For eighteen years Serena Soltanis has poured herself into her family, making every effort to please her husband and to protect her daughters from the evils of the world. Respected and admired for her obvious parenting success, she leads a popular mothers’ group at her church, passing along wisdom gained through years of experience.
until she woke up in a mother’s worst nightmare.
Then the unthinkable happens. Sixteen-year-old Tristan, the quiet “good girl” of the family, disappears–and the search brings to light unpleasant truths that prompt Serena to question nearly everything she believes about her children, her marriage, and her faith.
“Where did we go wrong?”
Brokenhearted by her daughter’s behavior and her husband’s angry response, Serena struggles to see God’s hand of grace in their lives. Initially determined to rescue Tristan from whatever trouble she’s in, Serena learns the painful lesson that true strength won’t be found in regaining control of her daughter’s choices but in finally learning when to let go.
I haven't read a lot of Christian fiction in the past – with the exception of my slight obsession with Amish novels – but I'd definitely consider getting hold of more of it after this book. Sixteen-year-old Tristan vanishes into thin air, much to the shock of her family. Everyone assumes that she must have been kidnapped, because surely such a happy "good girl" with a loving family wouldn't leave of her own accord...would she? But all is not as it seems. As the search for their daughter progresses, Serena begins to realise that by overprotecting Tristan they've pushed her so far away from them that they don't even know who she is anymore. While her husband refuses to admit that their daughter would willingly want to leave home, Serena is forced to admit that blindly following her husband's rules and advice will not bring their daughter back, and that this may have forced her to leave in the first place. Serena has to take matters into her own hands as she searches for her teenage daughter, and trust that God can help to bridge the gap between them.
While I was initially unsympathetic towards the character of Serena, a woman who believed that her family was "perfect" and that by wrapping her children in cotton wool she could protect them from the "evils" of the world, I came to like her more as she grew and changed throughout the novel. Serena is not too proud to admit that she has made mistakes in her past and humbles herself so that she can bring her daughter home. She is surrounded by a host of wonderful secondary characters - the quirky but well-meaning Aunt Pete, her youngest daughter Max and an unlikely friend, Hazel, covered in tattoos with an unruly brood of children but a heart of gold. The one character that I couldn’t stand was Serena’s husband, Nick. Just reading about his arrogance made me want to throw something! I know that Nick was vital to the story but I could not fathom why Serena had married such a man or stayed under his thumb for so long. I also found it difficult to believe that his actions were based upon his desire to please God. While God and Christianity didn’t actually feature a huge amount in this book, the message seemed to be that God is always with us, even though the bad times, and that God’s grace is always there, no matter what we do. While, to me at least, this isn’t a new and radical idea it appears that this is something people need to hear.
While I found it hard to emphasise with some of the characters – at least for part of this book – this was incredibly hard to put down. The search for Tristan should compel many to read on, and although the ending isn’t tied nicely in a big, red bow, seeing Serena’s character mature and change is very satisfying. 9/10