By Francine Rivers
Genre: Christian, Historical, Romance, Fiction
Point of View: Third Person (The Prologue and Epilogue are First Person)
Published: 2005 (20th Anniversary Edition)
Back Cover Summary:
A Story of Love That Won’t Let Go — No Matter What! California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.
Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.
Then she meets Michael Hosea, a man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything. Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.
But with her unexpected softening comes overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she no longer can deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael does… the One who will never let her go.
A powerful retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, Redeeming Love is a life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.
Faith and Trust in God, Forgiveness of Self and Forgiveness of Others, the Past Affects the Present if it is not Settled, and Unconditional Love.
I think it is safe to say that if you have read a considerable amount of Christian Fiction or know someone who has, you have heard of Redeeming Love or at least the author who wrote it: Francine Rivers. Several years ago, I came across the book in my church’s bookstore, but I decided not to buy the book. Then, sometime after that, a friend recommended that I read it. Still, I did not purchase the book. It was not until another friend recommended the book that I, finally, got the book in 2016. Funny enough, it would be several months later that I actually read the book. I tell you all that because as I reflect on reading the book and now doing this book review, I think that this was the right season for me to read and do a book review on this redemptive story.
This book review will have NO SIGNFICANT SPOILERS. As the back cover points out that this novel is a “retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea,” the novel is upfront about the connection, for the primary male character, twenty-six year old Michael carries the surname Hosea. Michael even talks about Gomer and Hosea’s story in chapter ten. Even though, the premise is quite similar to Gomer and Hosea’s story, Redeeming Love builds on it by adding layers and dynamics that we do not know about in Gomer and Hosea’s relationship.
A prime example of the layers readers can appreciate is the story behind eighteen-year-old Angel Hosea becoming a prostitute. In 1835 New England, readers meet a young girl named Sarah in the prologue. As I read the beginning of the prologue, it was clear to me that Sarah would become Angel; personally, I do not think the intention is for readers to find that surprising. What is surprising (and heart wrenching) is what transpires from the start of the prologue until the prologue’s conclusion thirty pages later: the amount of rejection Sarah experienced. Rejection is something that everyone to some degree has faced or will face at some point. Everyone who has experienced it can agree that it hurts.
Moreover, it can affect your expectations/reaction of/towards others. In the prologue, Sarah learns a defining lesson from a woman named Cleo—who worked for Sarah’s mother— that influences Sarah’s perspective years later. Cleo says,
‘I’m going to tell you God’s truth, little girl. You listen good… All men want to do is use you. When you give them your heart, they tear it to shreds.’ [Cleo] drank more, and her voice slurred. ‘None of ’em care’” (30).
My first reaction to Cleo’s statement was that she was coming from a place of hurt from her own experiences with men, and as the story progresses, Sarah/Angel will take her experiences of rejection and being used as an object, and expect the same from her husband, Michael. Many of us can admit that we might be on guard in a new relationship with a friend, a boyfriend, or a new church family, for example because of a negative experience when your guard was let down. You might realize over time that that new friend is not the old friend who hurt you and you slowly begin to let your guard down.
In addition to letting the past affect our view of new people who enter our lives, like Cleo, the past can also influence how we might view God. Whether it is an experience at a church, a friend, a family member, a teacher, a boss, a co-worker, etc. Something has been said over you or about you that left a scar. For instance, “you’re not smart enough to get into that college;” “you’re not pretty;” “why can’t you be like your sibling;” the list goes on. With each negative statement spoken over you, it shifts your internal dialogue about yourself and thusly, what you believe God thinks about you. For those like Sarah/Angel who have a much more painful past, you might have a difficult time seeking God or even accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior because the enemy keeps reminding you of your past; consequently, you think that you are unworthy of God’s best for you, and you are unworthy of God’s love.
One of my favorite moments in the book happens between Michael and Sarah/Angel in chapter eleven, where Michael tells his wife something that speaks precisely to God’s unwavering love for us. Michael says, “I’m right here… I’m not going to leave you in darkness” (137). In those moments where we think we are underserving, and in those moments where we cannot understand how God’s going to bring our loved one out of the darkness, God wants us to embraces his love for us, to see ourselves the way he sees us, to keep praying, to keep believing, and to keep trusting him. God hears our prayers. We might not see a change in the situation yet, but it will change.
When I finished the book, I closed it feeling that Sarah/Angel’s evolution from the beginning of the book to the end shows readers that the only way to overcome scars of the past is to turn to the one who never rejects us, never gives up on us and loves unconditionally: God. Deuteronomy 31:6 expresses God’s heart for all of his children as Moses says to Joshua,
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave nor forsake you.”
Rating: 4 out of 5
· Are You A Fan of Francine Rivers?
· If So, Which Book of Mrs. Rivers Would You Recommend that I Read Next?
· If Not, Did This Review Pique Your Interest to Read, Redeeming Love?
Bible Verse from Holy Bible: New International Version