In Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan's collaboration, Beth Thatcher, middle daughter of a wealthy Toronto family, strikes out from the norm and decides to teach school in the far west, much like her aunt before her. When she arrives, baggage-less, she is immersed in the "primitive" culture even more than she anticipated. While learning to cope without the luxuries to which she was accustomed, she also learns that she has a heart for the families of the poor town - not just the school children, but even the Italian immigrant miners. However, her contract is only for one year - can she make a difference in the lives of these people in so little time, and will she even want to come back if given the opportunity?
Beth grows considerably through the story, from a coddled peace-maker who can barely stand up for herself to an independent young teacher reaching out to outcasts. Left frail from a childhood illness, her mother has always been overly protective of her, keeping Beth hemmed in and safe, but not really free to be herself. By striking out on her own, she is finally given the opportunity to grow into her potential. Though she may never be terribly strong physically, she becomes a strong woman of faith.
While Molly is full of nuggets of wisdom, one that hit home for me (and one that I need constant reminding of) is to cast my cares on Jesus, not try to carry that burden myself. Molly says, "Cast yer cares and worries at His feet, and in trade He gives ya a burden you can lift. Amazing how hard it is to carry all them worries - and then it turns out that the burden of the real work ain't near as vexin' as yer worries been." (227-228). It really is true - there is little that can weigh one down faster than anxiety and worries, and God asks us to give those to Him to shoulder. In exchange, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Where Courage Calls is not so much about courage in the face of grave peril, but rather courage to go where God leads, even if it is not where others would choose. I love that the story is not really about the romance, but rather about Beth's
decision to come west to teach and what she learns along the way. Reading this novel, I remember again why I so loved the Women of the West books on which I grew up. It is a book that I can recommend without reservation to anyone from young adult on up. I hope Oke and Logan choose to continue the story. 5 out of 5 stars!
Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-copy for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.
Return to the Canadian West
1. Where Courage Calls
2. Where Trust Lies
3. Where Hope Prevails