Book Review (& FREE BOOK): Need You Now by Beth Wiseman

When everything that matters most to you seems to be falling apart, where do you turn?

After the safety of one of their children is threatened, Darlene Henderson and her husband Brad move their family from Houston to the tiny town of Round Top, Texas, moving into the old fixer-upper farm left to Darlene by her grandparents. Adjusting to the change is more difficult than any of them expected, especially for 15-year-old Grace, who becomes a cutter, using a dangerous and self-damaging way of coping with stress.

The move also begins to take a toll on the couple's marriage when Darlene decides to take a job outside the home in an effort to make new friends in the community. As the domestic tension rises, both Darlene and Brad begin to wonder whether the shared faith that has carried them through difficult times in the past will be strong enough to help them now.

To make matters worse, Darlene begins receiving inappropriate attention from the widowed father of the autistic young girl she works with at the school for special-needs children where she's employed. Unfortunately, this attention comes at a time when she's feeling vulnerable and unappreciated at home.

The small-town life that they though would be a haven from big-city dangers might just prove their undoing.

I received my review copy of Beth Wiseman‘s recently released novel, Need You Now, several weeks ago. Unfortunately, I had overcommitted myself to reading (judging two fiction contests and reading chapters from my critique group). Adding this to the heavy obligations of my law practice and a long daily commute left me with too much to do and not enough time to get it done. I put my review copy of the novel on my desk and planned to get to it “soon.” Every time I saw it on my desk I felt guilty. “I need to get that read so I can write the review I promised.” But other deadlines pressed and it got put off.

Last week I finally couldn't stand the guilt, so I picked it up at about 7 pm on Wednesday, determined to get some chapters read before bed.

At midnight (on a work night! when I had to get up at 5 am!) I finally put the book down, having read it to the end. That's how compelling I found this book.

Beth Wiseman is an award-winning, bestselling author of Amish fiction. I've never read her other novels, but the description of Need You Now (her first contemporary novel) intrigued me, so I happily accepted a review copy. She opens the story with a clever and suspenseful scene that immediately grabs you and draws you into the story. One by one, Wiseman layers on the complications and the conflicts, creating a family that the reader cares about in a situation that any of us might find ourselves in. There is no good place to put this book down–and that's why I ended up reading the whole book in one marathon sitting. Wiseman keeps you reading to find out whether these people will survive the crises that threaten to destroy this family. Will Darlene and Brad find out in time what their son is up to, and what Grace is doing to herself? Will Darlene be able to resist the temptation of a kind, understanding, attractive man? And will Brad emerge from his preoccupation with work in time to save his marriage?

I thought this book was a well written and engrossing story of how a family can fall apart little by little when nobody's paying attention, and how total destruction can be averted if people are willing to take the right steps at the right time. The characters are well drawn and believable. Although I've been employed full-time for quite awhile, I recognized in Darlene many of the career moms and homemakers that I've known, and, in fact, myself when I was at that stay-at-home mom stage of my own life. She loves her family and loves making a home for them, but sometimes feels isolated and unappreciated–even a little invisible to her family.

If I have any reservations about this novel, it's that I felt like a little too much blame was laid at Darlene's feet for taking a job instead of staying at home. There were a few places where I felt like the implication was that if she'd been home, none of this would have happened. Maybe, or maybe not. Darlene wasn't the only parent not paying close enough attention to what the kids were up to. Throughout the novel, Brad was completely preoccupied with his work and his hopes for making partner at his accounting firm. And frankly, those teenaged kids seemed a little ill-equipped to handle life–and just a little petulant about being asked to get their own breakfast sometimes.

Nevertheless, this is an outstanding novel that both entertains and challenges the reader. Maybe the lesson to be learned from the Hendersons' story is that family is just too important to take for granted.

I heartily recommend Need You Now to my friends who enjoy women's fiction. You can learn more about Beth at her website, and connect with her on Facebook. Need You Now is available in bookstores. You can find it both in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

Would you like a free copy of Need You Now? Leave a comment (and your email address) below. I'll draw a name later this month.

Greenville, Texas
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