I was looking forward to an easy read when Rhonda Kooyman sent me a copy of her novel Choices of the Heart. I knew it was a Christian fiction and could also be considered a romantic Christian fiction and was looking forward to digging in one day snuggled on the couch and enjoying a new author. What I wasn’t expecting is the heart wrenching profound impact a simple book could have on me. Folks – listen to me on this one – it’s much more than a simple romance. It’s deep, meaningful and has the power to change lives.
Rhonda Kooyman in her debut novel approaches tough issues that are rarely so openly discussed in Christian literature. I have read several secular novels that dealt with the issues within the book Choices of the Heart but only one other Christian author have I come across who did a good job of making it so clear, understandable and accomplishing the feat of making the reader angry at yet sympathetic for the lead Character. Rhonda Kooyman has hit a home run with this book.
In this book you meet Tracy Dewitt an attractive and somewhat popular high school senior. Right away you see that although her family life is nice on the outside it is far from perfect. Her parents rocky relationship coupled with being the youngest of four children has left her feeling out of place and more than a little let down with life. The cast of characters is introduced immediately with simple but thorough detail that gives you a clear picture of the roles played in her life. From her best friend Cory who many think is really her boyfriend to her “frenemy” Carla each person plays a significant part of the story that unfolds.
As happens unfortunately all too often, Tracy was quickly swept away by a stranger in town named Spencer. Although he seems to be the perfect man, it is quick to see he is bad to the bone. Yet, as I personally have experienced – despite abuse/pain/hurt/fear – Tracy (aka “Star”) refuses to leave him. Her love for him ties her to him regardless of the warnings of all those who love her. Regardless of her own misgivings and realizations – she feels that she can’t live without him.
This story takes us through years of abuse and humiliation that “Star” endures because she feels she has no choice, and in many ways – simply because she loves this man more than anything in the world and doesn’t think she can live without him. No matter how much it hurts to be with him – the fear of the pain of being without him keeps her from leaving.
In many ways, her story is one I could tell about myself. I didn’t suffer near what she did nor did I live in identical circumstances but the driving force behind her staying – an unexplainable love for the person who is simply WRONG for her – well, I’ve been down that road and suffered the consequences of it. This book touches on taboo things in the Christian world. Things like sex outside of marriage, abortion, drug abuse, alcoholism, prostitution and abuse. As much as I would like to say there are many books out there that show a woman she has choices no matter what she has done – I KNOW from personal experience there aren’t. What this book shows is the real way things happen. Not the fairy tale wrapped up perfectly way – but the way things happen in reality. People get abused, manipulated, hurt and even killed.
I applaud Rhonda Kooyman for taking such an honest and not sugar coated approach to reality for many women (and some men). The book shows how God can help you overcome obstacles and does forgive no matter what – but it doesn’t have the unrealistic undertone that many Christian Fiction books do. I hate to say, but admittedly – I get tired of reading Christian romance books because all too often they are what we’d love to see happen but they just simply aren’t realistic at all. This book easily gets 5 stars from me and will definitely be one I recommend widely. Not only are the plot and characters great but the writing is wonderful as well. Excellent in fact!
Thanks to Rhonda Kooyman for the opportunity to review her book Choices of the Heart on my blog!