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Facing the Dawn

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Mara Jacobs does her best to hold everything together, despite three detention-prone kids, an unrewarding job, never-ending chores, and a husband thousands of miles away. After a shocking loss, she must lean on those around her to find her way to healing and renewed faith.


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Mara Jacobs does her best to hold everything together, despite three detention-prone kids, an unrewarding job, never-ending chores, and a husband thousands of miles away. After a shocking loss, she must lean on those around her to find her way to healing and renewed faith.

30 review for Facing the Dawn

  1. 5 out of 5

    Melissa (LifeFullyBooked)

    Oh my, all of the tears for this one. Such a gorgeously written, beautiful book, but everything I have come to expect from Cynthia Ruchti. It is all at the same time a tale of love, loss, friendship, faith, family, and rebuilding. It evokes shades of the story of Job, the story of Ruth, and the laments of the Psalms. God's wonderful redemption in the midst of tragedy, small glimmers of hope when all seems bleak, and those who stand beside you holding you up when you can't hold yourself up--these Oh my, all of the tears for this one. Such a gorgeously written, beautiful book, but everything I have come to expect from Cynthia Ruchti. It is all at the same time a tale of love, loss, friendship, faith, family, and rebuilding. It evokes shades of the story of Job, the story of Ruth, and the laments of the Psalms. God's wonderful redemption in the midst of tragedy, small glimmers of hope when all seems bleak, and those who stand beside you holding you up when you can't hold yourself up--these are all themes that resonate throughout this novel. This is not an easy story to read, in fact it is a downright difficult story to read at times, but it is definitely worthwhile. Mara isn't an immediately likable character, but there's real life relatability in that. I think this is a book that is going to touch the reader deeply if they are in a place to open up to letting that happen. It challenged me spiritually and emotionally in some very meaningful ways, and I'm thankful for that. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    "When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O, Lord have mercy on me." Water. Mara Jacobs is not afraid of water . . . only what it represents. "Clean water took Liam's heart to Africa. Muddy water took his health. Lack of water took . . . . ". Yes, it took her husband away from her. Liam Jacobs dedicated his life to providing clean drinking water for those who needed it the most, deep in the heart of Uganda. Having served three of his four years under contract with Deep Wells, Inc. "When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O, Lord have mercy on me." Water. Mara Jacobs is not afraid of water . . . only what it represents. "Clean water took Liam's heart to Africa. Muddy water took his health. Lack of water took . . . . ". Yes, it took her husband away from her. Liam Jacobs dedicated his life to providing clean drinking water for those who needed it the most, deep in the heart of Uganda. Having served three of his four years under contract with Deep Wells, Inc. the news that Mara received was shocking. She wasn't prepared. The irony of it all. Hadn't she been the one continually assuring Liam that she was prepared . . . for anything, but this. Plunged into the depth of colorless days and endless nights, Mara struggles to find her footing; goodness, even getting out of bed takes more energy that she can manage to find or admit. Her three teen children, typically challenging her sanity with their usual pushbacks against her authority(while making it perfectly clear that she is not the "fun" parent), are now reeling from the news that has rocked their world to the core. As if hitting rock bottom isn't enough, the unthinkable occurs, and Mara finds herself being sucked further into oblivion, her already delicate soul suffering relentless waves of hopelessness and despair. When life becomes absolutely silent, God's still small voice faithfully carries His message; "guard the dawn". With the help of her forever friend Ashlee, and a surprising new acquaintance Sol, Mara begins the agonizing journey towards the light of life. What a tough and tender approach to loss. I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher. The opinions stated above are entirely my own.

  3. 5 out of 5

    MJSH

    "It was time for the sacred to win out over scared. How curious that those two words were so different but shared the same vowels and consonants with only two of them reversed. Scared could, theoretically, be converted into sacred with very little effort." This is not the book to read when you're in the mood for light, fluffy romance. The author addresses really tough issues like insurmountable grief, substance abuse, broken dreams, shattered faith, and depths of despair with raw and gut-wrenchin "It was time for the sacred to win out over scared. How curious that those two words were so different but shared the same vowels and consonants with only two of them reversed. Scared could, theoretically, be converted into sacred with very little effort." This is not the book to read when you're in the mood for light, fluffy romance. The author addresses really tough issues like insurmountable grief, substance abuse, broken dreams, shattered faith, and depths of despair with raw and gut-wrenching emotions and transparency. But once you pick up the book, you will not be able to put it down. With her beautiful and lyrical writing, Cynthia Ruchti will pull you into the almost stream of consciousness type of storytelling as Mara travels her journey from bitterness, resentment, and self-blame to beauty, love, and hope even in the midst of ashes and pain. This is a book that will stay with you a long time after you've finished the last page. Mara has a quirky sense of humor and a hefty dose of sarcasm and cynicism in her personality. It was very easy to relate to her fears, angst, and heart cries regarding her children since I have children who are similar ages as Mara. Life really beats her up but the unwavering and faithful friends she has in Ashlee and Sol encourage, embrace, push, shove, and redirect with just the right amount of love, correction, and discipline. There isn't much romance in the book but the solidarity and loyalty found in God-ordained friendships clearly shines through the pages. If you enjoy women's fiction that digs deep and makes you reflect, you will absolutely love this book. I received the book from Revell via Celebrate Lit Tours and was under no obligation to post a positive comment. All opinions are solely my own.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Staci

    What a powerful novel about working through grief. There was a point fairly early on when I thought perhaps Facing the Dawn was a retelling of the story of Job. Mara Jacobs faces a number of obstacles and I do mean a number of them. She regularly uses sarcasm and humor to lighten moments and I think to give herself a space to breathe before facing the reality of what is in front of her. Facing the Dawn is a heavy read, but one filled with hope and fabulous characters. I adored Mara and every seco What a powerful novel about working through grief. There was a point fairly early on when I thought perhaps Facing the Dawn was a retelling of the story of Job. Mara Jacobs faces a number of obstacles and I do mean a number of them. She regularly uses sarcasm and humor to lighten moments and I think to give herself a space to breathe before facing the reality of what is in front of her. Facing the Dawn is a heavy read, but one filled with hope and fabulous characters. I adored Mara and every secondary character. Without asking or thinking she needed one, Mara is blessed to have a support system around her. Another beautifully penned novel by the talented Cynthia Ruchti. My gratitude to publisher Revell for a complimentary copy of the novel. I was not required to post a review and all opinions expressed are my own.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paula Shreckhise

    “When life falls apart, God’s plan hasn’t. It’s still active but adds a soul-healing component.” What happens when Mara Jacobs whole world collapses? “Hard doesn’t mean unsurvivable. Mistakes don’t automatically dictate a future. And regrets have an antidote. God’s love and peace.” Through the blows she has been dealt, Mara tries to hold it together. Her forever friend Ashlee moves back into town and helps her discover her inner strength by being a true friend. Instead of this story being a downer “When life falls apart, God’s plan hasn’t. It’s still active but adds a soul-healing component.” What happens when Mara Jacobs whole world collapses? “Hard doesn’t mean unsurvivable. Mistakes don’t automatically dictate a future. And regrets have an antidote. God’s love and peace.” Through the blows she has been dealt, Mara tries to hold it together. Her forever friend Ashlee moves back into town and helps her discover her inner strength by being a true friend. Instead of this story being a downer, the author insinuates a lighter note by Mara’s snarky internal comments. Was she always this way or is it a defense mechanism? There are moments of sorrow and pain but also a light that shines and levity. In other words- believably human reactions. Mara learns that her name not only means *bitter* but *strong*. My emotions ran the gamut right along with Mara. Superb writing by an author that I will read again. One of my top picks of the year. * I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Revell Reads Program. I was not required to give a favorable review. All opinions are my own.*

  6. 5 out of 5

    Randi Sampson

    Facing the Dawn was a difficult book to read... perhaps one of the hardest I've read in a long time. Or ever. And I spent many of my high school and early adult days reading Lurlene McDaniel and Nicholas Sparks, so believe me when I say I have read a LOT of sad books. But this one was absolutely heartbreaking. I expected this to some degree based on the description, it was honestly just a lot more (and a lot more raw) than I expected. While I don't want to give anything in the story away, it sho Facing the Dawn was a difficult book to read... perhaps one of the hardest I've read in a long time. Or ever. And I spent many of my high school and early adult days reading Lurlene McDaniel and Nicholas Sparks, so believe me when I say I have read a LOT of sad books. But this one was absolutely heartbreaking. I expected this to some degree based on the description, it was honestly just a lot more (and a lot more raw) than I expected. While I don't want to give anything in the story away, it should be noted that it does deal with not only extreme grief, but also suicide and miscarriage as well. Those who struggle with either or both of these topics may want to consider looking elsewhere... or at least be prepared beforehand. As I said, this book takes such a raw look at grief that it made it pretty easy to put myself in Mara's place... which I think made it that much harder to read... it's not a place we want to picture ourselves. In the midst of the worst of it, I must say that I nearly stopped reading but after reading other reviews, I decided to push on and am glad that I did. While it was never an easy read, there were great messages of hope and friendship that added a lot to the story. I appreciated following Mara's journey through the worst of her grief to a place that while not gone, more bearable at the very least. If you're up for an emotional journey, this story is beautifully written and certainly worth a read... but be sure to have your tissues handy. You'll need them. **I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for consideration. All thoughts are my own.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I am not sure even how to review this book. The subject matter was really tough and there was an extreme amount of loss in the book. But on the other hand there was so much grace and love that was displayed. Mara is a mother of 3 children (Jeremy 12, Chelsea 18, and Dylan 19) Her husband is on a 4 year stint in Uganda creating wells for the people there. The family is in crisis in the beginning as the 2 older kids have had some problems. But then tragedies strike. I particularly enjoyed the charac I am not sure even how to review this book. The subject matter was really tough and there was an extreme amount of loss in the book. But on the other hand there was so much grace and love that was displayed. Mara is a mother of 3 children (Jeremy 12, Chelsea 18, and Dylan 19) Her husband is on a 4 year stint in Uganda creating wells for the people there. The family is in crisis in the beginning as the 2 older kids have had some problems. But then tragedies strike. I particularly enjoyed the characters of Solomon and Ashlee. They came alongside of the family and poured life in to them. Mara is also a woman of snarkiness which was enjoyable. Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for the arc. The opinions are my own.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne Alfveby Crea

    I had no idea what to expect, and this book was not at all what I expected. I could not put it down! It was so good, and difficult as the characters face some really hard things. In Facing the Dawn, author Cynthia Ruchti explores grief in a very real way. The readers have a close-up view of devastation & hope, fear & faith, and beautiful forever friends. I got a kick out of the snarky and funny mostly-in-her-head comments by Mara Jacobs. "Was there such a thing as respite care for parents? And I had no idea what to expect, and this book was not at all what I expected. I could not put it down! It was so good, and difficult as the characters face some really hard things. In Facing the Dawn, author Cynthia Ruchti explores grief in a very real way. The readers have a close-up view of devastation & hope, fear & faith, and beautiful forever friends. I got a kick out of the snarky and funny mostly-in-her-head comments by Mara Jacobs. "Was there such a thing as respite care for parents? And if so, where did she sign up?" "Sometimes a parent is called upon to express a hopeful attitude not necessarily aligned with reality." "The adventure of loving is like riding a bike on gravel and shorts and flip-flops. Pain is inevitable." "What kind of mental/emotionally unstable/ early onset test was this? " "I can't know the end of my story, God. And I have to be okay with that, don't I? " The characters are so genuine, and the author has a beautiful way of elevating them out of their grief into something better. I appreciated both the humor and the "realness" of the story. I highly recommend Facing the Dawn. Thank you to the author, publisher, and net galley for allowing me to read an early copy. All opinions are my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chris Jager

    Cynthia Ruchti pens a story that will leave you emotionally exhausted. All in a good way. In Facing the Dawn, you wonder how you can go on with the story, but you understand that Mara is moving forward you must go with her. Mara is a single parent only because her husband is saving the world in Uganda one well at a time. She is working hard to keep it together, but feels like she is losing her mind. (Sound familiar?) Tragedy strikes and she must learn a new way of doing things. I love Ruchti's b Cynthia Ruchti pens a story that will leave you emotionally exhausted. All in a good way. In Facing the Dawn, you wonder how you can go on with the story, but you understand that Mara is moving forward you must go with her. Mara is a single parent only because her husband is saving the world in Uganda one well at a time. She is working hard to keep it together, but feels like she is losing her mind. (Sound familiar?) Tragedy strikes and she must learn a new way of doing things. I love Ruchti's books. They never leave me comfortable. They make me learn about others and what they are journeying through and I am always learning something.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Facing The Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti is the most beautiful Christian tale about love and loss and hope. Cynthia Ruchti writes with care and compassion as the reader immerses themselves in her beautiful words. Facing The Dawn is like a hug from Jesus in a book. The reader will not be able to read this book and remain unchanged. We ‘see’ and ‘feel’ the hope and love of Jesus. A character asks ‘what is the antidote to fear?’ The answer is ‘love’. Jesus is love. The grief is raw and palpable. “I’m doing a Facing The Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti is the most beautiful Christian tale about love and loss and hope. Cynthia Ruchti writes with care and compassion as the reader immerses themselves in her beautiful words. Facing The Dawn is like a hug from Jesus in a book. The reader will not be able to read this book and remain unchanged. We ‘see’ and ‘feel’ the hope and love of Jesus. A character asks ‘what is the antidote to fear?’ The answer is ‘love’. Jesus is love. The grief is raw and palpable. “I’m doing all I can to squeeze out ‘Jesus, help!’ from time to time. No offense, but I can’t read your Word right now.” We witness a character drowning in grief. Sometimes all we can do is cling on to Jesus and rest in His presence. He understands our pain. He understands our needs. “You do understand if I don’t have it in me to sit beside people who all want to put their arms around me.” Sometimes we just need to be alone. To deal with others is just too hard. Jesus understands. The reader ‘feels’ the desperate sadness of the character. Cynthia Ruchti is masterful with her pen as she paints the raw emotions. “Hope… stripped away by the ravenous ravens of grief.” We can empathise with the character. A grief journey is different for everyone. “Grief is just love with no place to go.” There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no time limit. Grief takes as long as it takes and it meanders at will. Within the novel we witness a beautiful friendship. It is a friendship that says I am here for you. If you push me away I will return. I will be here for you when you want me. This can be seen as a motif for God who will never leave us. “God, you’re here aren’t you? The awfulest of all the awful days.” God walks beside us whatever we face. He is waiting for us to lean on Him. “You’ll get through the hard bits if you’re leaning on the Strength-Giver.” Sometimes we need to be like Jacob and wrestle with Jesus in our grief. In the end we will receive blessing. There is also guilt. “I’m sorry I laughed this afternoon. It wasn’t because I’d forgotten you.” We can ‘feel’ the pain and sense the emotions held in tension. We must not feel guilty when we begin to live and love and laugh again. Cynthia Ruchti always writes powerful works of great beauty. Facing The Dawn is incredibly powerful. The loss and pain, the hope and love are all palpable. Although the tale is about a journey through grief, it is not a gloomy read. It is a hope-filled read. It is a love-filled read. It is a beautiful read. It is this hope and love and great beauty that remain with the reader long after the last page is read. I received this book for free. A favourable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Deanne Patterson

    I haven't read a book like Facing The Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti in a long time. Tissues are required for this one. This is so realistic, the characters could be your neighbors or even yourself. This book touched my heart and the author has written it just right showing compassion where it was needed but giving a pep talk and true encouragement when needed as well. Mara Jacobs is the families strength at least she feels like she should be but it's so hard to hold it together as she promised her husband I haven't read a book like Facing The Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti in a long time. Tissues are required for this one. This is so realistic, the characters could be your neighbors or even yourself. This book touched my heart and the author has written it just right showing compassion where it was needed but giving a pep talk and true encouragement when needed as well. Mara Jacobs is the families strength at least she feels like she should be but it's so hard to hold it together as she promised her husband she could. She is crumbling but can't let it show . Her husband has been gone to do missionary work in Africa, digging wells as a humanitarian helping widows and children . She's proud of him but she's so lonely in her marriage and her children are floundering without their father's direction. Then the unthinkable happens and the sunshine goes out in her life as the news of his death reaches her. Her faith is fragile , she has the support of her best friend but friends can only do so much as renewal has to come from within through God strengthening us. When she receives the devastating news of another tragedy will she be able to find the resilience to continue on? Beautifully worded and encouraging book through tragedy as she seeks redemption and the healing waters. Highly recommended! Published March 02,2021. I was given a complimentary copy of this book. Thank you. All opinions expressed are my own.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rosalyn

    What a painful bittersweet story. Hope, forgiveness, love, and more. This was a book I knew I had to read. And yet, the more I heard about it, I almost shied away from it...I gathered that it would not be an easy read. And I was right! Facing the Dawn was a very difficult story. Mara was in such a difficult place in life. First off, she's had to give up her husband for how long already, because he had a dream to help bring water to the poor in Uganda. So, Mara is at home with their three teens, try What a painful bittersweet story. Hope, forgiveness, love, and more. This was a book I knew I had to read. And yet, the more I heard about it, I almost shied away from it...I gathered that it would not be an easy read. And I was right! Facing the Dawn was a very difficult story. Mara was in such a difficult place in life. First off, she's had to give up her husband for how long already, because he had a dream to help bring water to the poor in Uganda. So, Mara is at home with their three teens, trying to be strong, trying to fill in the gap. And failing miserably. Two out of her three were seemingly nothing but trouble. She just wasn't sure how much more she could take. And, just when Mara thought things couldn't get worse, it does. Life takes on a whole different meaning. She's struggling, trying to make sense of things. And then another unthinkable thing happens. And Mara is left with nowhere to turn, except to God. She learns anew what a blessing friends can be when her forever friend Ashlee shows up just when she needs her most. This is a book that gives voice to someone who might feel unheard, a single parent, or maybe even one who almost feels like a single parent. I love how this story can bring clarity and insight to parts of us that we might not even know are needing voice and healing. I love how Ms. Ruchti makes faith such an integral part of this story. Shows it as the unshakeable foundation that we all can have, if we are willing to lean on God. This is a story that will have you wiping your eyes and looking around you to treasure all those little things you may have been taking for granted around you. I don't think I'd recommend this story for young readers. The depth of pain and grief is quite intense. I found it both a blessing and a challenge to my own life, and as such, I do recommend it to anyone that is looking for a story that will lead them to a deeper walk with God. Disclaimer: I receive complimentary books from various sources, including, publishers, publicists, authors, and/or NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review, and have not received any compensation. The opinions shared here are my own entirely. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christine Barth

    This review by librarian Christine Barth was first published in the January 2021 issue of Library Journal. Mara Jacobs knows her name means "bitter," and she certainly feels that way as her husband serves a nonprofit in Uganda, leaving her working double shifts and struggling with their wayward teenagers on her own. Mara also means "strong," and she has no idea how much she'll need that namesake as a series of calamities rock the already beleaguered Jacobs family. Struggling under the misconcepti This review by librarian Christine Barth was first published in the January 2021 issue of Library Journal. Mara Jacobs knows her name means "bitter," and she certainly feels that way as her husband serves a nonprofit in Uganda, leaving her working double shifts and struggling with their wayward teenagers on her own. Mara also means "strong," and she has no idea how much she'll need that namesake as a series of calamities rock the already beleaguered Jacobs family. Struggling under the misconception that to ask for help is a sign of weakness, Mara is befriended by a cop-turned-homeless advocate and a childhood friend with regrets of her own. As the band of flawed humans come together, the cracks in Mara's family and in her her heart begin to heal. VERDICT: Ruchti (As Waters Gone By) has a gift for taking characters through their grief and lifting them to a place higher than themselves. Fans of Erin Bartels and Elizabeth Musser will appreciate the characters' journey to faith that never ventures into the cliched. The message of hope in a situation that seems hopeless is especially needed now.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Linda Klager

    I wanted to read this book because Cynthia Ruchti is a very detailed author. I was not disappointed. The cover of the book made me wonder how it would play out in the story and it has a LOT to do this story. Mara Jacobs has her hands so very full because she is like a single parent raising two teenagers and a 12 year old while her husband is in another country digging wells to provide clean water to impoverished people. Mara is a very independent woman who likes to provide goodies for her children I wanted to read this book because Cynthia Ruchti is a very detailed author. I was not disappointed. The cover of the book made me wonder how it would play out in the story and it has a LOT to do this story. Mara Jacobs has her hands so very full because she is like a single parent raising two teenagers and a 12 year old while her husband is in another country digging wells to provide clean water to impoverished people. Mara is a very independent woman who likes to provide goodies for her children's schools while also having a part-time job at a cheese factory. Mara did not realize it would be this hard to take care of all that she has to do. She is really stressed. At first I thought I would not enjoy this book so much because Mara was so stressed. As I continued to read this book I started to emphasize with Mara so much. Oh, what Mara had to deal with! She had a son that was troubled and had a parole officer. She had a daughter that got pregnant and lost the baby and she has a 12 year old son who internalizes everything and feels guilty that his father is not home. Poor Mara had big time grief! She was a Christian who kind of lost her way. I am so very thankful that Mara had a friend in Ashlee. Ashlee also had grief in her life and knew what Mara was going through. Ashlee really trusted in God and did not let Mara continue in her grief. Ashlee got Mara to start walking with her and Ashlee was very creative and brought out Mara's abilities to create even though grieving. What a true friend was Ashlee - one can only hope that a friend like this is there for us. Of course, Jesus is our true friend! Chelsea, Mara's daughter began a path back to the Lord Jesus Christ and to see that happening in her life was so refreshing. She became very active in her youth group and enjoyed singing, too. There is a sweet story about Chelsea's life. Mara had a dear friend in Soloman even though Mara showed her fiercely independent ways. Sol plays a big part in helping Mara get through her grief. Sol is a great handyman and Mara really needs someone to get her home in order. I do not want to give away details that I feel should really be read to understand the struggle that Mara had in dealing with her life after tragedy. The author covered it very well and in great detail. It will be hard to read some parts of this book, not because it is inappropriate in any way. It is just so much tragedy. Please stay with the story. You will not be disappointed. I give this author 5 stars - God was in control and always is if we trust in Him! This book was provided courtesy of Revell through Interviews & Reviews.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Connie Saunders

    "Lord, give me a faith like hers, her mind whispered. Deep in her soul, a rumble responded, I did. Step into it." Facing the Dawn is filled with beautiful words, overwhelming emotions, and characters that could be you and me. Mara Jacob's fellings are vividly portrayed as she journeys into the world of overwhelming grief. It appears that she will drown in a sea of sorrow as she copes with her husband's unexpected death, and shortly after, another tragic loss. Thankfully, she has people who love h "Lord, give me a faith like hers, her mind whispered. Deep in her soul, a rumble responded, I did. Step into it." Facing the Dawn is filled with beautiful words, overwhelming emotions, and characters that could be you and me. Mara Jacob's fellings are vividly portrayed as she journeys into the world of overwhelming grief. It appears that she will drown in a sea of sorrow as she copes with her husband's unexpected death, and shortly after, another tragic loss. Thankfully, she has people who love her, and they become her lifelines in her efforts to find solid footing. This book has exceptional characters and realistic situations but faith and hope are the keys to Facing the Dawn. Author Cynthia Ruchti has created a tale that is heart-tugging and heartbreaking, but ultimately, an encouraging and gratifying story! Ruchti shares many references to God and his Word. but she also offers meaningful and eye-openng observations. Sacred and scared have the same letters. "When life falls apart, God's Plan hasn't. It's still active but adds a soul-healing component." Facing the Dawn is a hard book to read because it has all of the emotions that we associate with death. It may make you cry but it also shares a message of love and hope. It is a stunning book that will stay with me for a long time, and I highly recommend it to all who enjoy contemporary Christian fiction. This book was provided courtesy of Revell though Interviews and Reviews. There was no obligation for a favorable review and I am voluntarily sharing my own thoughts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Christian fiction is a genre that I don't normally read but I won a copy and thought that I'd give it a try. I found it a bit too religious for me but the story was fantastic. In fact, parts of it really got to me and there were a lot of tears. Mara is at home with her three children while her husband is on a four year assignment to Uganda to help build wells for the poorer areas with no water. She encouraged him to take the job and assured him that she could handle the home front. Now he's been Christian fiction is a genre that I don't normally read but I won a copy and thought that I'd give it a try. I found it a bit too religious for me but the story was fantastic. In fact, parts of it really got to me and there were a lot of tears. Mara is at home with her three children while her husband is on a four year assignment to Uganda to help build wells for the poorer areas with no water. She encouraged him to take the job and assured him that she could handle the home front. Now he's been gone for several years and she finds herself very resentful of his life while hers is falling apart. She isn't honest with him or with herself because she refuses to ask for help from anyone. When a tragedy happens and he is killed and then his death is followed by even more disaster in her life, she is broken and needs help. Her best forever friend, Ashley, moves to town and is her motivator to get her life back in order and to remind her that God has control of the situation and is always there to help her. The friendship is what really helps lead her back to her Christian life. I really enjoyed this book - seeing the growth and changes in Mara and her children as well as the fantastic friendship with Ashley made it a very emotional book for me. I think it's time to read more Christian fiction. Thanks to LibraryThing and Revell Books for a copy of this book to read and review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    I am not sure what I was expecting when I decided I wanted to read this book. It is one of the most depressing books I've ever read. The story begins with Mara being called in to the principal's office of her youngest son's school, her daughter's profligate ways, and her oldest son's drug addiction and arrests. On the heels of all of that, she is being asked to work double shifts at the cheese factory sales room, the sump pump in the basement has quit working, the dishwasher needs some help, and I am not sure what I was expecting when I decided I wanted to read this book. It is one of the most depressing books I've ever read. The story begins with Mara being called in to the principal's office of her youngest son's school, her daughter's profligate ways, and her oldest son's drug addiction and arrests. On the heels of all of that, she is being asked to work double shifts at the cheese factory sales room, the sump pump in the basement has quit working, the dishwasher needs some help, and her husband is in Africa working with a company to provide clean water for remote villages. Mara is not a very pleasant person to be around due to her reactions to her situation. When word comes that her husband has been killed due to a rather unfortunate accident, Mara's world falls apart at the seams. A month later, her youngest son dies of a drug overdose. The rest of the book is filled with Mara's dealing with her overwhelming grief and trying to hold body and soul together for her remaining two children. Cynthia Ruchti writes about the hard things in life. I've read several of her books and truly enjoyed them, but this one left me cold. There are redeeming parts to the tale, Mara reconnects with her two oldest children and her forever friend, and she comes to resolve some of her issues--especially her issues with God. Three stars. Revell Publishing and NetGalley.com provided the copy I read for this review. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Raechel Lenore

    This was definitely one of those books you experience, rather than so much as read. It's hard to explain, and I'm not really certain how to write a review that could do the book justice. For the majority of the book, I would sum it up as being 'sad'. And it is. But there is also light carefully woven into the threads of the novel, threads that grow stronger towards the end. Oh and the ending was utterly beautiful. That, I think, may have been my favorite part - those last two chapters.Facing the This was definitely one of those books you experience, rather than so much as read. It's hard to explain, and I'm not really certain how to write a review that could do the book justice. For the majority of the book, I would sum it up as being 'sad'. And it is. But there is also light carefully woven into the threads of the novel, threads that grow stronger towards the end. Oh and the ending was utterly beautiful. That, I think, may have been my favorite part - those last two chapters.Facing the Dawn is a very real, raw story. The grief experienced by Mara, and the other characters as well, was down right palpable. At times it was heavy, and you could absolutely feel the exhaustion it caused the characters.I wouldn't have a hard time believing if each one of these characters were real people, the novel came across that realistic.I loved Mara's friends, Ashlee and Sol. They were amazing support for the entire Jacobs' family. And I love how Ashlee constantly encouraged Mara to seek after God, even when it was hard.I would give a "trigger warning" to those who need it that this book deals heavily with grief, suicide, miscarriage, and depression. It is handled well, but nonetheless, very real.I am impressed with how the book was written to be something you experience alongside the characters instead of just read about. It won't be a book you quickly forget.There were a couple things that were either abrupt, or not addressed, but life throws those things at us frequently, so it didn't feel too terribly out of line. I just would've liked to have seen a couple more things either talked out or resolved. This book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group (Revell), through Interviews & Reviews. 

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Thank you to LibraryThing and Revell for this ARC. I have to admit this and JMO, but it was a little too religious for me w/all the Bible quotes, etc. but I enjoyed the plot and the characters. Mara had so much going on in her life and losing her son and husband (who was in Uganda for 4 years working on wells) in a matter of weeks was just too much for her to handle and on top of that her other kids had problems of their own. Thank goodness for Ashley who got Mara out of her (of what I call "woe Thank you to LibraryThing and Revell for this ARC. I have to admit this and JMO, but it was a little too religious for me w/all the Bible quotes, etc. but I enjoyed the plot and the characters. Mara had so much going on in her life and losing her son and husband (who was in Uganda for 4 years working on wells) in a matter of weeks was just too much for her to handle and on top of that her other kids had problems of their own. Thank goodness for Ashley who got Mara out of her (of what I call "woe is me" attitude) and back to living life. The ending was just so emotional but open ended in what the future would bring but I can only hope her future was a happy one.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Maskus

    Facing the Dawn awaken my longing for a better understanding of the Bible. Many times, the story stretched the perimeter of feasibility. Mara Jacobs enters the narrative as a harassed mother of three children and a husband working in in Uganda. Financial woes, uninteresting work, and troublesome children throw Mara into a bottomless pit. Then Liam, the husband, suffers a partial drowning and then an inferno of no return. A child believes himself to be the cause of his father’s death, and overdos Facing the Dawn awaken my longing for a better understanding of the Bible. Many times, the story stretched the perimeter of feasibility. Mara Jacobs enters the narrative as a harassed mother of three children and a husband working in in Uganda. Financial woes, uninteresting work, and troublesome children throw Mara into a bottomless pit. Then Liam, the husband, suffers a partial drowning and then an inferno of no return. A child believes himself to be the cause of his father’s death, and overdoses. Light shows at the end of the tunnel, as Ashlee enters Mara’s world to give her the strength and courage to face the problems. Where was Mara when Ashlee needed help? Mara’s conversations with God and herself are very poignant. But sometimes, the story seemed to sugar-coat the tragedy of Mara’s life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Scott County Library System

    This review by librarian Christine Barth was first published in the January 2021 issue of Library Journal. Mara Jacobs knows her name means "bitter," and she certainly feels that way as her husband serves a nonprofit in Uganda, leaving her working double shifts and struggling with their wayward teenagers on her own. Mara also means "strong," and she has no idea how much she'll need that namesake as a series of calamities rock the already beleaguered Jacobs family. Struggling under the misconcepti This review by librarian Christine Barth was first published in the January 2021 issue of Library Journal. Mara Jacobs knows her name means "bitter," and she certainly feels that way as her husband serves a nonprofit in Uganda, leaving her working double shifts and struggling with their wayward teenagers on her own. Mara also means "strong," and she has no idea how much she'll need that namesake as a series of calamities rock the already beleaguered Jacobs family. Struggling under the misconception that to ask for help is a sign of weakness, Mara is befriended by a cop-turned-homeless advocate and a childhood friend with regrets of her own. As the band of flawed humans come together, the cracks in Mara's family and in her her heart begin to heal. VERDICT: Ruchti (As Waters Gone By) has a gift for taking characters through their grief and lifting them to a place higher than themselves. Fans of Erin Bartels and Elizabeth Musser will appreciate the characters' journey to faith that never ventures into the cliched. The message of hope in a situation that seems hopeless is especially needed now.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    Thank you in advance to the publisher, Revell (a division of Baker Books) for providing a complimentary review copy through their Revell Reads program. A positive review was not requested or required, and all words are my own. This is the first book I’ve read by the author and I was very impressed. But, I would like to note – this isn’t one of those “feel good” when you get done kind of reads. It is an emotionally gripping read that tackles the subjects of loss, grief, depression, teen pre-marit Thank you in advance to the publisher, Revell (a division of Baker Books) for providing a complimentary review copy through their Revell Reads program. A positive review was not requested or required, and all words are my own. This is the first book I’ve read by the author and I was very impressed. But, I would like to note – this isn’t one of those “feel good” when you get done kind of reads. It is an emotionally gripping read that tackles the subjects of loss, grief, depression, teen pre-marital sex, miscarriage, drug use, and suicide. These could be triggers for some readers, so caution is highly advised. With that said … The cover demonstrates a range – gorgeous, beautiful, haunting, lonely, and calm. Like the cover, the premise of Facing the Dawn has a decidedly “movie” quality, like one you’d see on the Lifetime Channel. The author tackles the story with a sad, but realistic tone in this standalone read. The premise is devastatingly realistic, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking in a rarely seen reality of grief. Ruchti’s characters are realistic, brutally honest. I absolutely loved Sol and his calming presence. He truly was the quintessential gentleman – supporting Mara by being there or helping her without being pushy. Ashlee, her friend, doesn’t give up on her and pushes her to move forward. Not move away from her grief, but move forward through it. Mara’s kids – Dylan, Chelsea, and Jeremy are reeling from their father’s 3-year absence while he was doing humanitarian work in Africa. And, it is reflecting on their attitudes, which at one point is directed at their mother. And, to say that Mara is overwhelmed is at best inadequate – even more so with her job at a cheese factory. I will give it up for the author; that was an interesting job to give a character. As the story progresses so too do the characters in a natural manner that doesn’t seem contrived or unreal. The biggest character development is with Dylan and Chelsea, more so after multiple tragedies strike the family. It is the second tragedy some readers might take issue with. Mara’s development is the least impactful, though in some ways, understandable. Using short chapters, a visceral and vivid prose, and loads of narrative; the reader is plunged into Mara’s turmoil almost immediately as the story begins. Some of it is repetitive, mostly in the way of Mara’s thoughts, though by about halfway in the repetition ends. While I do understand the work that humanitarians do, it is this work that is difficult on the families at home – such as Mara’s. In this situation, it didn’t seem like a good idea. Right off the reader sees Mara being overwhelmed; she doesn’t expect sympathy from anyone, though it would be nice. There’s even an issue about “school treats” which is almost commonplace due to all the regulations. The house is in disrepair and needs work that Mara doesn’t have money or time for. At first, the children seem like they’re ready for “detention” – Chelsea is bratty, Dylan is almost a criminal, and Jeremy isn’t much better. During their tragedies, they watch as their grief becomes everyone else’s through social media. And, I’m sure we’ve all seen that play out with celebrities and those we know. But, the author makes us think about the impact that public grief has on the family, in addition the family’s sacrifice for a greater good. Mara starts going through her bible using “bible roulette”. And, her long-time friend shows up to “rescue” her. Ashlee does nothing more than force Mara forward – not over, but through the grief. Ashlee at first doesn’t approve of her friend’s “bible-study” method, but it eventually does help Mara. However two enemies of Mara’s are her cynicism and wandering mind. Still, she is torn between carrying the ache and carrying on with life. She apologizes for “laughing” in the middle of her “mourning” period. Chelsea becomes close with her older brother’s peer counselor, and there is a secret she hasn’t shared – a painful one. Halfway through, Mara deals with another setback with Dylan, but it is the result of the second tragedy. Sol is there with nothing more than “love”. Love holds on. And, he tells her to have faith when it comes to Dylan. Something Ashlee says is quite poignant – “beauty and love are what heals us”. And, she learns out that what gets Dylan into trouble turns out to be a blessing for someone else – that he ended up saving a young man and his mother. Mara, thinking she is on her way, is dealt another setback. After getting treatment and into therapy, Ashlee takes her on a vacation. Ashlee reminds Mara that like a book – chapters build on each other. The ending is beautiful, poignant, and endearing. It is definitely a story of God’s grace in our messy lives. Despite the content and subject, I found this difficult to put down. Though, to be honest, this does give off sad vibes and can easily bum someone out. I wanted to keep reading through it to find the “light”, but definitely needed breaks. It was difficult to read. Why did I choose it? It was part of the selection for the month and the premise sounded interesting. It was also a bit out of my comfort range. But, I am certainly glad I read it. This is written more for fans of the author, and if future books aren’t so sad, I would be inclined to read them. As this is distributed by Revell, a predominately Christian publisher, there are themes of hope, salvation, bible quotes, God’s word and promises. These are very pivotal to the story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Cox

    FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book. These are my honest thoughts. This book was good, perhaps great, but it wasn’t a good fit for me. The first half was so stuffed with sarcasm that I really struggled to feel connected with it at all. I had difficulty feeling bad for Mara when things went completely sideways on her, simply because she wasn’t a very likable or relatable character to me through the entire first half. (I did learn to like her better as things progressed into FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book. These are my honest thoughts. This book was good, perhaps great, but it wasn’t a good fit for me. The first half was so stuffed with sarcasm that I really struggled to feel connected with it at all. I had difficulty feeling bad for Mara when things went completely sideways on her, simply because she wasn’t a very likable or relatable character to me through the entire first half. (I did learn to like her better as things progressed into the second half, thankfully.) Then, here trots the second half, and I’m completely blown away. That’s what I expect from a Ruchti novel: to be emotionally moved and completely blown away. She succeeded once again, in the second half of the story. Ashlee and Sol were amazing from beginning to end, and they were the ones who kept me interested when the Jacobs family didn’t. I did like the growth each of the Jacobses showed in the second half of the story. That was really well done and gave me great hope for their next chapter after the finale of this particular glimpse into their lives. My hopes were up high for discovering what was inside a certain missive. Even though there was lots of lead-up to discovery, the actual revelation never happened, so that thread was left completely unfinished for me. Yet, the climax and finale were stunning and beautiful and exactly the way they should have been. The finale line, which I will not share here, was so exactly Sol… It really took my breath away and made me grin. I cannot fully express the satisfaction and amazement I experienced in those final chapters, despite a couple of unfinished tidbits. Mara’s grief journey was superb. I wish I could have “enjoyed” it from the beginning, but that overly-sarcastic first half hampered my emotions from getting properly engaged until about the halfway point. Once I got invested, though, I held nothing back. Tears were shed, folks. A couple of times, actually. Mara really grew on me quickly in the back half of the story. Her grief and sorrow were exquisitely expressed. I liked that she reacted poorly at times, because that made her so realistic. We don’t always think clearly in the midst of grief, and that was fantastically shown here. If sarcasm (in heavy doses) wasn’t a huge pet peeve for me, I probably would have adored this book. I know many other readers will love it. Side note: I'm not sure why there was such a heavy emphasis on calling cranberry sauce "gel." Every can of cranberry sauce I've ever seen (in person [in various states, not just my own of Texas, because this is one of my favorite foods], online, and on television) has been labeled as "cranberry sauce" (some are labeled "jellied cranberry sauce"), so I'm not sure where this non-plot issue (no one was even shown eating the "gel" after it got to the event) came from. It was very distracting and took me out of the story for a good half hour so I could do some research on the subject. Even after that amount of time, I still came up empty on any references online to cranberry "gel." Trigger: suicide (child and adult) Content: teen smoking, teen drug use, child drug use, suicide (child and adult), teen pregnancy (mentioned), gambling (mentioned)

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Bruin

    Facing the Dawn is a story about a mother by the name of Mara living in Wisconsin with her three children. The youngest is junior high age, and the older two are nearing high school graduation. It was obvious to me at the beginning of the book that these children keenly miss the presence of their father in their lives. He has gone to Africa on the mission of installing wells for people to have clean water. The children left behind in Wisconsin each have their own ways of acting out their frustra Facing the Dawn is a story about a mother by the name of Mara living in Wisconsin with her three children. The youngest is junior high age, and the older two are nearing high school graduation. It was obvious to me at the beginning of the book that these children keenly miss the presence of their father in their lives. He has gone to Africa on the mission of installing wells for people to have clean water. The children left behind in Wisconsin each have their own ways of acting out their frustration about his absence. The book is thoughtfully written, quite realistic for a family dealing with circumstances beyond their control, and at times heavy. I usually like to read fiction in the evenings before I go to sleep, but I couldn’t do that with this book. The levels of emotion were deep and complex. I found myself worrying about the family instead of relaxing which is my goal in reading at the end of the day. The author may count this as a success, that the book wouldn’t allow me to relax. Tension and unanswered questions build right up to the very end. For readers who are familiar with the book of Ruth in the Old Testament of the Bible, hints of Naomi’s character are reflected in the main character of this book. Naomi even tells her friends in her hometown to call her Mara because the Almighty has made her life very bitter (Ruth 1:20). This contemporary story doesn’t follow Naomi’s journey exactly, but it does pick up on the theme of multiple losses adversely affecting a woman’s life. The author has a talent for using metaphor to teach spiritual lessons. I must confess that I did not like Mara. She came across to me as self-absorbed, insensitive, and rude. At times I thought to myself, “how can she treat these people who care about her like this? Can’t she see other people’s struggles too?” But a person overcome by bitterness often times acts like this, so my dislike of the main character can actually stand as a testament to the author’s ability to create a realistic character for this story’s context. As I read, I kept hoping I would bond with Mara, but I never did. Because of this reason, I am giving this book 4 stars in my Amazon review instead of 5. I related to the friend, Ashley much better. The friend was more likeable, warm, and helpful. I recommend this book to readers who like depth and meaning in the stories they read. There isn’t a romantic thread running though this story, so I wouldn’t categorize it as contemporary romance. The book gives an intimate look at the grieving process, so it would be helpful for someone, a woman or a young adult, who is dealing with grief. I have voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All views expressed are my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any way. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC regulations.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Aurelia Mast-glick

    Finding books that are about real life and not some dreamy paradise that hardly seems real to life can be a challenge. There is also that desire to have the imaginary world end well because we all know that life isn't imaginary and doesn't always have neat, tidy endings. So I like both kinds of books. Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti combines both. It's written in a snarky way that can almost feel contrived, like can any one person really talk that way that much, and yet, it helps to override t Finding books that are about real life and not some dreamy paradise that hardly seems real to life can be a challenge. There is also that desire to have the imaginary world end well because we all know that life isn't imaginary and doesn't always have neat, tidy endings. So I like both kinds of books. Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti combines both. It's written in a snarky way that can almost feel contrived, like can any one person really talk that way that much, and yet, it helps to override the deep and almost dark material that the book is made up of. Mara has lived up to her name: bitter. Her husband, Liam, has taken off for Africa for four years, leaving her to raise two teenagers and a pre-teen and it has not gone well. In the first chapter of the book, we learn that her son has visits with a probation officer and the she just doesn't seem to be handling life real well. It only goes downhill from there. When the unthinkable happens, Mara is unsure how she is going to get up in the morning and then her forever friend Ashley shows up. Ashley knows a little of the road Mara is walking and she is determined not to let Mara wallow. While this book is full of the journey of grief, it is also full of friendship and love, God's love, that Mara is finally ready to grab a hold of. Mara has to learn that life is livable again, that she can get up, but that she must cling to God and His Word to help her through every day. I loved watching Ashley grab ahold and refuse to let Mara stay in bed all day. I want to be a forever friend, but I am afraid I would be quick to just let people go if they didn't seem to want me around. But instead, Ashley dug in and was willing to stick it out despite Mara's unwillingness at times. Facing the Dawn seems to be the fiction version of the nonfiction book I'm reading about friendship. It put into action some of the concepts I read about. There was a paragraph or two that I want to quote here that stuck out to me, not for the friendship it displayed, but for the joy in the everyday it conveyed. That joy, that observance of the little things is something I want to have be a part of my life. "'I think we're being treated to wonder all the time. We're not always observant of it, though. I want to live noticing the speckles in the orchid's throat, the cardinal in the branches of the birch tree in my backyard at home or in a watercolor, the hint of lime in the mango sorbet.'" "'And receive it all as an expression of God's artistry and his love for us,' Ashlee said, almost breathless." I really enjoyed the book. I enjoyed seeing the change in Mara from beginning to end. While it was fiction, I think there are things to be learned from seeing her lean into life instead of backing away. There have been periods of my life where I have backed away and life is never as full or beautiful then as it is when you lean in and embrace even the hard stuff. I received this book from Revell and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    From the very first page I was struck by the quality of the writing. it’s excellent. Beyond excellent. Author Cynthia Ruchti’s use of words and phrases and hidden meaning, the flow, the humor, it just grabs you and keeps you turning pages. And that’s just the writing. The story, the plot, is full of life – and death. Of faith and loss of faith, of hope and hopelessness. Mara experiences loneliness and despair and the highs and the lows of parenthood, discovers treasured friendships, and maybe, j From the very first page I was struck by the quality of the writing. it’s excellent. Beyond excellent. Author Cynthia Ruchti’s use of words and phrases and hidden meaning, the flow, the humor, it just grabs you and keeps you turning pages. And that’s just the writing. The story, the plot, is full of life – and death. Of faith and loss of faith, of hope and hopelessness. Mara experiences loneliness and despair and the highs and the lows of parenthood, discovers treasured friendships, and maybe, just maybe, starts seeing some sunshine where there used to be only darkness and clouds. Poor Mara. And I mean that sincerely. This woman just can’t catch a break. When we meet her she is being lectured by the school principal over birthday treats. The glimpse into the thoughts bouncing around in her head then and later is so funny. Because Mara is funny. But her life isn’t funny. Whatever Mara expected out of this stage of her life, this wasn’t it. She’s in Wisconsin with a pre-teen and two teenagers. Her husband Liam is in Uganda for four years, digging wells to provide much-needed water. Mara is proud of Liam. How can she not be? He’s a hero. She believes in what he’s doing and encouraged him to fulfill his mission, his dream and assured him they would be fine, she could cope very well, thank you. But Mara is not coping. She’s at the end of her rope. She needs a husband who’s present, her children need a father who is there for them in body as well as spirit. Her house is falling apart, her job is dead-end. She resents Liam for being gone, and the guilt over that resentment is killing her, turning her into someone who’s afraid to make a decision, a choice, afraid to make a move. Someone who is angry with her saintlike husband more often than not, who seems to always expect the worst from her children. So how much longer can she go on like this? And then just when things seem so bad she can’t imagine how they could get worse, they do. And then again. Mara is many things besides lost and afraid. She’s clever, caring and capable. She still has faith, even if she doesn’t feel it. She’s strong even if she feels weak. And she can survive, even if she doesn’t think that is possible. All she sees when she looks in the mirror is a woman who can’t cope, who is proving that yes, God can give you more than you can handle. Mara is drowning and doesn’t know how to raise her head out of the water. Mara is so achingly human you can’t help but identify with her, see yourself in her. Those funny, self-deprecating, sardonic thoughts bouncing around in her head will make you chuckle, but the overwhelming tragedy of her life will make you cry. You want to hug her, to ease her pain. You want to simultaneously shake and comfort her children. And whisper to them all that tomorrow will be a better day, have faith, have hope. Facing the Dawn was the first book I read by author Cynthia Ruchti. How have I missed out on this fabulous writing, these marvelous characters, these superbly plotted stories that tear at your heart? I received an advance copy of Facing the Dawn from Revell Books via LibraryThing. I was not required to write a positive review, but I cannot say enough positive things about this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I have never read a story that deals with grief as realistically and as beautifully as this one does. Personally, I believe this book needs to be required reading for all humans. Facing the Dawn has a great storyline, one that I flew through. The characters are the BEST. They are dynamic and very relatable. And, they are incredibly endearing. My heart broke for Mara, but it also really hurt for Mara’s children and her for Facing the Dawn by Cynthia Ruchti is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I have never read a story that deals with grief as realistically and as beautifully as this one does. Personally, I believe this book needs to be required reading for all humans. Facing the Dawn has a great storyline, one that I flew through. The characters are the BEST. They are dynamic and very relatable. And, they are incredibly endearing. My heart broke for Mara, but it also really hurt for Mara’s children and her forever friend, Ashlee. And you know why? Because we ALL experience pain. We ALL walk through some really low valleys that hurt us. Pain is a universal human experience and we all deal with it differently, and Ruchti does an excellent job illustrating these points. My favorite relationship in this novel is between Mara and Ashlee. I love that Mara calls it her forever friendship and I LOVE how Ruchti shows the depth of relationship that comes with a forever friendship. Forever friendships are a true gift from God. If you’ve ever been blessed with a forever friend in your life then you know how precious such a gift is, and Mara and Ashlee’s friendship is a great picture of this blessing. The themes discussed in this novel are truly thought-provoking and timely. I really believe this book would make a fabulous book club read as it could be talked about in great length. Facing the Dawn is a wonderful read I just cannot recommend enough. There is a moment in the novel where Mara states, “We’ll walk through it together. I didn’t think I needed another reminder that God is my only hope, and [Ashlee’s]. But it’s becoming my default thought now, rather than my last resort.” This is a brilliant Truth! The first time trauma happens in your life it feels like a bomb has exploded. You feel like you’ve been shattered into a million pieces and you are not sure how you will gather those pieces back together again. It’s super easy in this state to feel like you are all alone, like God has abandoned you. This is, of course, so far from the truth, but in trauma feelings can be very deceptive. This is why we absolutely need a strong, sure faith in God. He must be our foundation or we very well could walk away from God. As Mara puts it, God is our only hope. What I appreciate so much about this quote though is the word “default.” Many of you who read my blog know that the last three years have been the hardest of my life. I have lost loved ones — my big brother, my dad, and my forever friend — and my daughter was diagnosed with seizures we still can’t get under control. What I have had to do for self-preservation’s sake is make my relationship with God my default, #1 relationship. He is my immediate go-to now. He is my true forever friend. Am I super glad the last three years have been devastating?! Not even a little, but I am grateful that the valleys I’ve been forced to walk though have allowed my relationship with God to grow as strong as it is today. I love God more now than ever before. He is my default. He is my one true hope. Mara getting to this understanding is my most favorite moment in this wonderfully poignant story. Facing the Dawn is a story that truly will stick with me long after the final pages have been read and this review has been posted. I loved everything about this cathartic read and highly, highly recommend it! I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the publisher, Revell, via Celebrate Lit and NetGalley. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Cynthia Ruchti's newest contemporary Christian novel tackles disappointment, grief, and the painful road to finding a new way to live. Mara's sure she's reached the low point of parenting after handling the household, two rebellious teens and a third child all alone for three years while her husband works to bring wells to parts of Africa. Mental and spiritual fatigue have settled in, followed by blame and resentment. Then the bottom of her life completely falls out and Mara finds herself engulf Cynthia Ruchti's newest contemporary Christian novel tackles disappointment, grief, and the painful road to finding a new way to live. Mara's sure she's reached the low point of parenting after handling the household, two rebellious teens and a third child all alone for three years while her husband works to bring wells to parts of Africa. Mental and spiritual fatigue have settled in, followed by blame and resentment. Then the bottom of her life completely falls out and Mara finds herself engulfed in grief, her already faltering faith too weak to support her or her children. It will be the role that her "forever" childhood friend and a homeless stranger play that will help Mara take the daily steps needed to heal and face the new dawn of her life. I've been a fan of Ruchti's writings for several years and know her stories always offer hope. In fact, she's known as the "hemmed in hope" aulthor. Quickly I was enmeshed in Mara's story and when double tragedy struck, I wasn't sure Ruchti could pull off a hopeful, realistic story. But I was wrong, and I know I should not have doubted her writing because really she is the messenger for God's story and there's always hope there. Two biblical truths came to mind as I followed Mara's healing. First, a reminder that even in the Old Testament we are called to care for the widows and children. I've always interpreted that to mean be charitable -- care for their physical and monetary needs. And don't we think in modern times that things like insurance policies and women in the job force basically let us off the hook in those areas? But caring for the "widow" (bereaved, those in pain) means so much more as shown by Mara's friend Ashlee's actions. Truly, there is a "heart" need that God calls us to fill for others. It goes way beyond the funeral casserole, condolence note or visit. The second is a lesson for the grief-stricken or wounded, which I can't really explain without it being a bit of a spoiler. Let's just say a forefinger and a thumb brought about a miracle once, and it can again and again. I encourage book clubs to select this title. It is definitely a book that calls for discussion and sharing. I started reading FACING THE DAWN just the day after my "forever" childhood friend called me for a chat. Neither of us is facing grief over a loved one right now, but like most older people this pandemic has brought about its own kind of grief. Her choice to call me (rather than the more common habit of me calling her) meant so much and that actions kept coming to my mind as I read Ruchti's words. When a fiction story can seamlessly meld into your real life, you know the author is telling truth. I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. All opinions are mine.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Facing the Dawn is a story about grief and its effects, and the help friendship can provide. Mara, after two back-to-back family tragedies, struggles to navigate the aftermath and life after tragedy, finding comfort in what love God and two friends can give. This novel will likely be meaningful for some and poignant for many—the novel starts off swinging and never really lets up until the end, which is both bittersweet and hopeful. Ruchti develops the themes well, and if Ashlee is one of those f Facing the Dawn is a story about grief and its effects, and the help friendship can provide. Mara, after two back-to-back family tragedies, struggles to navigate the aftermath and life after tragedy, finding comfort in what love God and two friends can give. This novel will likely be meaningful for some and poignant for many—the novel starts off swinging and never really lets up until the end, which is both bittersweet and hopeful. Ruchti develops the themes well, and if Ashlee is one of those friends who seems almost too perfect in many ways, she at least is counterbalanced by the resourceful and faithful Solomon. However, I didn’t really enjoy this novel in any respect. The tone at the beginning of the novel—mostly comprised of snark and bitterness on the side of Mara—almost immediately alienated me. It simply seemed as if Ruchti was trying too hard. The biting one-liners, the sarcastic rejoinders…none of it seemed to flow naturally at all. Then, the one-two punch of tragedy is delivered, and rather than being swept up in the characters and their emotions, feeling with them and grieving with them, I just felt it was one more thing that felt overdone. However, at least in that regard Ruchti has Mara acknowledge that she also never saw it coming, so at least there I could feel some relatability. In addition, I recognize that this is honestly probably an accurate portrayal of that tragedy in real life—it’s just that, for fiction, I didn’t feel it was developed particularly well. The rest of the story is just an odd mixture of disjointed sarcastic one-liners, Ashlee’s always perfect advice, and a really weird and mildly disturbing relationship development (though that could be the result of me not paying attention when the character connections were being discussed), with some tidbits of significant and heartfelt sentiment thrown in. With books like these, I often feel like there’s some sort of barrier between me and the book. I can see all the ways that people would enjoy the book, love the book, think it significant and wonderful and beautiful. But I somehow can’t reach that position. There’s a whole array of things—writing style, development, pace, character relatability and likeability—in the way of that for me. The best books are ones where I can manage to reach what the book is actually trying to do—but for Facing the Dawn, that never happened. Disclaimer: I voluntarily received a copy of Facing the Dawn from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pearl Fredericksen

    Contemporary Women’s Fiction facing the dawn, by Cynthia Ruchti, is a Contemporary Women’s Fiction story. It was refreshing to read a novel that doesn’t follow a typical plotline. This one reads almost more like a memoir or biography, except that those aren’t usually written in quite as sarcastic a tone. book photo A rotten attitude For the first couple of chapters, I didn’t like the main character. Her name is Mara, which means ‘bitter’ (in part), and her attitude is shown in her sarcasm. Perhaps Contemporary Women’s Fiction facing the dawn, by Cynthia Ruchti, is a Contemporary Women’s Fiction story. It was refreshing to read a novel that doesn’t follow a typical plotline. This one reads almost more like a memoir or biography, except that those aren’t usually written in quite as sarcastic a tone. book photo A rotten attitude For the first couple of chapters, I didn’t like the main character. Her name is Mara, which means ‘bitter’ (in part), and her attitude is shown in her sarcasm. Perhaps she reminded me too much of myself when I went through a similar phase in my life. Mara resents her husband’s absence as their children grow up. She feels that maybe if he were with them the children would not have gotten into the problems they’ve gone through. She finds herself in the petty difficulties of contemporary American life as well, and could use his support. It’s partly her own fault. She encouraged him to go to Africa, telling him she was a strong, independent woman (also part of the meaning of her name). Mara’s husband has been in Uganda for three years, building wells with a humanitarian organisation. He won’t be back for another year. She’s tired of dealing with the kids and house on her own. She has to work to make ends meet, and her job is unfulfilling. Plunged into a dark valley However, in chapter four, Mara’s situation suddenly changes with a phone call bringing bad news. Now the family is thrust into grief. But along with the grief, God has sent friends like angels to support and encourage them. Then there is more grief. And Mara goes into a serious depression over Christmas. Readers go through Mara’s grief with her in vivid detail. Her ‘forever friend’ is there for her through all her mixed feelings, always knowing what she needs. A kind man and his son who live nearby also pitch in to befriend and help this forlorn little family. Emerging to face the dawn Mara has many questions in her mind. Facing the dawn is part of the answer, which at first is a bit of a mystery to her as well. It comes in layers. I’m glad I chose this book from the new novels Revell offered me to review. Having gone through major grief myself this past year, and having raised children through hair-raising childhood and teen years, I could relate to Mara. Reading about the things that helped Mara on her journey to healing are interesting too. Maybe I’ll try some of them myself.

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