PUBLICATION DATE: OCTOBER 02, 2012
uthor Joanne Bischof takes us to the hollows of the Appalachian Hills in her first novel, Be Still My Soul. The reader can easily visualize the scenes and characters from the descriptive writing.
One evening shy seventeen-year-old Lonnie Sawyer was forced be her father to sing in front of a partying crowd of family and neighbors. Her brother abandons her to walk home alone in the dark woods. Gideon O’Reilly, the handsome mandolin playing bachelor, accompanied her home. The pair walked up the mountain to her father’s cabin set in the Blue Ridge Range. Before leaving her, the wild young man tries to steal a kiss and earns a punch in the mouth. Her Pa sees the young man grab her while peering out of a window. The next day he accuses her of being soiled.
She goes to her place of solace, her Aunt Sarah’s home. The two read a Psalm each time she has an episode with her father. The words helped still her soul and remind her that God was watching over her.
Lonnie is ordered home the next morning. Her father announced that the two people are to be married the next day for Gid to do right by Lonnie. She knew that her father would be rid of her and her dreams were gone.
Lonnie and Gideon are married the next day and she is taken to his parent’s house. Gid soon decides that they will strike out on their own. He has seen an advertisement for workers in a newspaper. For days he drives her to walk to the point of exhaustion. A farmer, Jedediah Bennett, finds them and takes the pair to his house. He puts Gideon to work to give Lonnie a chance to rest and recuperate.
The incredibly selfish twenty-two year old resents how badly his life has turned. I had a hard time to find any redeeming qualities with his character through the first half of the book. He’s angry at the amount of work he has to do. He finally blows up at Jebediah and tells Lonnie he has had it. He leaves Lonnie, the older couple and the farm behind. The problem is that he still has his biggest problem walking along the trail, himself. After a harrowing time he realizes he misses Lonnie.
Joanne Bischof has written a story that draws the reader in. This is another newly published author to watch. I think she will have great success. Lonnie is a gentle girl that stays faithful to God while enduring terrible things. I found Lonnie to be a character that seems real. I cared about her. Gideon is a selfish man that has a streak of cruelty that only God could change. His character sparks anger and disbelief that he could be so stubborn and unloving. This book was gripping and hard to put down. I wish I could give it a 4.8. A second book is in the works and I’m looking forward to reading it.
onnie Sawyer is counting down the days to her eighteenth birthday when she can escape the abuse and anger of her alcoholic father and move into her Aunt Sarah’s home and help her with her soap making business. All goes to plan until one night Lonnie accepts a walk home from Gideon O’Riley, a boy who has a reputation that makes fathers get their shotguns ready should Gid approach their daughters. When Gid pushes Lonnie too far with her father looking on, a wedding date is quickly forced upon the young couple, despite Lonnie being able to escape the unwanted attempts from Gideon. Neither party is happy about this forced marriage. With such a rocky start, can these two people ever learn to trust and love each other?
With her debut novel, Joanne Bischof does a wonderful job of description and setting a scene. She is spot on about the peacefulness, isolation, and living off of the land. There is a specific atmosphere in extreme rural locations, and the characters are exposed to the harshness and also the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. The reader will be able to appreciate the struggles the characters endure while they try to make a living in such dangerous place.
I felt that there could have been much more character development with Gideon. Gid is very irresponsible when we first meet him. He drinks, is habitually late for work, and fools around with girls. When he marries Lonnie, he decides that he needs to move to a larger town , so he uproots Lonnie from her family and they travel on foot. He doesn’t plan out his decision wisely and holds no regard for Lonnie’s needs, even going as far as eating all the food and leaving nothing for her. When it’s clear that Lonnie is unwell, he pushes her harder and even gets physically abusive when she is saved by an older couple who takes them in. Between the sexual assault that he attempts at the beginning of the story and the abuse and neglect after the marriage, Gideon O’Riley has a lot that he needs to answer for. Unfortunately, he doesn’t redeem himself enough for me to be satisfied with his development. Although he apologizes multiple times, Gideon continues to betray Lonnie’s trust through the selfish decisions he continues to make. By reading part of the story through his point of view, I do believe that Gideon saw that he was wrong and while I appreciate the apologies, however I didn’t see enough through his actions that Gideon has made a permanent change. Because the trust between Gid and Lonnie was broken so much, I still viewed Gideon as an unreliable character at the end of the story.
Lonnie, however, does have quite a bit of development, and I felt proud of her at the end of the story. In the beginning, she is passive and does as much as she can in order to avoid conflict. As the story progresses, Lonnie begins to stand up for herself and her family and even goes as far to give Gideon an ultimatum. She becomes intolerant of Gideon’s poor treatment and immaturity and begins to take charge of the situation. She finishes this novel by becoming a beautiful, strong woman of God that any woman can admire.