Sharon Souza's Unraveled starts slowly (way too much background in chapter one and a bit too much general niceness in the early chapters), but wow! when it gets going!
Sharon describes her writing as “heart-of-the-matter fiction with a good dose of humor.” The humor in this case comes from the quirky voice of Aria Winters granddaughter of former-hippies-turned-Jesus-people krystal and blue karma. Ree, as she is called, grew up on the nut farm (walnuts, almonds, and pistachios, that is), and runs off to Moldova (check your map of Eastern Europe) to be a missionary.
I say “runs” because in fact, she is running from a guilty secret in her past. In Moldova she comes face to face with an imperfect world when a little girl in her English class is taken by child traffickers. Like me, Ree grew up in a Christian home surrounded by people who loved her. Like me, she is broken by what she sees. That’s where the heart-of-the-matter part comes in, and Sharon Souza hit me straight between the eyes.
A few weeks ago, I reviewed Jeanette Windle’s Congo Dawn. It deals with the “problem of pain” in the context of a thriller. Unraveled delves much more into the complex emotions of facing the reality of something you can’t fix. Or maybe it’s just that I identified more with Ree’s emotions more than I did Robin Duncan's since I have never been chased through the jungle by mercenaries or shot at by people I trusted.
Sitting on an airplane, struggling to hold back tears as I turned the pages, I had to ask myself why Unraveled was affecting me so deeply. Yes, the issue of child sex trade is horrific, but I’ve read books about that before. I eventually realized that I was pulling so hard for Ree because I have hurled the same angry arguments at God. I even made a list once of all the things I was mad at God about—everything from my little brother’s premature death to leaving Robert Mugabe in power to destroy the beautiful country of Zimbabwe. (He’s still there.) That was after I stopped apologizing to God and making excuses for my feelings—exactly like Ree does in Unraveled. Like Ree, I came very close to leaving the mission field, not because I didn’t believe in God, but because I did—and was mad at him for his seeming heartlessness! As Ree put it, I had "no intention of turning my face to the light [like the sunflowers of Moldova], only to get burnt." (p. 196)
I reserve five stars in my reviews for books I consider worth re-reading. When Sharon sent me a free copy of this book in exchange my honest opinion, I told her I was going to donate it to my church library as I usually do review books. I’m having second thoughts. I may have to buy a separate copy for the church library. Definitely five stars.
A version of this review appeared on International Christian Fiction Writers yesterday along with an interview with Sharon and a chance to win a copy of the book by commenting. Believe me, you really do want this book, so come on over to ICFW to read more about the writing of Unraveled and leave your comment. (Comments are always welcome here, too, but I'm not giving away a free book this week. I want to keep mine. ;-)
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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