Where the Fire Falls (2018) by Karen Barnett is the second book in her Shadows of the Wilderness series. This novel is set to release on June 5, 2018 by WaterBrook & Multnomah Publishers. This book will come in all forms including eBook, and is 352 pages in length. With a full-time job and a precocious six-year old at home, Where the Fire Falls took me two days to read. I received a copy of this novel in eBook form from WaterBrook & Multnomah via NetGalley. In no way does this change my opinion of the book. All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I give Where the Fire Falls 5+++ STARS. This novel is a Historical Christian Romance.
About the Book
Stunning Yosemite National Park sets the stage for this late 1920s historical romance with mystery, adventure, heart, and a sense of the place John Muir described as “pervaded with divine light.”
Watercolorist Olivia Rutherford fashioned her image as an avant-garde artist to appeal to the region’s wealthy art-collectors. When she lands a lucrative contract painting illustrations of Yosemite National Park for a travel magazine including its nightly one-of-a-kind Firefall event, she hopes the money will lift Olivia and her sisters out of poverty.
After false accusations cost him everything, former minister Clark Johnson has found purpose as a backcountry guide in this natural cathedral of granite and trees. Now he’s faced with the choice of becoming a National Parks Ranger, but is it his true calling?
As Clark helps open Olivia’s eyes to the wonders of Yosemite, she discovers the people are as vital to the park’s story as its vistas– a revelation that may bring her charade to an end.
Where the Fire Falls may be Karen Barnett’s best book yet. It is SO engaging — I could not put it down. When I had to because of chores I needed to get done I was so annoyed. LOL! The characters, Clark and Olivia, are so well written and believable, but it is their struggles that make them the most relatable. The setting is written in such rich detail that I felt like I was in Yosemite. And, the action is non-stop. The romance between Clark and Olivia grows naturally — none of that insta-love, which I really appreciate because insta-love often feels fake. Overall, this novel is a knock-out!
The main characters in this novel are Olivia and Clark. At the beginning of the novel, both characters are experiencing an identity crisis. Olivia is running and hiding from the sins of her father, while Clark is running and hiding from his former congregation in a Joseph-like situation (accused of something he did not do). Both Olivia and Clark find themselves in Yosemite trying desperately to put the pieces of their lives into something passable for the life they think they (and God) want. My favorite part of this novel is the struggle with identity that both characters deal with. It’s such a realistic problem that everyone goes through.
Of the characters, Clark is the most relatable to me. There is a moment in chapter 18 where Clark goes to Yosemite chapel to talk to God. He begins by saying, “God, I don’t even know what I’m doing here.” At this point, the pastor of the church, whom Clark didn’t see when he started openly talking to God, says, “Maybe I can help shed some light on that.” What follows is one of the best conversations about God that I’ve ever read in a book. It’s amazing!!! I might have made several memes just from this chapter. Hehehe! Anyway, later in the discussion, the pastor asks Clark, “Who are you?” What a great question. Our knee-jerk reaction to that question is always a list of the things we do, which is how Clark responds. I would answer: mother, wife, teacher, daughter, friend. These are the things that I do every day, but it doesn’t actually answer the question, and neither did Clark’s list of all he does. The real answer is that we are children of God. Because I am a child of God, He has formed my life in such a way that I do the role of mother, wife, teacher, daughter, and friend. I think most every person’s crisis of self is really that we are overwhelmed by all we do. We need to step back and remember who we are — children of God — so we know where to go when all that we do overwhelms us.
Where the Fire Falls allowed me to reflect on my identity crisis. It happened after my child was born. In my head, the birth of my child was supposed to be such an idyllic time. I would take on the role of mother and I would be so caring and loving and nurturing. I would know exactly what to do, when to do it, etc. I knew taking care of an infant would be hard work, but I also knew it would be satisfying work that would make me happy. Yeah, I don’t know where I got all that rosy-eyed stuff from because it is malarkey…at least in my experience. In truth, what really happened was I lost myself. The woman “Nicole” disappeared in a single night, and all that was left was a broken, exhausted, hadn’t showered in a couple of days, is that poop on my shirt?, servant who didn’t know up from down. They say that good moms know the different cries their children make — like it’s a secret language between mother and child. The only cry I can tell to this day is the “Mom, I’m hurt and scared” cry. I had no idea what my infant daughter wanted EVER. I couldn’t tell you if she wanted food, a change in diaper, to sit up, to go to bed, etc. She just cried and cried all the time. And with every cry, what made me Nicole would disappear little by little until I woke up one morning devastated because I didn’t know who I was anymore. Where did I go? I used to be a lover of life, books, art, movies, discussions, etc. I used to have such a strong and certain faith in God. Where did that person go? How did I go about getting her back? Was God even listening to my prayers? Did He see all my tears and frustrations? Did He see that I had disappeared and didn’t know how to get back to myself?
Looking back on that time, I can totally see God in everything! Hind sight is 20/20. Eventually, like Clark and Olivia do in Where the Fire Falls, I re-learned to seek my identity in Christ, which did make everything a bit clearer. I realized that God doesn’t stop speaking, I just needed to tune my ears to the right station! Once I came to that conclusion and adjusted myself accordingly, I found myself again. I learned how to be Nicole, but also Bella’s mommy, Robert’s wife, my students’ teacher, my mother’s daughter, and my best friend’s friend. I learned I didn’t have to give up Nicole, I just had to tweak it a little based on where God was moving my steps. When you’re on the correct wavelength with God, your identity becomes so self-evident, and then this perfect peace from God fills your soul. I will most definitely feel overwhelmed by all that I do sometime in probably the near future, but now I don’t have to ever fear losing myself again. I know who I am, and I know where to go when I feel those overwhelmed feelings. This is what Clark and Olivia discover over the course of the novel, and it was a truly excellent trip to take with them!
Where the Fire Falls is a beautiful and brilliant novel. I HIGHLY recommend this book. Not only does it have amazing characters traversing some of the most gorgeous landscape God ever created as they deal with adventures and crises, but it has timely themes that allow the reader to really look into himself/herself and wrestle with the question, “Who are you?”. I adore a novel that allows the reader the opportunity to look within and wrestle with issues, and come out the other side of the book a slightly newer person. Where the Fire Falls does this and more. When this book releases in June, run to your nearest store and purchase this book. The journey one takes in this book is priceless.