Where Hope Begins – Catherine West Thomas Nelson – Published 22 May 2018
In the aftermath of her husband’s act of adultery and abandonment, Savannah must finally face the ghosts that haunt her and discover for herself whether authentic faith, grace, and ultimate healing really do exist.
When her husband of twenty-one years leaves her, Savannah Barrington believes she’s lost almost everything she’s ever loved. With her daughter in college and her son in boarding school, Savannah retreats to her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, where hope and healing come in the form of an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, a touch of magic, and a handsome man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove she’s still worth loving.
But when her husband asks to reconcile, Savannah is faced with the hardest challenge of all: Forgiving the unforgivable. Somehow she must find freedom from the chains of their past and move forward, or face an unknown future without him.
How do you cope with something that tears apart your marriage and destroys your dreams for the future, leaving your self-esteem in tatters? How do you hold on to hope through all that? Catherine West delivers a powerful novel that is at once both utterly heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. As the title suggests, Where Hope Begins is about starting over and finding that glimmer of hope in the harshness of broken dreams.
Savannah’s husband is leaving her. After twenty-one years of marriage, three children, and facing devastating challenges, he is leaving her for another woman. Unsure what her next move should be, Savannah heads to the safety of her parents’ holiday home. There she connects with her charming neighbours, writer and single dad, Brock and his sweet daughter Maysie, and Brock’s charming and quaint aunt, Clarice. They open their hearts, home, and greenhouse to Savannah and show her that she is worthy of love and grace. But when her husband asks to reconcile, Savannah’s world is sent into a spin once again as she must decide what she wants.
There is something a little magical about this book. From the descriptions of the frozen beauty of Savannah’s hideaway at the lake, to the all-knowing neighbour Clarice and her glasshouse like something out of Burnett’s Secret Garden. Where Hope Begins charmed and seduced me, and entangled me within its web of emotions, heartbreak, and story of second chances. The devastation Savannah feels is clear from the very first few sentences. And then, a few more paragraphs in, it is revealed that Savannah has already faced far, far worse. West so aptly conveys the tumultuous emotions Savannah experiences.
I underestimated the effect this book would have on me. It covers a range of sad and emotive topics, from adultery and relationship breakdown, to suicide, grief, and the gut wrenching loss of a child. Yet the emotions in Where Hope Begins hit me like a punch to the gut. I had to stop reading the last section and pick it up again when I had some time alone, so that I could fall apart completely without any witnesses to my reaction to this story. Tears of sadness, tear of joy, tears of amazement – Where Hope Begins should not be read without an accompanying box of tissues.
The whole book I was is suspense: would Savannah return to her husband? At first I really wanted it to work out one way and then I wasn’t sure. The best thing, I felt, was that there was no judgment. I felt that it would be okay no matter what Savannah chose and that understanding was present throughout the book. In fact, the only time a character delivers some sort of judgment or “you should do this” it is shut down pretty quickly. Yet this is just Savannah’s story. Because it worked out the way it did for her doesn’t mean that it would or should work for everyone, and West clarifies that message in her author’s note, reinforcing what she conveys in every word of this magnificent novel.
Where Hope Begins is written in first-person from Savannah’s perspective. It also includes third-person narration from the view-point of Brock and Zoe, Savannah’s daughter. These extra perspectives allow for the full impact of the story to be conveyed. Frequent flashbacks to times throughout Savannah’s twenty years of marriage serve to fill in the gaps of the events of the last twenty years and also reinforce the strong bond Savannah and her husband once shared.
If I had to choose only one word to describe Where Hope Begins it would be powerful. Powerful in its ability to convey such an incredibly sad story, incredibly sad events, in such a hopeful and grace-filled way. Powerful in its writing style and how it so quickly captures the emotions of the characters, drawing the reader into the story. Powerful in all the little things that tie together. A powerful ending (and that is a huge understatement). And powerful in its message of forgiveness, grace, and second chances.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Christian contemporary.
Themes: Marriage, relationship breakdown, romance, family, suicide, death of a child, parenting, gardening, grief, guilt, forgiveness, faith, reconciliation, adultery.
Published: 22 May 2018 by Thomas Nelson.
Format: Paperback, ebook, audiobook. 368 pages.