by Leslie Gould (Goodreads Author)Capable and optimistic Molly Zook has a slight issue with control: She doesn't like giving it up. So she's chafing against her mother's wish that, to save the family farm, she marry Mervin Mosier--especially after she meets Leon Fisher. He's from Montana but is working in Molly's district, training horses at a nearby ranch. He is tall and muscular, with a confident demeanor. Molly has never met anyone like him, and he seems to feel the same about her.
Determined to let nothing get between them, Molly decides the best course of action is to get Mervin to fall back in love with her best friend, Hannah. Molly organizes a weekend camping trip hoping to bring them together, but things quickly go awry and it seems Leon and Hannah might be falling for each other instead. Will Molly keep struggling to control everyone and everything around her? Or will she learn to let God handle the twists and turns of her life?
My Review: 6/10
This book works well as a stand-alone novel; when I requested it, I didn't realize that it was part of a series, but never had any confusion or felt like there was too much back story presented. It really is its own individual story.
The story started off very strong with vivid and unique characters. I really identified with Molly in her position as the eldest child with a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, who is bossy, has high standards and seems to break the mold of what it means to be feminine by not having a "normal" reaction to children. My feelings were hurt right along with her when her sister said some of the things that she said. Having a strong personality or being bossy doesn't necessarily give you a thick skin and, when you're not trying to take advantage of people, but just do a good job, being criticized for it, especially by someone close to you, can really hurt.
However, the one thing I disagreed with Molly on (emphatically I might add) turned out to be the whole theme/message of the book. At first, I thought Molly's whole search for love at first sight was just a natural view based on immaturity. I appreciated the tempering stories that showed other perspectives (like her own mother's) and believed, based on the synopsis, that she would learn that love comes in many different forms and would be grateful to receive it in whatever way God chose to bless her. Because of this, and its implications toward Mervin, I felt confused and had barriers up toward Leon for quite awhile.
Then at the end of the book, the author seemed to unravel all the work she had put into showing many different perspectives of love and marriage (her mother telling Molly that she lied earlier and it actually was love at first sight, for example). She just sort of tossed it all aside and started championing this idea of insta-love. That's something I have a serious problem with.
Molly pushes repeatedly for "only marrying for love." Personally, I agree that I'd prefer to be in love with the person before marrying them, but I don't believe it's necessary. I also don't believe that it will necessarily make the marriage stronger or more lasting- a constant dosage of God does that and He puts couples together in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. Anyway, Molly seemed to imply that either love was present or it wasn't and that you couldn't have a marriage without it being present. And that, I think, is a lot of the trouble with couples today. Love CAN be controlled. It's not something you're a victim of or something involuntary. It's something that is sometimes present naturally, but more often you have to work at, you have to cultivate, you have to grow with determination. Lawana Blackwell put it very well in her The Widow of Larkspur Inn book:
'And then a question cropped up into her mind from seemingly nowhere. Was love something that suddenly swooped down upon a person, like a cold? She mulled that over for a moment. It did in my case with Philip. But I know now that was only infatuation.
What if love wasn’t a mysterious “thing” that capriciously attached itself to whomever it willed? Could it be instead a deliberate choice of action? Jesus had commanded His followers to “love one another.” Would He give such a commandment if people had no control over their ability to love?
And does that mean that romantic love between a man and woman can be cultivated, just as Mrs. Kingstron cultivates her roses?
She recalled standing at a window facing the Anwyl and determining that, like Saint Paul, she would learn contentment. If contentment could be achieved through an act of will, then why couldn’t love? And it would seem that a love purposely cultivated for a man because of his kind nature and comforting ways would eventually grow stronger and deeper than one based on mere physical attraction.'
When Molly talks about love, she really only refers to the way it makes her feel- that's chemistry and attraction. With Leon, it never appears to be built on anything more than a spark. She doesn't talk about his character or values or anything really. Just how good he looks and how she's never 'felt this way' about anyone else. That instant spark, while still a good thing, is not love. Molly never realizes that while that fire can strike instantly like lightning, it can also grow and flame after a lot of work and relationship building (more like rubbing sticks together to build a fire). And I would say that a fire built, rather than instantly ignited, is more stable and lasts longer. I'm not saying that love at first sight never happens or that it can't lead to a successful marriage, I'm just saying that it's not the only way, the normal way or the best way. It's not something to hold out for and value above all other forms, the way Molly does.
Anyway, the other things I didn't like about this book were few and minor in comparison. But I really grew to strongly dislike Hannah. Most of the characters test out their flare for melodrama by crying out "how could you do this to me" now and then, but I thought it was most inappropriate when she responded that way when she was caught flirting with her best friend's beau. Now she's the victim?! I don't respect people who play mind games, so I was not okay with her trying to use Leon to get Mervin back. But it was made a million times worse by the fact that she knew there was something going on between Leon and Molly. Why would she ever think that would be okay? Hannah was just very self absorbed. Molly continually puts Hannah's needs and feelings first, always worrying about her emotionally and mentally, and Hannah takes advantage of that. She's just not a good friend, starting scenes in public, not being there for Molly when she's grieving and not speaking up (but rather talking behind her back to others, like Beatrice) when she thinks her best friend is out of line.
The end came rather abruptly with several characters back pedaling or acting unnaturally for the sake of tying up lose ends, which I just didn't like.
But I really liked the mention of the parallel to the Mary/Marthal. That was such an excellent reminder that God created us all differently and not to judge someone as 'failing' or 'lazy' etc just because they work differently, accomplish different things at different rates or have different strengths. Because we know there is only one Way, I think we often forget that there are many paths to get to Him.