Book Review (and a Giveaway!): Strains of Silence by Bethany Kaczmarek

Posted January 13, 2018 by meezcarrie in Bethany Kaczmarek, Christian, contemporary, giveaway, romance / 44 Comments

about the book

Music was her driving passion and the truest expression of her faith, but three months before her wedding, twenty-year-old Kasia Bernolak can’t even pick up her guitar. Feeling like a fraud who will ruin her dad’s pastoral reputation, she can barely meet his eyes. When Kasia finds the strength to break off her engagement, she still doesn’t realize the dangerous truth: Blake Hamilton isn’t ready to say goodbye. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her.

Alexander “Zan” Maddox has seen what a domineering man can do to an unsuspecting woman, and Zan is sick of injustice. He gave up a college baseball scholarship so he could protect his sister from her abusive husband. When he rescues Kasia from her ex-fiancé, he instinctively appoints himself her personal bodyguard. Now, all he has to do is keep from falling for her himself.

Kasia and Zan become fast friends, but true healing and justice might cost more than either of them is willing to pay.

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GENRE: Inspirational New Adult Fiction
PUBLISHER: Pelican Book Group
RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2017
PAGES: 416

“Kasia was desperate for a new beginning … or seven.”

Strains of Silence by Bethany Kaczmarek is intensely emotional and doesn’t shy away from the rawness of abuse, an important story in this age of #MeToo and the newly empowered female voice. It paints a picture of horrific victimization but, in so doing, the author applauds the women who are no longer content to be victims and who bravely speak out and seek safety. And in the middle of this novel’s depictions of fear, betrayal and pain, there is an abundance of grace, mercy, love and hope.

The structure of Strains of Silence is really divided into two parts. In the first half of the novel, we follow Kasia and Zan as individuals, watching their paths intersect on more than one occasion, getting the foundation for what will be a pivotal relationship for each of them. We watch Kasia head to Peru to teach English as a Second Language (a mission close to my heart), and we’re there as she renews her relationship with God and begins to find her song again. We watch Zan work through his own personal struggles – his disillusionment with God, his dissatisfaction with life, and his concern for his sister – and we see how God pursues him by surrounding him with Christians. (I love God’s sense of humor!) We also see – before Kasia and Zan do – that they share a common pain. Both are affected by domestic abuse – Kasia at the hands of her increasingly abusive ex-fiance, and Zan because of his beloved sister who has just left her violently abusive husband. This shared understanding of the grittier side of life gives them such a beautifully tender connection when their paths align more closely.

Getting that inside peek to Zan’s first newborn-calf-wobbly-steps as a child of God is one of my favorite parts of this novel. He doesn’t always get it right, but he’s trying. And it’s so evident that God has changed him while also preserving those things that make Zan ‘Zan’, those elements of himself that God breathed into him long before he was even born. Part of that is his tender heart, especially sensitive toward Kasia and her needs. In my very favorite conversation between Zan and Kasia, he tells her:

If you wake up and need to unload at three in the morning, I’ll listen. If you get angry, I’ll take whatever punches you need to throw. When you’re finally ready to cry, I’ll hold you if you’ll let me. And when you’re ready to dance, I’ll be there.

Bottom Line: Strains of Silence by Bethany Kaczmarek is a powerful novel about restoration, redemption and hope. Yes, there’s an exquisitely sweet romance, too, but this story is much deeper than falling in love. It’s a portrait of grace in the middle of life’s darkest moments, of friendship, of family, and of faith. Kaczmarek’s writing style is engaging and hits all the feels, and the characters are vividly-drawn and layered. I loved the ethnic diversity and the cultural diversity present here. Please be aware … It’s not an easy read – it deals with a lot of emotionally raw stuff. But at the same time, there is joy and humor and you can’t put it down because you’ve become so invested in these characters. It reminded me so often of his Matt Maher lyric – “Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more.” Not Kasia’s sin or Bailey’s sin (Zan’s sister) but the sin of their abusers … it runs deeps in parts of this novel, affecting more than just the men or Kasia & Bailey. But… Jesus’ amazing grace abounds. ♥

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from Celebrate Lit Blog Tours. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4.5 stars / Powerful story!

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about the author

Bethany loves a home filled with family and friends. Word gets around that—at the Kaczmarek house—food is abundant, conversations are real, and anything is up for discussion. She and her clan are fans of laughter, indie music, sonic screwdrivers, and superheroes. Home is wherever in the world they’re all together.

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Strains of Silence: A Novel for Anyone Who Can Say #MeToo

We’re everywhere. After years of silence, many survivors of sexual assault are raising our voices. You’ve seen the hashtag. You know someone who suffered like this—a friend, a sister, a daughter.

Maybe you know personally what it’s like to be used.

I’m thankful for the conversations the #MeToo campaign has started, proud of the brave women who are speaking out. But I know some are still quiet, nursing wounds.

I could list loads of valid reasons a victim chooses to suffer in silence.

  • People won’t believe her.
  • If she doesn’t say it out loud, it’s easier to pretend it was a nightmare.
  • He’s got authority over her—at work, at church, in the family—and it’ll cost her too much. He’s done enough damage already.
  • He’s threatened to destroy her reputation, and she believes him. One, because he’ll do it without flinching. Two, because she’s already convinced that she’s living a lie.
  • Because at church, she’s supposed to be fine, smiling, rejoicing in her suffering and pressing on. Besides, people don’t want to sit with her in her pain and listen. They’d rather offer bumper-sticker theology and trite spiritual bandages.
  • The few times she’s tried to speak up, her used-to-be friend basically made her feel like it was her fault.

The list could go on, but it’s fair to say that being honest about what happened to us makes us vulnerable all over again. The idea is understandably stressful.

But you know what? Pretending we’re fine is exhausting too. We bear a great strain when we hide our hurts, for whatever reason.

Kasia Bernolak, the heroine of my novel Strains of Silence, gets it. She’s got reasons for keeping it quiet too. But when God brings some new people into her life, she realizes she doesn’t have to be alone.

And speaking up offers a freedom, a lightness, she wants.

It’s a freedom I want for my readers.

I know. Strains of Silence sounds like a heavy book right now. The themes are heavy, no doubt. There’s no glossing over and prettying up sexual assault or domestic violence. But—just like in real life—it’s how well we surround and support the suffering that can set the tone. Kasia’s friends are real, they’re funny, they’re quirky, and they believe in her.

Besides, it’s not all dark and brooding. There’s travel—an entire summer in the mountains of Peru. There’s a lot of music—Kasia’s a singer/song-writer who loves indie artists (I’ve got a playlist on my website). There’s heritage and culture—meet her immigrant family and you’ll get a delicious taste of Poland. There’s humor—enough to keep the story light when you need it to be.

And there’s hope. Kasia’s life is absolutely full of possibility.

So are the lives of everyone who can say #MeToo.

Sometimes, it just helps to see someone else fight the battle on our own horizon. And if you can do it with a fantastic new playlist and some laughs, why not?

My hope is that Strains of Silence will lead to real discussions with reader-friends, book-club gatherings that become turning points, and the true pursuit of freedom. It’s time to throw off the burdens we wear and stand up. Raise your voice, link arms with others, and fight for hope.

Healing is within our reach.

To celebrate her tour, Bethany is giving away a grand grand prize: a signed book, a Polish pottery mug with two of the main character’s favorite kinds of teas, 4 of her favorite albums (Josh Garrels, Waterdeep, The Gray Havens, and Andrew Greer), a box of chocolate butter cookies, and a $50 Amazon gift card.!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries!

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This giveaway is hosted by Celebrate Lit, not RimSP
Follow along with the tour for more chances to win

What about you? The importance of music to the soul is referenced in Strains of Silence – what are some artists that speak to your soul?

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44 responses to “Book Review (and a Giveaway!): Strains of Silence by Bethany Kaczmarek

  1. danielle hammelef

    Musical artists that speak to me are MercyMe, tobyMac, Chris Tomlin, Mandisa and other Christian artists that I listen to everyday. I also enjoy various instrumental jazz pieces, especially those with heart-melting saxophone solos.

  2. Kay Garrett

    Thank you for the information and your wonderful review on “Strains of Silence” by Bethany Kaczmarek. I especially enjoyed the author’s section on Strains of Silence: A Novel for Anyone Who Can Say #MeToo.

  3. Marilyn

    This sounds like a great read. Thank You for the opportunity to win this generous and exciting giveaway.

    • Bethany Kaczmarek

      I love old hymns. One of the albums in the giveaway is Andrew Greer’s Angel Band: The Hymn Sessions.

  4. Natalya Lakhno

    Carrie, thank you for sharing! Strains of Silence by Bethany Kaczmarek Sounds like a very emotional book. Music plays a very important role in my life; it lifts me up, encourages, and provides support in difficult times. I sing in worship group in our church.

    • Bethany Kaczmarek

      I’m sorry you too, Vivian. The good news is that this story doesn’t leave you in sadness. There’s real hope and healing if you want it. Kasia does for sure. 🙂

  5. Winnie Thomas

    Wow! This sounds like a riveting story! It needs to go on my TBR mountain. I love The Piano Guys and William Joseph.

  6. Patty

    That is a very generous giveaway!

    Music can be very powerful, Casting Crowns is one group that really speaks to me.

    • Bethany Kaczmarek

      Thank you! I tried to make it one I’d want to win, so it’s filled with love and favorites.

  7. Bethany Kaczmarek

    I’m sorry you too, Vivian. The good news is that this story doesn’t leave you in sadness. There’s real hope and healing if you want it. Kasia does for sure. 🙂

  8. Brittaney B

    I’m really looking forward to reading this book. It’s interesting how closely tied music can be to our emotions. I find that God always has one song for me no matter what I’m going through. And then with the next challenge there is a new one to encourage and sustain me. It’s funny how I can hear a song years later and it’s like a virtual picture in my head taking me back to that moment in time, reminding me of what I’ve come through.

  9. Pam Lunsford

    I was sceptical about this book at first then I read what you thought. Now I want to read it. Great review Carrie!

  10. Penny Mooney

    What a sad and interesting story. I can’t wait to read it. It was nice to meet you. Thank you for the chance. xoxoxo

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