Love's Abiding Joy (by Janette Oke)

I first came across Janette Oke's writing about fifteen years ago, when we were living in the USA. I liked what I read, although it was fairly lightweight, and over the years have collected a few of her books to read and re-read. They are not all in print in the UK, so I was pleased when a who friend left the country recently decided to give me some of her books by this author.

'Love's Abiding Joy' is fourth in the 'Love Comes Softly' series about a growing family in the pioneer days in the USA. The first novel in the eight-volume series is called 'Love Comes Softly'. I haven't read that for about fifteen years, but somehow still remember clearly the difficult marriage of convenience between Clark and Marty, and the way that love started to grow as they helped each other deal with loneliness and the many problems of life in those times.

I read 'Love's Enduring Promise' a couple of months ago; I don't have the third in the series, but it apparently involves Missie, Clark's oldest daughter, moving 'out West' with her new husband.

In 'Love's Abiding Joy', Clark and Marty decide to go on a long train journey to visit Missie, and to meet their two young grandsons for the first time. The rest of their family is almost grown up, and quite capable of looking after their farm and house for a month in their absence.

There's great joy in the reunion - enough to make tears come to my eyes more than once - but then a tragic incident means that their return must be delayed for many more months.

Somehow, despite this being very light reading, and not exactly great literature, Janette Oke's characters get under my skin. I feel as if I almost know them. It helps to have read the earlier books, or at least one or two of them, because there are a fairly large number of characters mentioned. Although this story is complete in itself, some of the names might be confusing to anyone who had not read anything else in the series.

Since it's American Christian fiction (despite the author being Canadian!) there's a certain amount of obligatory evangelism. It's done well, slipped into relevant conversations without feeling forced or pushy. Christianity is very important to Marty and Clark and their family, so it's only natural that they talk about such things, and care about the eternal destinies of their friends.

It's also very moving. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but found myself reading when I should have been doing other things, and finished it within about 24 hours. It's not a long book, and would be suitable for children or teenagers. Like the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, this gives a good idea of some of the experiences of living in the pioneer times.

Recommended to anyone who likes this kind of book, and who wants a light unchallenging read.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 20th December 2008

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