Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: Wisdom to Know by Elizabeth Maddrey

When a pastor's daughter goes completely off the rails, she feels as though she's ruined her chances at life, love, and forgiveness. But God has a way of bringing His own back to Him, and sometimes He uses tough love to do it. The road back for a prodigal is never easy, and it's never a journey that can be completed alone. This is a lesson that Lydia Brown, her family, and her friends are going to learn firsthand.

*SPOILERS ABOUND*

When Lydia goes on a quest to marry the perfect guy (while completely ignoring the one right in front of her) she compromises her convictions and convinces herself that it was a worthy sacrifice if she ends up married to a powerful political hopeful. But when her pseudo-fiancé severs all ties afterward, and Lydia ends up pregnant, it seems there's only one option: abortion. It's an idea she's fought against her entire life. And now, it seems to be her only way out. If her friends and family knew she wasn't really the perfect Christian girl they all imagined her to be, they'd reject her for sure. And so she goes and does the most detestable thing she's ever done. It's the first of many compromises on a downward path to destruction.

Through it all, her best guy friend Kevin (who's only been hopelessly in love with her for practically forever) can't seem to figure out why Lydia is growing more and more distant. He's felt for ages that God had meant for them to be together. He's waited patiently as she's gone through boyfriend after boyfriend. But Lydia shows no signs of pursuing Kevin. And Kevin's all but given up pursuing her in return. Little does he know, he may be the only one able to bring her back from the brink.

Can Kevin ever forgive Lydia if he finds out her secret? Can Lydia ever forgive herself? Is there any sin so great that even God cannot forgive?

This book speaks to me on a lot of very personal levels. Primarily it is a book about one woman's recovery from the horror of abortion. But part of that process involves running away from life and burying herself in drug addiction. This hit very close to home for me, since my own father had been a drug addict for a number of years. Like Lydia, prescription narcotics was his drug of choice at one point. Many people talk about what the addict haS to deal with during withdrawals. But few touch on what the family has to deal with. The disappointment, constant worry, and fear that one false move could end a life weigh heavy on our minds. I think the book captures that essence brilliantly.

The book is also very accurate to the abortion recovery process. Having worked closely with a few pregnancy resource centers, I know full well the mental and physical consequences of abortion on a woman. Recovery is a tough road. But praise be to God, it is a possible one. There truly is no sin so great that our Father cannot forgive, if only we would ask.

And forgiveness has to come from more than God. On the one hand, family and friends must be willing to forgive. Of all Lydia's allies, Kevin struggles the most with the concept. It's understandable. After all, he's had Lydia on a pedestal for most of his natural life. It takes courage to step back and accept her as a flawed human being just as in need of love and forgiveness as any other. And such courage doesn't develop overnight. But Lydia, too, must come to forgive herself. And when you don't feel worthy of forgiveness, it's a bitter pill to swallow.

This is another area that hit very close to home. While I never had as severe a problem as drug addiction or an abortion, I did struggle with an addiction to perfectionism for years. Thinking that I was unworthy of forgiveness drove me into a deep depression, to the point of more than one suicide attempt. It took the Spirit of God to save me from myself and teach me what grace really was all about. I was right, of course. I was unworthy of forgiveness. But worthy or not, God was offering it to me anyway. Once I finally embraced that in my heart, I came to realize a very important thought: who am I to deny myself forgiveness if God doesn't deny it? Am I better than God? Why then should I presume to know better than He about who should and shouldn't be forgiven? That thought has made a world, nay, an eternity of difference in my life.

As interesting as Lydia's and Kevin's respective journeys are though...the most interesting couple in the book was their best friends Matt and Laura. I found myself wanting to read more about them! Their relationship history is only hinted at here and there throughout the book, but I'd seriously love a spinoff book about those two. It's rare to find such a true-to-life married couple in a work of fiction, and they were just oozing chemistry. They remind me very much of myself and my husband.

I do have one gripe, though. While the emotions portrayed in the book are very strong...the ending isn't. The last few chapters feel so rushed and predictable, I could see the ending long before I even got there. For a book that's supposedly all about drama and conflict, I was expecting the ending to have more drama than it did. As it stands, it's extremely anticlimactic. And that's a real shame. The finale had the potential to be something spectacular, but it just sort of fizzled out and came grinding to a halt. If I had my druthers, I'd rewrite the ending almost completely. It's a huge dent in what was an otherwise very good book.

Criticisms aside, though, if you're looking for a book that gives a painfully real exploration on what the after effects of abortion can be like, I recommend giving it a read.
For more books by and information about Elizabeth Maddrey, you can check out her website at elizabethmaddrey.com. And don't forget to stalk her (virtually, of course!) on Facebook.

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