The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Return To Me (The Restoration Chronicles #1) by Lynn Austin

Publisher:  Bethany House Publishers
Release Date:  October 1, 2013
Pages:  465
Return to Me by Lynn Austin
About the Book:  After years of watching his children and grandchildren wander from their faith, Iddo's prayers are answered: King Cyrus is allowing God's chosen people to return to Jerusalem. Jubilant, he joyfully prepares for their departure, only to learn that his family, grown comfortable in the pagan culture of Babylon, wants to remain. 
Zechariah, Iddo's oldest grandson, feels torn between his grandfather's ancient beliefs and the comfort and success his father enjoys in Babylon. But he soon begins to hear the voice of God, encouraging him to return to the land given to his forefathers. 
Bringing to life the biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, "Return to Me" tells the compelling story of Iddo and Zechariah, the women who love them, and the faithful followers who struggle to rebuild their lives in obedience to the God who beckons them home.

Wanda's Review:  The 70 years of captivity are nearly over. The people of Babylon were told that they should return home, that a new exodus from slavery would be provided. They were instructed to return to Jerusalem, the land that was promised to Abraham, and rebuild the Temple. 

Iddo made the decision to return to Jerusalem, but his family became divided. He firmly believed if they stayed in Babylon, surrounded by pagan people and their wicked ways, they would become just like them. Iddo's sons told him to look around to see what he had now, here in Babylon, instead of longing for the past or trying to see into the future. They accused Iddo of living in a dream world. Neither son believed in the unseen world of facts and prayer. They had many doubts and questions and weren't willing to make the journey to Jerusalem. Sadness always seemed to hover over Iddo. He was plagued with nightmares about his past life. He still carried a lot of grief and hurt from his younger days in Jerusalem, but he was still able to move on, in spite of those days. 

42,000 people from Babylon start the journey to Jerusalem, in small caravans, leaving a day apart. Leaving many of their family members behind, Iddo, Dinah, and their grandson Zachariah, begin the arduous journey for the promised land. But when they arrive, Jerusalem is no longer the beautiful city the psalmists described. Restoring it would be challenging, and the story unfolds ----

Dinah - Iddo's wife, at age 54, her arms were full with her extended family living together in Babylon, but her heart was content. She was a midwife - the miracle of birth always moved her. She loved the busy life with her family. She had some serious concerns about leaving Babylon, the only home she'd ever known. Moving to Jerusalem would mean catastrophic changes in her life. 

Zachariah was nearly 12 years old and was the favorite of Iddo's grandsons. Zachariah was a bright and gifted boy. He decides to leave his parents and travel with his grandparents to Jerusalem.

Yael - Her mother, Miriam, on her deathbed, asked Dinah to take care of Yael after she was gone, to teach her things, and help her to find a worthy husband. Yael becomes strongly influenced by Parthia, a sorceress, who claims Yael has talent for seeing the future. She wants to worship the stars and the moon goddess and becomes defiant and very stubborn through the storyline as she practices pagan astrology. She keeps walking deeper into darkness with each passing year. 

Leyla was the same age as Yael and they become best friends. They have so much in common. She was Jewish and they both lost their mother at an early age. Yael has always been frail and sickly through her life. She also worshipped the moon goddess as Yael did. 

This is a story of new beginnings with a rich blend of history, faith, and redemption. The complex characters are well portrayed, bringing the biblical history to life. A beautifully written story and one that I highly recommend. My rating - 5 stars. 
I was provided a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers to read and review. All opinions shared are solely my responsibility.

About the Author:  For many years, Lynn Austin nurtured a desire to write but frequent travels and the demands of her growing family postponed her career. When her husband's work took Lynn to Bogota, Colombia, for two years, she used the B.A. she'd earned at Southern Connecticut State University to become a teacher. After returning to the U.S., the Austins moved to Anderson, Indiana, Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

It was during the long Canadian winters at home with her children that Lynn made progress on her dream to write, carving out a few hours of writing time each day while her children napped. Lynn credits her early experience of learning to write amid the chaos of family life for her ability to be a productive writer while making sure her family remains her top priority.

Extended family is also very important to Austin, and it was a lively discussion between Lynn, her mother, grandmother, and daughter concerning the change in women's roles through the generations that sparked the inspiration for her novel Eve's Daughters.

Along with reading, two of Lynn's lifelong passions are history and archaeology. While researching her Biblical fiction series, Chronicles of the Kings, these two interests led her to pursue graduate studies in Biblical Backgrounds and Archaeology through Southwestern Theological Seminary. She and her son traveled to Israel during the summer of 1989 to take part in an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Timnah. This experience contributed to the inspiration for her novel Wings of Refuge.

Lynn resigned from teaching to write full-time in 1992. Since then she has published twelve novels. Eight of her historical novels have won Christy Awards for excellence in Christian Fiction: Hidden Places (2001), Candle in the Darkness (2002), Fire by Night (2003), A Proper Pursuit (2007), Until We Reach Home (2008), Though Waters Roar (2009) While We're Far Apart (2010), and Wonderland Creek (2011). Fire by Night was also one of only five inspirational fiction books chosen by Library Journal for their top picks of 2003, and All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. Lynn's novel Hidden Places has been made into a movie for the Hallmark Channel, starring actress Shirley Jones. Ms Jones received a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film.