Book Review: Of Stillness and Storm
Author Michele Phoenix (In Broken Places, The Edge of Tidal Pools) left me heartbroken, dismayed, and amazed as I came to the final page of her new release, Of Stillness and Storm. Aptly titled, but in an unexpected way, this is not your typical missionary story. The last time I was both moved and troubled in this way was after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.
Set in contemporary times, the characters take command of this story. Although, you would guess that the setting of Kathmandu, Nepal, would provide plenty in the way of obstacles to overcome. Rather, the obstacles are relational—and kept tightly to the chests of the three members of the Coventry family: Sam, Lauren, and Ryan, their teenage son. They might have continued to slog forward in their silent dysfunction, led by the zealous surety of Sam that they were called and destined for this life of sacrifice, if not for the serendipitous (for Lauren) appearance on Facebook of her childhood best friend, Aiden. He unwittingly causes the family to come unglued—although granted, the glue was old and dry at best.
Phoenix masterfully plays with the reader’s perspectives and emotions as the story unfolds. We get glimpses into the beginnings of all the relationships. Which we think help make sense of why this missionary life isn’t working like it “should.” We want to cheer for Sam’s devotion, but then we see their life through Lauren’s eyes and start to resent him. We’re waving the flag for Lauren, but when her heart starts to divide, we are conflicted about her motives. We feel the angst of parenting a surly teenage boy. But when we start to truly see his pain, we want to believe in his right to happiness as well.
Having done annual part-time mission work for seventeen years, I could so relate to the challenges of expat living. It’s rarely what you sign up for. And the way Phoenix paints each family member’s style of coping is realistic and honest. In fact, the level of authenticity in this book is impressive. But it also made my heart hurt for the thousands of men and women on the mission field who likewise endure similar suffering and sacrifice. They deserve our respect.
The prose in this book is lovely, the images exquisitely crafted. The themes hit home—not always in a good way–in that she exposes the vulnerabilities that exist in all of us when our needs are not being met. And what happens when we chase after rainbows, other gods, or what might have been.
Where to Buy
More About Michele Phoenix
Get to know Michelle and her other novels HERE
And enter her blog tour GIVEAWAY!
Take Michèle’s new book with you on your winter vacation and enter to win her Bookworm On-the-Go Prize Pack (because you can’t take a stack of books with you when you travel).
One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on December 31. The winner will be announced January 3 on Michèle’s blog.
I received a free ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) in exchange for my honest review and participation in the Litfuse Publicity release tour.