Finding Evergreen (2018) by Jennifer Rodewald is the third and final book in her Grace Revealed series. While it is the third book, Finding Evergreen does act like a stand-alone novel. As I have yet to read books 1 and 2, I never once felt lost or confused by the plot line in book 3. This book is set to release on Thursday, March 22, 2018 by Rooted Publishing. This book will come in eBook form, and is 414 pages in length. With a full-time job and an adventurous five-year old at home, this story took me TWO days to devour. I received a review copy in eBook form from the author. In no way has this influenced my opinion. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I give this story 5+++ STARS. Finding Evergreen is a Contemporary Christian Romance.
About the Book
He thought he’d found the thrill of his life; she, the romance she’d hadn’t dared to hope for. Falling in love had been easy. Being married? Totally different story.
Married within a year of meeting, Ethan and Brandi add a foster daughter to their newly established family. Their story is enchanting—inspiring. Except when the fairy tale fails. The stresses of unmet expectations and wounds from their pasts knife into their marriage, severing what they believed would be forever.
Hope for a broken marriage. Healing for their wounded spirits. It would take both to find evergreen. Are they brave enough to try?
Finding Evergreen is an excellent story. In her Author’s Note, Jennifer Rodewald explains that she is drawn by the messy story. Let me tell you what, this may be one of the messiest stories I’ve ever read. My heart was ripped out of my chest, stomped on repeatedly, then crammed back into my chest in bloody pieces. I sobbed my heart out on more than one occasion. By the end of the book, I was ugly crying. It. Was. Awesome!
Finding Evergreen is a redemption story unlike any I’ve read before. It’s gritty. It’s real. It’s honest. It made me go to my knees a few times asking God to forgive me for my Pharisaical heart. You see, I was born a pharisee. True story! I love rules. I think everything should be boiled down to a black and white answer. Obviously, life has been difficult for me. LOL! The main character, Brandi, is a Pharisee, too. As I was reading this story, I kept wanting to enter the story line and shake her. I wanted so desperately to yell at her from outside of the page, “Brandi, I get it. You LOVE control. Following rules leads to control. But, man, you are so HARD! Calm down. Take a step back. BREATHE!” Even if I were a character in this story though I couldn’t tell this to Brandi. She, just like real Pharisees, has to learn it on her own. What we Pharisees have to learn is that we have got to ask God to be our guide. Our own understanding will never be enough to get us through anything. We will always end up fighting. Fighting the world, fighting our loved ones, fighting God.
What I appreciate SO much about this book is its honesty. Marriage is the HARDEST thing I have ever done. I dare say, it’s harder than being a mommy. The love is different. With my daughter, Bella, the love NEVER changes. I can be mad, sad, disappointed, happy, and/or content with my daughter and the love never differs. It’s always there. But, with a husband, it’s different. And, I think it’s because of over-the-top expectations. I have almost no expectations for my daughter. That sounds bad, and I don’t mean that like it sounds. Of course, I expect her to be a good girl, listen to mommy and daddy, do well at school, behave during church, etc. But, everyday with Bella is a blank slate. In the morning I say to myself, “I love her, we’ll see what this new day brings!” With my husband, though, I had major expectations and they have all mostly been dashed. I dreamed BIG about my future husband. We’re talking “Disney Princess” BIG. My husband was going to be my rock, my person whom I could lean on no matter what, he was going to be the answer to all my problems in life. Who can actually be that for another person? I expected my husband to be the superman I had dreamed up, not the man he actually was/is. Add to this that I was a Pharisee and you have the makings of a bad marriage. Watching Brandi and Ethan go through the gut-wrenching, heart-rending pain of the first year of marriage killed my heart. “I know where you’re at,” I wanted to scream. “Just hold tight, guys! It will get better if you can see the changes you need to make in yourself first.” I talked a lot to the characters in this book. In this way, Finding Evergreen is incredibly interactive!
It should be noted that it’s a good thing love in a marriage changes. As I grow older, and my husband does, too — although you wouldn’t know it to look at him and his gorgeous skin — we are both changing together. Our love is stronger and our friendship is deeper. Once my eyes were open to my Pharisaical tendencies, I begged forgiveness from God and my husband. And, because God is so good and gracious and my husband is an amazing guy, I have been forgiven of my Pharisaical ways
(many times). I now know what to work on to be a better partner. It has not been easy, and many times I fall back into old patterns. Knowing my shortcomings is a good thing though; I never lack for something to talk about with God. And, it helps me understand Jesus better when He discusses removing the plank from my eye. This lets me be the wife God wants me to be. It lets my love for my husband change and grow as it should, not as I think it should, which leads to a better, healthier relationship. Being reminded of this through Brandi and Ethan’s story made this story a 5+++ STAR book for me.
Finding Evergreen is an exceptional story. I highly, highly recommend it. I think everyone should buy this book on March 22 when it releases and really deal with the heart-wrenching issues brought up in the story line. The characters in this book are superbly written, and they hold up a much-needed mirror to the reader. The story begs the reader to search in his/her own heart, and I absolutely love that about this book. This reading experience brought me closer to God and to my husband, and for that I am truly grateful. Please, I implore you to read this book. You will not be disappointed that you did!
About the Author
Jennifer Rodewald is passionate about the Word of God and the powerful vehicle of story. Four kids and her own personal superman make her home in southwestern Nebraska delightfully chaotic.
Born in Colorado, she experienced both the seclusion of rugged mountain living and the busy streets of a Denver suburb during her growing up years. Somewhere in the middle of college, she married a Husker and found her way back to the quiet lifestyle of a rural area, which suits just fine.
Blessed with a robust curiosity, Jen loves to research. Whether she’s investigating the history of a given area, the biography of a Christian icon, or how nature declares the glory of God, her daily goal is to learn something new. Aiming to live with boundless enthusiasm, her creed is vision, pursuit, and excellence.
Jen lives and writes in a lovely speck of a town where she watches with amazement while her children grow up way too fast, gardens, and marvels at God’s mighty hand in everyday life.
An Interview with Jennifer Rodewald
I have the great privilege of being part of Jennifer’s review team for Finding Evergreen, and asked if she would kindly respond to a few interview questions for me. She said, “YES!” What follows are Jennifer’s candid responses. I hope you enjoy! And, thank you, Jennifer, for accommodating me and my questions!
What inspired you to write Finding Evergreen and the Grace Revealed series?
The Grace Revealed series grew from a stand-alone book. Blue Columbine is book one of the three, and was not originally intended to be part of a series. But as I was going through the final read-through before it released in 2015, a minor character caught my attention, and I wondered what her story was. She was icy and bitter and complicated (her name is Cheryl Thompson), and I mentally picked her out and set her to the side to consider. It took some time to come back to her because I was in the midst of getting two other books squared away for release in 2015 and 2016, but when I came back to her, I found Cheryl had a very complicated, messy, beautiful story, and from that came Red Rose Bouquet—book two of the Grace Revealed set. In Red Rose Bouquet, we’re introduced to a new cast of characters who, as I was writing Cheryl’s story, I knew that I’d be zooming in on in another book. Ethan, Brandi, and So-J all find themselves center-stage in Finding Evergreen, which is the third and final book in the set. All three stories dig deep into what grace is—and Who gives it. The stories are messy—sometimes ugly. The characters are complicated, and sometimes so difficult that we want to walk away, wash our hands of them. But throughout the series, even in the darkest parts of these character’s journeys, there is a deep-rooted grip on The One who redeems. A hope that the hand of grace can reach even there. An alcoholic, a woman with a dark past, and a modern Pharisee… there is room at the cross for them all, and the Great Redeemer is more than able to reach each one.
While writing Finding Evergreen, did you run into any snags, or was the writing process pretty smooth? When you do run into snags, what do you do to overcome the problem or hold-up?
This book was all snags. There really isn’t anything easy when it comes to writing messy stories. They take my heart to hard places, and I feel the ache and loneliness and the isolation of their lives keenly as I write their stories. It can be exhausting, and often I want to walk away. That’s probably the biggest snag—getting into the hard places and just wanting out. To quit. But in those moments, the yearning to see the heart of God tugs harder. I start to read about other people’s real-life redemption stories. I hear what God has done in the midst of their disasters, and I begin to feel hope’s grip again. I think that’s why I keep going back to messy stories. There is something insatiable about hope, and though I know very well that in the real world things don’t always “work out,” I also know that sometimes, they do. And so often, those times have everything to do with broken hearts bowing before the gentle and mighty hand of God. That’s where I want to live—in the middle of that humble hope, looking for the HEA that we all long for.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? Why?
Seeing a story come together when I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, and then hearing the whisper of God saying “well done.” That last part—I so desperately crave it. I remember the first time my heart heard it several years back, and to this day I have to tell you, there is nothing like it.
How do you balance all of the hats you wear each day?
Uh… honestly. Not very well. Married to my own personal Superman for over eighteen years, and with four kids, my days never look the same. I tend to be a workaholic when I’m in the middle of a project, and it way-too-often interferes with my family. Balance isn’t something I’ve achieved yet. ☹
If you could invite any three authors — past or present — to dinner, who would they be and why?
Hmmm…. That’s a hard question! So many amazing writers out there, so many I greatly admire. I just really don’t know that I have an answer to that…
What books are currently on your TBR pile? Which book do you hope to get to soon?
I just finished When Breath Becomes Air, and I’m still ruminating on it—it’s a non-fiction story that simply demands reflection. I have Courtney Walsh’s Just Look Up sitting on my nightstand right now, so after I feel I can move forward again, that’ll probably be my next read.
Coffee, tea, hot chocolate? What’s your go-to drink when you are reading a good book?
Coffee. Always coffee. 😉