undying love and proof of this, the novel could be a satisfying read. However, those readers who are cynical and in a tough place at the moment may find it all too unrealistic. I have a feeling I would have preferred the 1991 untouched version even though I am normally not too interested in the romance scenes, but the way you could sense it was obviously skipped in this later edition was just an annoyance for the story line. You might gather that I'm a bit on the fence on this one. The historical atmosphere was very well done with the neighboring families helping to add dimension to the novel and to support the transformation in Angel's character. I can definitely understand where so many have felt the message of love and forgiveness set forth in this novel but again you have to want to hear the message especially since it ties so closely to the biblical story of Hosea.