Book Review: Ascension of Larks by Rachel Linden

August 10, 2017 Christian, contemporary, Rachel Linden 4

about the book

When globetrotting photographer Magdalena Henry loses the only man she’s ever loved, she risks her stellar career to care for his widow and young children on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest.

Free-spirited and fiercely independent, Maggie adores her life of travel and adventure. But she has a secret. She can’t let go of her first and only love, renowned architect Marco Firelli, now married to her best friend Lena.

When Marco drowns in a kayaking accident, Maggie rushes to the Firelli family’s summer home on San Juan Island. Once there she discovers that Marco was hiding something that could destroy his family. As fragile, perfectionistic Lena slowly falls apart, Maggie tries to provide stability for Marco and Lena’s three young children.

When Maggie is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete in the world’s most prestigious photography competition, she thinks she’s found the answer to their problems. Then Lena makes a choice with unexpected and devastating consequences, forcing Maggie to grapple with an agonizing decision. Does she sacrifice the golden opportunity of her career or abandon the Firellis just when they need her the most?

Gradually the island begins to work its magic. A century-old ritual to beckon loved ones home offers hope in the midst of sorrow. And a guilt-ridden yet compelling stranger hiding on the island may offer Maggie a second chance at love, but only if she can relinquish the past and move forward to find joy in unexpected places.

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GENRE: Inspirational Contemporary Women’s Fiction
PUBLISHER: Thomas Nelson
RELEASE DATE: June 20, 2017
PAGES: 336

“Do you know what it’s like to watch a man drown?”

Ascension of Larks is haunting… and heartwrenching … and heartwarming. It’s a story of loss, grief, loneliness, survival and redemption. Complex characters leap off the page and into your heart, and you’ll find yourself captivated by their journey.

Maggie is the epitome of what I would call a ‘lost soul’, not necessarily even spiritually (though that’s part of it). She has become a master of outwardly accepting the life she’s been given and allowing it to play out the way she thinks it should. From an observer’s standpoint, she has carved out a very successful life. And yet… on the inside? She’s lonely and searching for answers to questions she’s not even sure how to ask. While she travels fairly light as she globetrots her way from one poignant photo shoot to another, inwardly she carries quite a bit of baggage.

The other players in this story – Lena, Daniel, Griffin, even Marco himself – all suffer from the same malady. On the outside they look like they have it all together. On the inside, they’re falling apart (or have been, in the not so distant past).  In this way, Ascension of Larks is a picture of all of us at some point in our lives. We may not have the same baggage as the characters in this novel, but most of us know what it’s like to put on our best faces and ignore the mess piling up in our hearts.

While this is in many ways a novel about death – death of a person, death of dreams, death of hope – it is even more so a novel of survival. Of picking up the pieces and figuring out how to make a beautiful mosaic. Of allowing your heart to grieve but also of allowing your heart to celebrate – and knowing the difference even as they co-exist. The author captures these dichotomies beautifully with words, mirroring the way that Maggie captures them with her camera.

Bottom Line: I really enjoyed this debut novel from Rachel Linden. It’s compelling and very well-written, and the characters are still hanging around in my heart. The spiritual thread is subtle and strays a little into the mystical, but hope lingers between the lines. The ending is just as poignant and complex as the rest of the novel, and I so hope we get to revisit Maggie and her ‘family’ again one day. I need to know more of the story, of what happens next, and while I realize that life doesn’t always work out that way it doesn’t stop me from wishing! If you are a fan of Katie Ganshert and Catherine West, you will love Ascension of Larks too.

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4 stars / Riveting story

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about the author

Rachel Linden is a novelist and international aid worker whose adventures living and traveling in fifty countries around the world provide excellent grist for her stories. She holds an MA in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College, a BA in Literature from Huntington University, and studied creative writing at Oxford University during college. Currently, Rachel splits her time between Seattle, Washington and Budapest, Hungary where she lives with her husband and two children. Rachel enjoys creating stories about hope and courage with a hint of romance and a touch of whimsy.

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Other Books by Rachel Linden

What about you? What most intrigues you about this novel?

Carrie

4 Responses to “Book Review: Ascension of Larks by Rachel Linden”

  1. Gloria Anderson

    Great review, Carrie. It sounds like a good read.

  2. Rachel Linden

    Carrie, thank you so much for your lovely and thoughtful review! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book! -Rachel