When the world around you falls apart, could it be that God is giving you a second chance? This is just one of the questions on Charlotte Stevenson’s mind as she brings her three grandchildren to live on the family farm in Guidepost Books’ Home to Heather Creek series.
Before the Dawn begins just one week after the funeral of Charlotte’s daughter, Denise. Denise’s three children barely have time to process the death of their mother before they must move to the Heather Creek Farm they have never visited with grandparents they barely know. At age 16, Sam is fiercely protective of his younger siblings. Emily is 14 and desperately misses her friends. Young Christopher is only 8 and just wants to fit in. While Charlotte tries to help her grandchildren adjust to their new life, she also wrestles with her own grief and the enormous task of bringing her family together. Bob believes the fastest path to adjustment is a firm routine, with structure and chores, the same way they raised their own kids. However, that route led to Denise running away from home as a teenager and an estranged relationship with her family. Charlotte is worried about making the same mistakes she made with Denise. Is this her chance to make things right?
It is spring when the children arrive, and as Charlotte looks around the farm, she hopes the new life around them will signify hope and healing. The miracle of new life, along with God’s healing touch, reminds all of them that it’s always darkest just before the dawn.
The first book in the series begins right after a tragedy. Charlotte's daughter Denise is killed in a tragic accident and her three children are now in the custody of the grandparents they barely know. Ages 16, 14 and 10 the kids are just going through the motions. Charlotte and Bob have to help the kids find a routine on the farm, after life in California. Everything they know has been turned upside down. Charlotte and Bob both have a strong faith, and they fear that faith and that need for order is what sent Denise packing in the first place. They struggle to know how best to start raising these children, and to overcome their own grief.
I loved the farm setting. We have raised our own children on a farm for much of their life and it does seem that there an be more healing in doing some of the mundane jobs of a farm, and getting into a different routine than what was know. This was a hard book to not internalize the sadness of the characters. I felt weepy from the beginning for the children and Charlotte. The author did a great job of contrasting the language and activities of the kids versus the grandparents. I haven't read many books where the main character was a grandma, and I enjoyed how I knew she was simply by reading it. Things like offering the kids cookies as soon as they get there!
Sweet September picks up at harvest time, as the children are settling into a new school year. While the harvest should be an exciting time, the children don’t seem to be getting into the spirit. Emily is struggling with farm life, Christopher spends most of his time alone, and Sam is failing school. Trying to learn from what did and didn’t work with her own kids, Charlotte is determined to get her grandchildren back on track.
As tenuous family bonds threaten to break apart, a mystery on the farm might be the one thing that can bond the family together. Charlotte sets out to uncover the truth, and as the kids unite to find answers, this cobbled-together family learns more about one another and the love that binds them together.
The lives of the Stevensons and their grandchildren unfold in this captivating story of the remarkable change that comes from the love of family, the kindness of others, sheer persistence and unshakable faith. As readers follow the Stevensons’ inspiring stories, it’s almost impossible not feel a part of this friendly, loving community, where God’s grace can be seen in every circumstance.
The second in the series is written by Tricia Goyer. The kids are still trying to adjust as are Charlotte and Bob, but they are definitely moving in the right direction. Bob's health starts going down hill some and Uncle Pete tries to help save the farm by coming up with some new planting and seeds for the next harvest. Bob of course doesn't want to relinquish any of his control to his son Pete. Tricia brings in some history as Bob talks about the Dust Bowl and World War II and the times that people sought refuge at Heather Creek. I enjoyed this story with Bob being more of a focus character and works through his own grief at losing Denise and learning to be a caregiver to his grandchildren.
I loved the farm scene in the novel. The daily chores with the animals, the canning, the large breakfasts. The book really gives you a feeling of 'home' with the great details of the love shared in this old farmhouse.
About the AuthorsKathleen Bauer is the pen name for a team of writers who have come together to create the Home to Heather Creek series.
Before the Dawn was written by Carolyne Aarsen. Originally a city girl, Aarsen moved to the countryside near Neerlandia, Alberta, when she married her husband, Richard. While raising four children, foster children and various animals, she learned how to drive tractors, front-end loaders and ATVs. She grew a garden and learned to can and preserve its produce. Somewhere in all this Aarsen learned to write. Since 1997 she has written more than 40 books. Learn more at www.carolyneaarsen.com.
Tricia Goyer is the author of Sweet September. A best-selling author of more than 35 books (both fiction and non-fiction) as well as 500+ magazine articles, she is a two-time Carol Award winner, and a Christy award and ECPA Award Finalist. Tricia is on the blogging team at www.MomLifeToday.com and www.TheBetterMom.com. She is the founder of Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Northwestern Montana, and she currently heads up a Teen Mops Group in Little Rock, Arkansas. Tricia is the creator of www.NotQuiteAmishLiving.com and hosts a weekly radio podcast, Living Inspired. Find out more about Goyer at www.TriciaGoyer.com.
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