Of Stillness and Storm by Michele Phoenix

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“Back in our lives. Back in my bed. I tried to muster up the swells of anticipation that had preceded his returns in the early stages of our life in Nepal.  But I couldn’t manufacture the longings, not anymore.”

Lauren and Sam find themselves in Nepal with son Ryan, in support of Sam’s Christian trailblazing among the poverty stricken tribes. Ideally, it seemed like the right path to take despite the sacrifices. Sure, there are power outages and frugal living- things as simple as showering are a production in effort. While Sam is off living his dream, Lauren and Ryan are left isolated, with increasing strain within their small family unit. Ryan is slipping, and in sore need of his father’s attention the reader knows something bad is about to happen. Sometimes, the most gracious, christian people lose sight of their own children while on a mission to save the world.  Lauren herself is a woman with needs, God-faring or not, and when a man from her past, Aidan, returns to her life through social media it fills a void she had been trying to ignore. Is she betraying her husband Sam? What constitutes betrayal? Is Sam betraying his family with his Christian Enthusiasm , his calling from God? Just how much hurt can such a calling excuse? And what of his son? How can a man who is selfless with strangers neglect the growing needs of his own boy?

This isn’t my usual read, but I enjoy the other-side of the story when thinking about the children of missionaries. Asking kids to be selfless, to make mature decisions, expecting them to ignore their own needs because ‘it’s God’s will’ and ‘even terrible things that occur are destined’ just leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Religious fervor can do as much harm as good, and how much of a voice do children have when adults call all the shots. From the start the reader knows Ryan didn’t want to go to Nepal. Lauren herself is torn between two worlds, and she is waking up to her son’s dangerous spiral into depression. I was surprised by what happens more between mother and son than by Lauren’s interactions and return of Aidan. It isn’t going to turn out as you would imagine from the blurbs. This isn’t some seedy novel, it’s actually more painful than I thought it would be.  Destiny is a strange companion. I enjoyed the story- sometimes the Ideal is far more enchanting than the reality of someone’s dream. Just how much would you risk, and how beholden are you to a decision you made for your spouse’s benefit when you know in your heart something is off?

Publication Date December 6, 2016

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