Searching For You (2018) by Jody Hedlund is the final novel in her Orphan Train series. This novel comes in all forms including eBook, and is 384 pages in length. With a full-time job and a precocious six-year old at home, Searching For You took me three days to read. I received an eBook copy of this novel from the publisher, Bethany House, via NetGalley to review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I give this novel 5+++++ STARS. Searching For You is a Christian Historical Romance.
About the Book
Despite years on the run, Sophie Neumann is determined to care for two young children. She won’t abandon them the way she thinks her older sisters abandoned her. But times are growing desperate, and when she falls in with the wrong crowd and witnesses a crime, she realizes fleeing 1850s New York is her only option.
Disappearing with her two young charges into a group of orphans heading west by train, Sophie hopes to find safety and a happy life. When the train stops in Illinois for the first placement of orphans, Sophie faces the most difficult choice of her life.
Reinhold Weiss has finally purchased his own small farm. With mounting debts, a harvest to bring in, and past scars that haunt him, he’s in no position to give his heart away . . . but can he say no when his long-lost friend shows up on a nearby train pleading for his help?
My good blogger friend, Becca from The Becca Files, wrote in her review for Searching For You that when she finished this book her “book fog” was heavy! I 1000% completely agree with Becca. I was so dazed upon finishing this book that I had to take the night to stew and think on all the many wonderful things I could discuss about Searching For You. Of course the writing is flawless, the story is highly engaging, the characters are perfectly drawn, and the historical detail is superb. I’m not sure Jody Hedlund could write a bad book if she tried! And, as with all her books, those things did speak to me, but what resonated with me the most are Ms. Hedlund’s themes. Searching For You deals with some heavy topics, but I finished this book feeling hopeful and more convinced in God’s love for me than I have ever felt from a fictional book before. This alone makes Searching For You a must-read novel!
I applaud Ms. Hedlund for delving into the issue of anger through her character, Reinhold. She doesn’t sugarcoat it. She doesn’t make excuses for it. Reinhold has a serious problem. Readers saw a bit of his issue in book 2, Together Forever, but in this book we see Reinhold’s internal struggle. Reinhold’s number one fear is turning into his father who was an abusive and angry man who kept his family in constant fear. He realizes that he actually has become his father after an incident in book 2. Because of this realization, Reinhold acts purposely to keep his anger in check by being alone most of the time. He will turn down dinner invitations and party invites because it is easier to be alone and single than in a group worried something might set him off. What I appreciate so much about Reinhold’s character is how realistic his anger is. For some people, it’s like we are the Hulk — you won’t like us when we’re angry. Reinhold is the Hulk. His anger turns on like someone flipping a switch. There is no such thing as building up to angry; no, Reinhold goes from cold to hot in less than a nanosecond. And, his is a powerful anger that leaves him feeling spent once he’s stopped beserking. That’s when the real pain hits — the immediate tidal wave of guilt, disgust, and self-loathing, which makes his desire to run and hide from people all the more intense.
How does someone fix this anger issue? First, the angry person has to admit he/she has a problem, and then that person has to go to God. God is the only One who can help alleviate anger. Sure, there are breathing techniques and calming exercises one can do, but unless you get to the root of the problem and give it over to God, those techniques are surface-level aids at best. I have my daddy’s anger. MANY times in my life I have felt exactly like Reinhold — I feel like there is a monster inside of me. It shames me. I am embarrassed by myself. I NEVER mean to let the monster out, but sometimes it happens, and immediately after I calm down I HATE myself intensely. It has taken me YEARS of prayer and Bible study and tears and confession, but I have finally come to understand what Solomon meant when he wrote, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29). I am by no means perfect today — I still fall into old patterns sometimes. But, I have learned. Now, I visualize my anger. I imagine putting my anger in a box. I mentally walk that box to the foot of Jesus’s cross and give it to Him asking for His forgiveness. Then I beg Jesus to help me learn how to be “slow to anger.” It’s not easy, but this technique does help me. Talking to Jesus is the only way I’ve found I can successfully control my anger, and Reinhold realizes this, too. At one point, the reader is told, “[Reinhold] picked up Sophie and carried her to the wagon thanking God again that he’d controlled his anger and praying he’d have the strength to do so next time.” To overcome our monster within we have to talk to Jesus. I’m not going to lie, when Reinhold learns this truth I cried buckets of cathartic tears.
And, this leads to my most FAVORITE aspect of this book: Jesus loves me (and you!) no matter what. Poor, beautiful, broken Sophie is SO worried and shamed by her brokenness that she feels she will never be good enough to see her sisters again or for God to care about her. Reinhold believes he will never be good enough because of the anger monster inside of him. Two broken people who listen to the wrong voice in their heads. I love how Hedlund uses Sophie and Reinhold to illustrate that we all need to replace our voices in our heads with God’s Voice. Life would be so much easier if we focused on how God sees us rather than on how we see ourselves. Instead of thinking I am worthless because I battle anger, I should replay over and over Jeremiah 31:3 — “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued My Faithfulness to you.” Or, I should play this verse from Job 33:4 — “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Having God’s Voice in my head reminds me that I was made for a purpose, that God loves me forever, and that I am His. We are all good enough because God says so. Yeah, so we may have a few cracks and flaws, but God loves cracked pots. It says so in His Bible!
For sure, I will miss my time with Elise, Marianne, and Sophie. All three characters endeared themselves to my heart. If you are looking for an excellently written and well-crafted series with heart, action, and timely messages then Jody Hedlund’s Orphan Train series is the series for you. I highly recommend all three novels in this series. When Searching For You releases on December 4th, I recommend running to your nearest bookstore and picking up a copy of this excellent book. You will not be disappointed that you did.