I had the privilege of being a beta reader for this novel. Even then, in a much less polished form, Jo captured my heart and my attention. She, along with her two college friends, is determined to honor God by being a true caretaker of the planet. What this means to them is that they’re beginning a sustainable living farm where they plan to live and teach others ways to reduce the impact of humanity on the natural world.
As it sounds, she’s a bit of a fanatic. Jo’s driven, sometimes blind. Adamant in her faith and how she’s chosen to express that faith.
Along comes Zach, current generation of a long-term farming family. He’s lived the farmer’s life growing up and seen how sustainable it isn’t. He has his hopes set on a city job, using the veterinarian degree he’s worked so hard to earn on pampered pets in return for culture and an easy life with modern conveniences…which include dining out whenever he gets hungry, often enough on fast food.
Zach begins the novel as a reluctant hero, home temporarily to help his mother after his father is afflicted with a serious immune disorder. He has one foot out the door, unwilling to commit to any significant length of time because it will delay his plans even more than they’ve already been hindered by a failed relationship with his former boss’s daughter.
That these two have nothing in common is obvious…or is it?
Valerie manages to take a fanatical character and teach Jo there’s more to life than her goals, while also giving her reason to consider whether brow-beating is the best approach to teach better caretaking. She also delves into poor Zach who needs to see beyond the superficial to understand what’s really in his heart in terms of his life plans, love, and faith. He needs to see beyond the struggles to the strengths to be found in a small community where people stand by each other.
This is both a sweet boy meets girl story and so much more, offering a look at how people’s relationships with God affect their outlook along with an evaluation of how different choices have an impact on our environment. There is no question that this is an inspirational romance. The faith message is strong, so if that’s a turn off, be forewarned. The environmental message, focused on local produce and understanding where our food comes from, is also strong. But don’t let me give the impression that the book is a message book rather than a story. The messages it offers are firmly within the perspectives of the various characters as they try to establish who they want to be and how they want to interact with others, the Earth, and God. They face trials of faith, of body, and of heart as they struggle to meet the challenges life offers without losing hope or giving up.
I’m happy to see this series published so that we can share in the journey of a bunch of interesting people doing interesting things as they balance faith and relationships to find their place in the world.
P.S. I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I hope you enjoy Jo and Zach’s story as much as I have.