This one is a tough one to review! It was in my top two most anticipated 2022 reads, and it has me reeling in different directions.
The best fiction simply tells the truth.
But the truth is never simple.
When novelist Kendra Brennan moves into her grandfather’s old cabin on Hidden Lake, she has a problem and a plan. The problem? An inflammatory letter from A Very Disappointed Reader. The plan? To confront Tyler, her childhood best friend’s brother–and the man who inspired the antagonist in her first book. If she can prove that she told the truth about what happened during those long-ago summers, perhaps she can put the letter’s claims to rest and meet the swiftly approaching deadline for her next book.
But what she discovers as she delves into the murky past is not what she expected. While facing Tyler isn’t easy, facing the consequences of her failed friendship with his sister, Cami, may be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.
Plumb the depths of the human heart with this emotional exploration of how a friendship dies, how we can face the unforgivable, and how even those who have been hurt can learn to love with abandon.
First of all, I applaud the author for approaching the difficult subject of rape and sexual assault.
The reason for me not giving it a 5-star review is because it got confusing at times throughout the story when the main character, Kendra, jumped from present to past. Also, I had to reread the first pages a few times to realize Kendra was narrating to her best friend. This whole book is Kendra talking in her head to her best friend, which is clever. But it took a while to figure it out, taking me out of the story in a frustrating manner. I’m not sure I would have pushed on if I hadn’t read other books by Erin Bartels and knew she could deliver.
The last reason for not giving it 5stars is because it’s missing the spiritual element desired when I pick up a Christian novel. It almost doesn’t seem like a Christian book with lots of mention of alcohol and the main character in a bikini most of the time. I read many mainstream books, so the content did not offend me. But some pages are borderline of explicit sexual scenes. Being that the story is about Kendra’s quest to confront her past and work through emotional baggage that plagued her life as a rape victim, I understand but would have expected fewer details from a Christian publisher.
Halfway through the book, I said, “This is a three-star. I’m moving on to the next book.” But I kept on reading. Perhaps being a victim myself, I wanted to see the author’s writing. I’m glad I did. So much raw emotion behind the lost innocence, guilt, and the loss of a best friend, made me cry. Cleansing tears. I can resonate with the death of a Best friend at a young age and being a rape victim. Erin Bartel hit those emotions well. This book isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s heavy. I hope people will find healing or the start of it when they read it. There is a theme of forgiveness floating around, but it’s not intense. Kendra wants to hang on to the good memories and burn what represents the past, which is good. I just wish it offered more Godly hope. It has a bitter-sweet but strong ending. It’s one of those good ones that will haunt you for days. It just took a while to get there. It started as a slow-paced 3 star, then gradually ended in a 5star. Since it’s a book that I kept putting down initially, I will rate it a 4.
The publisher gave me a complimentary copy, and I was not required to provide a good review. These thoughts and opinions are my own.