“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's
~Psalm 103:2-5 ESV~”
First a warning, then my thoughts: Yes, this is a Christian fiction book, and contains things some people may find offensive such as drug and alcohol abuse and mention of past casual sexual relations. Both Philip and Michaela are not Christians at the start of this story... BUT most importantly, it also shows how God can turn a life around when we surrender to His leading, fall as broken people on His love, and just how far His grace extends.
“Lord, thank You that we are never, ever too lost for You to find and rescue. (Emily Conrad, author)”
This was hard for me to read in many places because I saw the destructive lifestyle one can live outside of God's mercy and grace. When someone chooses to excuse sin and deliberately live a lifestyle that is pleasing to oneself only, it can lead to heartache and regret. Though I've never made the kind of choices Michaela or Philip did, I still did my share of sinning before I became a Christian. So I could relate to how sin can coax, tempt, and how we can crave it over what is good and right.
The character growth in this story was slow at first, but I also understood why the author did it that way. Philip and Michaela have many deep waters to wade through to get to that hard-won happily ever after in both love and life, and I felt the detail was needed to flesh them out. Each layer was peeled back and revealed two very flawed people. Both of them were trying to fill those empty places with things that were temporary, and in the end, still left them wanting. I appreciated Gannon, the band manager, who was not only the voice of reason, but also one who was not afraid to share his faith in God. He was an encourager, the steady presence and the one Michaela often turned to.
“Don't put your soul or your peace of mind up for sale, no matter how high they bid. (Gannon)”
This is a gritty, raw, poignant redemption story that will hit you in the gut, remind you of the muck God took you out of, and the beautiful life He's given you because of His great love and unending mercy. I think you'll find a picture of two people who desperately needed God to be able to come though the other side of grief, messy pasts, and destructive lifestyles to finally find true freedom and clean hearts to have a bright future. The ending of this story was absolutely beautiful!
The one line that really stood out to me & reminded me of how much God loved me in spite of my past was this:
“God's been offering you love this whole time, Jesus died to win you.”
*I received a complimentary copy from the author and was not obligated to leave a favorable review. All opinions are mine. *
To Begin Again
Every dream comes at a price.
Michaela Vandehey’s reality show win transformed her from the girl whose own father ignored her into a pop singer loved by the masses. But fame has proven hard to keep. To bolster her floundering career, she heads to Wisconsin to snag a collaboration with the iconic rock band Awestruck. There, she meets bass guitarist Philip, a dad whose devotion challenges her skepticism about love and family.
Whatever faith Philip Miller had died with his wife. Now, “Amazing Grace” is nothing but a lullaby to sing to his children in her memory. Thanks to Awestruck, he can provide privileged lives for his kids, but he has no intention of finding love again. If only he weren’t so drawn to Michaela.
When he falls for her despite himself, Michaela learns the dark secret that threatens his family’s future. The grace they’ve heard so much about might grant them the fresh start they need, but to begin again, they’ll first have to sacrifice what they hold most dear.