It’s that time again, folks! Favorites Friday, where usually I will reach into the recesses of my reading past and pull out a trusty and beloved favorite (hence the theme) to review for you. Last week I discussed Danger In The Shadows by Dee Henderson – a book I’ve loved for 16 years. Even though I am barely 16 myself (no comments from people who know the truth). Today however I am going to review a new favorite, The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham.
Woven together with rich characters, poetic language, riveting history, wry humor, and heart-wrenching secrets, The Thorn Bearer is a book that will draw you in and refuse to let go. It isn’t often that I finish a fictional book and pause to reflect on it in silence for several minutes, but I did in this case. Even after I finished the last word, this story resonated throughout my spirit for a good long while. I’m sure I will still be thinking about The Thorn Bearer months from now – and if I’m still writing this blog in sixteen years I can guarantee it will make another appearance on Favorites Friday.
Ashleigh Dougall has a terminal disease and forgiveness is the only cure.
Ashleigh Dougall’s father stole her innocence, her selfish fiance stole her heart, and unforgiveness is slowly stealing her life. Drawn by the desire to help others, she tries to escape haunting memories and enlists her services as a nurse in war-torn Europe. Along with her childhood friend (and sister’s fiance), Sam Miller, the fragile threads holding Ashleigh’s life in place one-by-one begin to snap. From the deck of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of WWI, Ashleigh must choose between forgiveness of the past, life in the present, and a Savior who is willing to help her face them both.
My Review: I just can’t say enough good things about this book. The main theme of The Thorn Bearer is this: we are all broken, and we all need a Savior’s rescue. Even those who seem to be without obvious sin. Sometimes, it’s as simple (or as impossible) as holding on to unforgiveness and bitterness for the wrongs done to you by the people who were supposed to love and protect you. Sometimes it’s as pervasive as letting desperation take you down roads you never dreamed you’d travel. Either way, brokenness leads us all overboard and our Savior waits patiently for us to accept the rescue He offers.
Pepper Basham treated the topic of Ashleigh’s childhood sexual abuse with such grace and dignity and purity. She writes the reality of Ashleigh’s emotional scars – the anger, the bitterness, the fear, the shame, the self-recrimination – but she also masterfully weaves all of this into a beautiful tapestry of grace and forgiveness. Ashleigh’s earthly father stole many things from her, but her Heavenly Father pursues her relentlessly to clothe her with beautiful dignity, shower her with gracious love, and gift her with a sweet romance that surprises her. (Honestly, there are so many wonderful poetic quotes that I could share, but there are TOO many! I would end up quoting the entire book. You just need to go buy it for yourself.)
Lest you think that the book is too heavy to endure, let me be the first to assure you that this is completely not the case! There is such delightful flirting (oh the winking! and the kissing!) and moments of pure fun and humor. I fell in love with countless characters from The Thorn Bearer – Ashleigh, Sam (I have a thing for winking apparently… and a new craving for LifeSavers candy), Jessica, David, Kara, Fanny, and even some of the more villainous characters won a place in my heart in the end. But my absolute favorite character is Fiona. She is a hoot and a half, if I may go Southern on you here for a moment. In fact, if I could choose one character from The Thorn Bearer with whom to spend a day, I believe I would have to choose Fiona simply for the laughter that would ensue! What a spitfire of a young lady! Climbing trees, snapping her fingers, telling it like it is. Can’t wait for you all to meet her too.
The paperback version of The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham is due for release on May 7th, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania – an historical event that figures very prominently in the plot and our characters’ futures. I loved all of the history that Ms. Basham was able to seamlessly incorporate into the story, the events playing out on the world stage coinciding with what happens to the characters without feeling at all like a history lesson. (You know what I’m talking about! You’ve read books where you turned to the back cover just to make sure your former history teacher didn’t sneak in a textbook and call it fiction. I assure you – The Thorn Bearer remains always a novel, never in any danger of entering textbook territory 🙂 )
I give The Thorn Bearer 5 out of 5 stars and a rare place on my favorites shelf! Anxiously waiting for the next two books in this trilogy!
(Thank you to Pepper Basham for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.)
Pepper D. Basham has been telling tales ever since she was a little girl and fell in love with storytelling while listening to her granny share oral history. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mom of five, speech-language pathologist, and lover of chocolate, Pepper enjoys sprinkling her native Appalachian culture into her fiction wherever she can. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC, where she works with kids who have special needs, searches for unique hats, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends at her group writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of Seymour Literary Agency. Her debut novel, The Thorn Bearer, arrives on May 7th 2015 and is the first book in the Penned in Time series. Her first contemporary romance, A Twist of Faith, is slated to release later the same year. You can find her at www.pepperdbasham.com or follow her writing antics on her Facebook page or Twitter.