"I felt torn between two worlds. Each with its own mystery. One more captivating than the other, but the other more real and breathing."
It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream---reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. But while Sam treks into the Himalayas for weeks at a time, finding passion and purpose in his work among the needy, Lauren and Ryan stay behind, their daily reality more taxing than inspiring. For them, what started as a calling begins to feel like the family's undoing.
At the peak of her isolation and disillusion, a friend from Lauren's past enters her life again. But as her communication with Aidan intensifies, so does the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past. It's thirteen-year-old Ryan who most keenly bears the brunt of her distraction.
Intimate and bold, Of Stillness and Storm weaves profound dilemmas into a tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry.
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I was immediately attracted to this novel. From its poetic title to its symbolic book cover and book description. My instincts were right. Of Stillness and Storm is full of depth, rich in character with an expat and missionary setting that pulls you in from the first page and doesn't let go until the last page, leaving you spent with conflicting emotions.
Lauren is a dutiful and supportive wife to Sam, her missionary husband who is living his dream of helping tribes in remote areas of Nepal. He is usually gone for three weeks at a time into these remote regions while Lauren and their thirteen-year-old son Ryan make the best of their expat life without him every time he's gone. Ryan, who never wanted to leave his home is resentful, withdrawn and brimming with unleashed anger. Lauren is torn between supporting Sam and trying to be a good mother to Ryan.
Their lives begin to unravel when Aiden, a friend from Lauren's life connects with her on Facebook. A friend from her past, from her teen years who "gets" her and understands her. As Lauren becomes distracted with her own unmet needs and Sam refuses to acknowledge that his absence and obsession is tearing his family apart, Ryan is left to deal with his loneliness and misery. The stillness with become a storm.
I loved reading this book. Michèle Phoenix's writing style is beautiful, lyrical and full of depth and emotions. She brings Nepal to life, as well as the expat life. As a woman, I understood Lauren's feelings of wanting to be supportive to a husband she loves, while dealing with a teenager who is angry. She aches for her son, for what is lost and for her feelings of helplessness. She works hard to keep it all together.
Through a dual timeline, the story goes back and forth between the present day and Lauren's past when she first met Sam, the way they fell in love and their joy at their son's birth after trying for so long. The author succeeds in creating depth for her characters in this way, in unravelling the layers of emotions and where they came from. We come to understand Lauren's former connection with Aiden and what he meant to her.
Of Stillness and Storm is thought-provoking and would make a great book club choice. It explores family life and what it means to be a missionary, especially when one has a family. It touches on obsession, first love, unresolved issues, and faith. This book has made it on my best reads for 2016 list.
After visiting the author's website, I was excited to realize I have her previous novel Tangled Ashes on my Kindle! I have now moved that book up on my TBR list. And I will make time to read her other previous novels too. Her website also includes videos and the backstory to her novels which I thought was so interesting. I am now Michèle Phoenix's latest fan.
To read more reviews, please visit Michèle Phoenix's page on Litfuse.
Disclosure: Thanks to Litfuse for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.
Born in France to a Canadian father and an American mother, Michèle Phoenix is a consultant, writer and speaker with a heart for Third Culture Kids. She taught for 20 years at Black Forest Academy (Germany) before launching her own advocacy venture under Global Outreach Mission. Michèle travels globally to consult and teach on topics related to this unique people group. She loves good conversations, mischievous students, Marvel movies and paths to healing.
Take Michèle's new book with you on your winter vacation and enter to win her Bookworm On-the-Go Prize Pack (because you can't take a stack of books with you when you travel).
One grand prize winner will receive: