3 out of 4 stars
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In today’s world, with its rapid cultural changes, it is difficult to find books offering stories of a genuine love of one’s family, friends, country, culture, and religion. Once in a while, a novel like Forever Faithful is refreshing to read because of the great values it depicts. Authored by Marilyn L. Reicks, this work of historical fiction has brilliant characters who are well developed and believable. With WWII in the background, it contains memories of the writer in rural America as it went through a great cultural change.
The cover page reveals a beautiful aerial view of the author’s ancestral farmland in Winneshiek County, Iowa. It has survived the two World Wars, moving from self-sufficiency and independence to increasingly global interdependence. There is a 160-year-old log house which has inspired this story, although its characters are the work of fiction. It is also a coming-of-age narrative written from a Christian perspective.
The story of Julia, the protagonist, resembles the author’s own past in some ways, e.g., she teaches in a one-room school with children from various grades studying at the same time. The young woman writes this chronicle in the first person. I really like her detailed description of various indoor as well as outdoor settings. As it progresses through the Great Depression and WWII, there are political, religious, cultural, and socioeconomic changes. Health care also develops. Julia lives with her parents, two brothers, and a sister. The elders are troubled about the moral and cultural changes brought by WWI and are afraid that the boys may have to go for war. As Catholics, they question the logic behind such violence and the morality of producing weapons.
Historic political events are mentioned. In spite of the atmosphere of suffering, family life with picnics, summertime activities, academics, and celebration of feast days is full of joy and entertainment. Biblical verses are quoted on various occasions to guide and strengthen the characters. I love how the author includes the procedure of canning vegetables and shares recipes of a variety of food items. Amidst these activities, Julia and Mark become friends. They love each other, and although Mark goes out for war, their relationship continues to deepen. Similarly, Julia’s brother, John, also enlists in the army. He loves Betty, a Lutheran whose mother is not happy with their relationship. What happens next? To know the rest of the story and why the name of this book is Forever Faithful, you must read the book. I was so moved that there were tears in my eyes.
Overall, it is an enjoyable read in spite of the background of WWII. The language is respectful, and the story models a good Christian life that withstands the suffering and cultural changes caused by it. There is nothing that I disliked about the book or its characters. I am pleased to award it a rating of 3 out of 4 stars. It has grammatical errors and typos, but they are not distracting. Nevertheless, if the text goes through another round of editing, it may receive a full rating. I recommend it to men and women of all age groups. Those interested in knowing about the effects of WWII may find it appealing. It is also a good read if you want some entertainment after an exhausting day.
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