The Sun and the Sand and a Book in my Hand

Book Review: If We Make It Home by Christina Suzann Nelson

Book Review: If We Make It Home by Christina Suzann Nelson

Take a journey to the wilds of Oregon in this unpredictable,  tumultuous, yet hope-filled novel by debut author Christina Suzann Nelson.

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About the Book:

Four friends lived in the same residence at the University of Northwest Oregon. Twenty-five years later, they discover that the house they lived in is being sold, and they return to a reunion on the college campus. They have not spoken to one another in years, as life choices and circumstances have caused rifts that seem difficult to bridge. Ireland Jayne is a college professor, deeply involved with the environment and her career. When her job is in an upheaval, returning to her Oregon roots seems like a natural choice–it isn’t running away if you have a good reason, right? Jenna Savage is attempting to navigate her life as an empty-nest wife and mother after her triplets leave for college. She’s feeling out of shape, out of sorts, and bereft about what to do with the rest of her life. At least the reunion will get her out of the house. Victoria Cambridge is the figurehead of a well-known Christian ministry. Her speaking engagements, television appearances, and seminars are renowned. She finds evidence that her husband is cheating and feels totally out of control in her life. What if she stepped out of it for a few days?

As the three of them meet again on the campus, they discover that the fourth of their group, Hope, has died from cancer. Hope had always wanted to go on a hiking expedition into the Oregon wilderness, so against their better judgment, the three remaining friends decide to join sassy guide Glenda on a hiking and camping trip. The trip does not go as any of them have planned, and they end up discovering things about themselves and each other that bring surprise and dismay. As they become lost, they have to find their way to safety, no matter what it might cost them.

My Thoughts:

This book starts out slowly and kind of lulls you into thinking that the “survival” promised on the cover is probably not that bad. After all, they aren’t that far from civilization, they have a guide who knows what she’s doing, and they’re well equipped. However, it doesn’t take too long before you will be quickly turning pages to make sure that they figure out how to keep themselves alive. There were many times I wondered who from the group was actually going to make it out, and as I became more and more attached to the characters as they revealed themselves vulnerably to each other, I got worried for their safety as if they were real people.

I grew up in Oregon, and I went to a college (Oregon State University) that seems very suspiciously like University of Northwest Oregon (not a real place). So many of the locations the author describes are familiar to me, and once I started considering how much forested wilderness there actually is within a short distance from “civilization” I started to see how this situation could be plausible. Once the women begin their wilderness trek, the twists and turns of the story come from all angles. There’s not a spare moment to catch your breath, except when the frightened women do some serious introspection. This actually made me think about many of the aspects of my own life–what are the true joys and true heartaches? Which relationships really matter?

If you’re looking for a book that has something different than everything else out there, this novel truly fits into that category. This story could be “ripped from the headlines”, and even thinking about it in the safety of your own home should give you pause for reflection about the fragility of existence. When you distill your life to its essence, what is there and is it something lasting and meaningful?

If We Make It Home is a thrill ride, wrapped in a deeply moving and grace-filled look at life, love, and everything that makes us want to be alive.

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I received a complimentary review copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

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