Wednesday, January 10, 2018

#BookReview: There is Always a Tomorrow by Anna Belfrage

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It is 1692 and the Colony of Maryland is still adapting to the consequences of Coode’s Rebellion some years previously.

Religious tolerance in the colony is now a thing of the past, but safe in their home, Alex and Matthew Graham have no reason to suspect they will become embroiled in the ongoing religious conflicts—until one of their sons betrays their friend Carlos Muñoz to the authorities.

Matthew Graham does not leave his friends to rot—not even if they’re papist priests—so soon enough most of the Graham family is involved in a rescue attempt, desperate to save Carlos from a sentence that may well kill him.

Meanwhile, in London little Rachel is going through hell. In a matter of months she loses everything, even her surname, as apparently her father is not Master Cooke but one Jacob Graham. Not that her paternity matters when her entire life implodes.

Will Alex and Matthew be able to help their unknown grandchild? More importantly, will Rachel want their help?
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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★   |   Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library   |   Read: January 2, 2018
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I grieved in March 2015 when author Anna Belfrage announced To Catch a Falling Star would be the eighth and final installment of the Graham Saga. Though mollified by the news that she'd be moving on to other projects, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to these characters. Fortunately for me, they were equally opposed to the idea and inspired their author to pull an about-face with the publication of book nine, There is Always a Tomorrow, in late 2017. As of early 2018, there is no official word on book ten, but I'd like to go on record and say that any and all denial of additional books by Belfrage will be considered unsubstantiated until I receive personal notification from either Alex Graham or her heir(s) apparent.

All joking aside, I also want to note that while the novels can be read as standalones, I recommend tackling the books in order as events from the earlier novels are often referenced and expanded on in later volumes. Belfrage takes care to often enough detail for new readers to understand the dramatic context each story, but I personally feel There is Always a Tomorrow carries more emotional weight for readers who've experienced both Serpents in the Garden and Revenge and Retribution.

The wake of Coode's Rebellion provides an intriguing backdrop for this volume of the Graham story. The novel itself does not cover the Puritan-led revolt against the proprietary government, but it does explore the ramifications of its outcome. In a dramatic shift, Catholicism was effectively outlawed in the colony of Maryland, and I liked how Belfrage paired the larger conflict with religious diversity within the Graham family to illustrate the injustice of intolerance.

That said, it is Rachel who proves the most thought-provoking character of the novel. Jacob's daughter isn't easy to like at the best of times, but her unpleasant demeanor is tempered by the tragedy of her experiences. Rachel's story is deliberately dark and uncomfortable, and while I can't claim to have enjoyed reading it, I will say that admired Belfrage for its inclusion. Though difficult, Rachel deserves more than the cards she was dealt and I liked how the narrative encourages readers to look beyond her antics to understand the lasting effects of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.

White Bear/Samuel's story stands in stark contrast to Rachel's. Caught between two diverse cultures, There is Always a Tomorrow sees him forced to claim one or the other as his own. Fans of the series understand this moment has been a long time coming, but I loved that it was ultimately perpetuated by White Bear/Samuel's desire to protect his children. A parent myself, I found the moment intensely relatable and couldn't help grinning at Belfrage's ability to capture such intimate emotional detail in the context of these novels.

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"May He who watches over us guide your step and lead you home."
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FLASHLIGHT COMMENTARY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FANS OF ANNA BELFRAGE:

A Rip in the Veil
★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Like Chaff in the Wind
★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Prodigal Son
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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1 comment:

Anna Belfrage said...

What a lovely review! Thank you. I also think it is important to point out that you, Erin, indirectly have influenced the character development of Rachel by wondering why authors were so hesitant to have relativelt unlikeable characters featured in their novels. Rachel is not a nice person--I see her as a concentrated version of Nellie in the books about the little house on the prarie. But just because she's prickly and sour rather than sweet doesn't mean she deserves the things that happen to her.