Sunday, October 30, 2016

'Guide Me Home' by Kim Vogel Sawyer


Working in the massive cave might allow Rebekah the chance to bring joy back to her family. But will it claim more than it gives?
After tragedy leaves its mark on Rebekah Hardin s family, she plans to help her parents and six siblings honor her beloved brother s memory and alleviate their poverty by working as a guide in the dangerous cave system. Kentucky s renowned Mammoth Cave presents profitable opportunities in for hardworking, capable"men." But Rebekah is determined and if it means presenting herself as a"himself," then she s up to the job. 
Under the wing of experienced guide Tolly Sanford, Reb begins to learn the complexities of the cave and the two are joined by an aspiring young cartographer, Devlin Bale. 
The university student has traveled to the hill country to map tunnels not to fall for a girl in disguise. 

Genre: Christian historical fiction

The story is about Rebekah, the eldest daughter in a family of girls. Their only brother Andy died in an accident in the nearby caves, and she's anxious to buy a good quality headstone for his grave, knowing it would please her parents. The only job she can find is a guide in the same caves that claimed his life, but it means she'll have to dress and pose as a boy.

It's also about her sister Cissy, the second eldest daughter, who is a far more restless and discontented soul, seduced by the luxuries and pleasurable lifestyles she reads about in magazines. Cissy aspires to escape the hillbilly lifestyle which is all she's ever known, to hit the big city and make the most of her assets.

It's interesting how an author's style may skew a reader's attitude. It's clearly written in such a way that we're supposed to deplore Cissy's selfishness and cheer for Bek's generous, easily satisfied nature. But I can't help noticing that Cissy's attitude is one we're most often urged to take on board in modern internet articles and self help books. Follow your dreams, don't settle for what you've always known, move out of your comfort zone, explore the world as much as you can because you don't know what you're capable of until you try. It makes me wonder whether this novel is promoting old-fashioned, outdated ways of thought, or if the wholesome, pastoral mindset really does have a lot going for it despite the obvious limitations. I think every reader needs to decide for themselves.

Anyway, the two sisters are presented as different in every possible way, but they're alike in one respect, which is a weakness for the same handsome fellow the moment they see him. He's Devlin Bale, a likable uni student who plans to chart a map of the Mammoth Caves for his land surveyor's degree. His good-natured, city boy ways made him one of my favourite characters, although he comes across a bit overly naive at times. He had nothing but suits packed in his luggage, for a couple of months of exploring caves. Come on dude, even rich kids know you need casual clothes for strenuous recreation.

The scenes in the caves are good, bringing out both awe for their beauty and respect for their possible terror. But the story reminds me of the type of Christian novel from the 1980s, with an in-your-face, straight preaching agenda. At times it verges on proselytising rather than having characters simply living out their faith an appealing, respectful way. As soon as Rebekah vows to stop Devlin from heading to hell, the tone of the book changes like a snap of the fingers, which was a bit disappointing.

Thanks to WaterBrook and Blogging for Books for giving me a review copy through NetGalley

3 stars

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