For American Claire Stewart, joining the French Resistance sounded as romantic as the storylines she hopes will one day grace the novels she wants to write. But when she finds herself stranded on English shores, with five French Jewish children she smuggled across the channel before Nazis stormed Paris, reality feels more akin to fear.
With nowhere to go, Claire throws herself on the mercy of an estranged aunt, begging Lady Miranda Langford to take the children into her magnificent estate. Heavily weighted with grief of her own, Miranda reluctantly agrees . . . if Claire will stay to help. Though desperate to return to France and the man she loves, Claire has few options. But her tumultuous upbringing–spent in the refuge of novels with fictional friends–has ill-prepared her for the daily dramas of raising children, or for the way David Campbell, a fellow American boarder, challenges her notions of love. Nor could she foresee how the tentacles of war will invade their quiet haven, threatening all who have come to call Bluebell Wood home and risking the only family she’s ever known.
Set in England’s lush and storied Lake District in the early days of World War II, and featuring cameos from beloved literary icons Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, Until We Find Home is an unforgettable portrait of life on the British home front, challenging us to remember that bravery and family come in many forms.
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Fiction
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: January 9, 2018
“Stories give us a way to make sense of the world.”
Fair warning, this will be a long review. If you don’t want to be bothered with my lengthy ramblings, you can skip to the Bottom Line. 🙂 I am in fact still processing this gorgeous story, and I finished it a week ago.
Exquisitely written (I consistently expect nothing less from Cathy Gohlke), Until We Find Home explores family and faith and grace. All against the backdrop of peril and war and sacrifice. This is the kind of book I need to reread often because there’s so much treasure to be mined below the surface and I know I missed some gold the first time through.
Claire, Aunt Miranda, David, Dr. MacDonald, Mrs. Newsome – I loved all the characters, but especially the children – the original five French Jewish refugees that Claire is unexpectedly responsible for as well as the German Jewish refugees who join them at her aunt’s Bluebell Wood home partway through the story. Gaston is hands-down my fave, with his gallant old soul and mischievous antics. But each of the children brings his/her own unique personality – and haunting backstory – to the mix. Watching them struggle to find their footing in a strange new country with a strange new language and a religion that is unfamiliar… it’s both heartbreaking and inspiring. But Gohlke is also good to provide doses of humor and warmth just when the heaviness threatens to overwhelm. Additionally, I loved that we get to see the story from their perspectives as well, the subtle shift in narrative tone perfectly capturing the spirit and cadence of a child without losing its sophistication.
“She doubted she could muster the courage or fortitude of Jane Eyre, or the creativity of Mary Poppins. Still, the adventure could begin only when she placed one foot firmly in front of the other.”
In some ways, I related immediately with Claire Stewart – particularly in the comfort she derives from familiar stories and her passion to do something of value. In other ways, I wanted to shake some sense into her lol. When we first meet Claire, she’s very naive and self-centered. Stuck in England, separated from the man she loves, in charge of five Jewish children whom she’s helped escape from Nazi-occupied France… she wasn’t prepared for any of it, to her credit, but she also isn’t trying that hard to adapt. I saw myself in Claire maybe more than I want to admit – but the grace in which Gohlke wraps Claire’s story wrapped around my own heart as well. And that’s the real beauty of Claire’s character – the Claire at the story’s end is heart-and-soul-changed from the Claire we first meet in the famous Shakespeare & Company book store.
“Her circumstances had not changed, but she had changed. Her mind, her heart had been transformed.”
And then are the cameos which made my bookish heart giddy: Beatrix Potter and C.S. Lewis. I know this is weird, but maybe fellow bookworms will understand when I say that ‘meeting’ them on the pages of Until We Find Home made me a little misty-eyed. They feel like such dear friends, don’t they? And encountering dear friends on the pages of fiction is like a big hug. Combined with the other beloved children’s stories (The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, to name a few) that Gohlke weaves into the novel’s framework, Potter’s and Lewis’ cameos are the stamp on this tender love letter to enduring literature.
Bottom Line: Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke is, at its heart, a gorgeously-penned story about the power of love to triumph in the midst of hate. It’s a blending of characters from different socioeconomic, religious and cultural backgrounds who find a place to call home – and family – despite their differences and the tragedies each character has had to overcome to get there. It’s a peek into a tumultuous time on the world stage – and the courage and sacrifices given even from the least of these. It’s a reminder to be kind to everyone and not to judge others, because we are all in the middle of our own stories and someone’s ‘once upon a time’ could be your ‘happily ever after’. It’s a celebration of God’s constant pursuit of His children and a tender reflection of the abundant life He offers. You cannot read this book and remain unaffected, and I guarantee you’ll be thinking about it long after you’ve turned the last page.
(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: 4.5 stars / Fantastic!
KissingBook Level: 3 / May forget to breathe on occasion
Three-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award–winning author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons from history. Her stories reveal how people break the chains that bind them and triumph over adversity through faith. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren.
Other Books by Cathy Gohlke
What about you? If you could visit with a beloved author from childhood, who would it be?