I almost chose not to review this novel. Not because it's poorly written or any of those kinds of reasons. Lisa Samson is a great storyteller and a gifted writer. The Sky Beneath My Feet, published by Thomas Nelson, is a contemporary novel which could be labeled Women's Fiction because of the first person telling by Elizabeth/Eliza/Beth of her predicament when her husband Rick is granted a month long vacation away from his duties as Men's Pastor at their large church. When Beth is given a key by a generous parishoner to a beach bungalow in Florida for their vacation, she is shocked to learn what Rick has planned for his vacation.
So, the reason I wasn't going to review this story is because I didn't really like Beth. Or Rick. Or their son Eli who turned 16 about midway through the book. Nor did I like the portrayal of their church because it depicted (and mocked) so many characteristics, problem areas, and Christian clichés of many churches today. However, part of those problems are personified in people like Beth and Rick. And although clumsy and selfish in his aim to remedy a problem, Rick at least attempted to find a solution. Beth chose to whine, complain, and pout.
When Beth's brother Gregory comes to visit seeking a dire favor, Beth accompanies him to a scary part of town to rescue a young girl who's addicted to heroine and staying at a ramshackle house called Mission Up. Somehow visiting this place causes Beth to find a purpose she discarded when she married Rick and had two sons.
There's a conflict between wealth and poverty, works and faith, and people who attend and do ministry in the church but appear unable to hear from God. This story seems to subtly point the finger at those who don't do ministry where it's greatly needed, but ignores the glaring problem of those who haphazardly seek after or randomly listen to the Lord. Admittedly, we all travel through the spiritual deserts of our making, experiencing an unquenchable dryness in our walks, but much of that is our own doing. We allow distance between us and the Lord because of so many variables that create it, all unique to personal situations. God is patient and uses whatever it takes to draw us back to Him. Purpose is what Beth and Rick needed to get their focuses back to what matters and this is where they were finally able to find some unity in their directives.
And this is why I wasn't going to review the book - because I just talked about the underlying message or agenda of the story rather than the story itself. I was distracted by the agenda, and the unraveling of the message took an unusual journey to arrive at its ultimate destination. The journey was only sometimes compelling because the individuals involved weren't really very satisfying.
This review is not to criticize Lisa Samson. She's a superior talent, and she always writes with purpose. Honestly, I just didn't feel like the means to the end worked to accomplish the intended agenda - or perhaps the story itself didn't work for me. Which is of course just my opinion.
I'd still recommend any of Lisa's novels to readers who want a different kind of story from a very good writer who always looks at people and life from a unique perspective, creating unusual characters and meaningful, thought-provoking literature.
Father, please watch over Lisa, minister to her heart and soul, renew her spirit, and keep her safe from all harm. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.