With Amy Boucher Pye ...

A Fragile Hope – Cynthia Ruchti (Abingdon, ISBN 978-1426791505)
The Second Bride – Katharine Swartz (Lion, ISBN 978-1782642121)

Well, we’ve now experienced the longest day of the year, but I hope that as you read this the sun shines and you can find some warmth and freshly grown produce to enjoy. I have been remiss in featuring fiction over the past few months, and thought summer was a perfect time to rectify that matter. And who better to feature than two of the group’s favourite novelists? Both authors have been praised by members of our book club previously, and I too have enjoyed their works.

Cynthia Ruchti writes stories to inspire hope, but doesn’t shy away from problems or real-life failings. Her characters feel real, so I was looking forward to reading her latest, A Fragile Hope. It’s the story of a long journey for a couple who face a life-altering situation. Without giving away the plot, the husband is a writer who enjoys big book deals and the praise of readers. But at home he ignores his wife, and she slowly withers away. The life-altering occurrence could be the catalyst for him to move from being self-absorbed to loving and other-focused.

The book didn’t disappoint me, but it wasn’t my favourite of hers (that would probably still be They Almost Always Come Home). Her writing is strong with believable characters, but I didn’t warm to the main protagonist (the husband) and felt the ending was a bit inevitable. That didn’t stop me from crying when I read it, however! I should also mention that Julia Wilson, an active member of our Facebook group, posted a review of this book there. To her it was “The most beautiful book ever” and one that soothed her soul. A good reminder that not all books will speak in the same way to all people.

Another favourite writer in our group is Katharine Swartz. The third in her ‘Tales from Goswell’ series, The Second Bride has the plot device of switching between the 1860s and the present day. In her stories of Ellen and Sarah, the author explores the complexities of second marriages and the relationships that have gone before, including the betrayals that often occur and the sides people take.

It’s a harrowing book at times, particularly when we encounter the terrible conditions in which the Victorian women lived. The relational challenges of the modern times too can be difficult to read – a young girl cutting herself at the age of ten was particularly wrenching. But it’s good to explore the hard and the good in fiction, especially when, as with Cynthia Ruchti’s books, the redemption element is so strong (it’s present, but fainter, in Katharine Swartz’s Goswell series).

Possible summertime reads for you, or do you prefer something more lighthearted and sunny?

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