Nantucket Ho! Surrender Bay Review (CFBA tour)

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing SURRENDER BAY(Thomas Nelson November 6, 2007) by Denise Hunter

Denise lives in Indiana with her husband Kevin and their three sons. In 1996, Denise began her first book, a Christian romance novel, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since.

In addition to Surrender Bay, the second Nantucket book, The Convenient Groom will be released in April 2008. It features Kate Lawrence, a relationship advice columnist, whose groom dumps her on her wedding day. Denise is currently at work on the third Nantucket book (Oct 2008).

When Sam’s estranged step-father dies, she inherits his ocean-front cottage in Nantucket–not because he kindly bequeathed it to her, but because he neglected to create a will. Sam returns to the island she left 11 years ago with her daughter Caden to fix up the house and sell it, but she isn’t counting on Landon Reed still living two doors down.

As their long-dormant romance begins to bud again, Sam must face the fact Landon still doesn’t know why she really left the island. Will the secrets she’s hidden all these years tear them apart? Or is Landon’s love really as unconditional as he claims?

My Review:

Hunter started a tad slow with a prologue from Sam’s childhood that I understand wanting to include after the fact. But, other than a few missed point of view intruders (saw, heard, etc.) to remind me early on that I’m reading a book rather than visiting Nantucket, this was a great read that I absolutely ate up.

At the same time, I did have a concern that kept nagging me at the back of my mind. This is an alegorical love story–Landon is your proverbial Christ figure that every Christian author has crop up somewhere in their works at some point (and that’s definitely not a criticism.) The novel works on the figurative level quite well. The parable’s point carries across quite well for anyone who has “ears to hear” as Jesus often put it.

But a good allegory works on the literal level, too, and on the literal level, God is sadly absent. By this I mean by the end of the story, on the literal level, the main character has embraced Landon, but not Jesus, and there’s no way to know where Landon is with God, either. So I loved it as long as I didn’t let myself worry about the state of Sam and Landon’s souls, though that I had this concern to begin with is to the author’s credit in terms of the strength of her characters and ability to connect with the reader.

In case you’re wondering about my judgment on Sam, it’s not because she never quite says “I was wrong to have sex out of wedlock,” the author does a good job of showing that it was wrong, and Sam carries quite a heavy bag of guilt around with her, albeit it could be taken as Sam only regretting betraying Landon and the drunkenness involved rather than appreciating that fornication is wrong period, I doubt that was the author’s intent. Hunter was, if anything, overly focused on the parable, and parabolicly, there’s no distinction: it’s always wrong because it’s always a betrayal of who Landon represents. But the fact that Sam’s holding the bag of shame shows Who’s not.

The kind of abandonment issues that lead to Sam’s misbehaviors make it very hard for real Sams to embrace Christ. That aspect was clearly well-researched and well done. Which in one way is the whole point of the book. It’s definitely one to give to a real Sam in hopes of softening the soil of their heart. Or for that matter, plenty of us believers continue to struggle with a fear of rejection that holds us back in our relationship with Christ, too.

Surrender Bay will also be a real treat to anyone who would love to visit Nantucket and can’t afford it. This is a pretty close second to actually sitting on the end of a pier dangling your feet into the Atlantic. And the only way I ever want to get caught in a riptide.

On the business side of things, I’m left wondering why she went through a Christian house known for their bibles. The religious side is so subtle, I see no reason why a secular house couldn’t have taken it, and having “Thomas Nelson” on the spine might not be the best thing for reaching out to the pre-evangelism type audience I see this being ideal for.

In summary: if you like or don’t mind subtle, you’ll love Surrender Bay. But if you have a strong preference for overt, you’ll probably find it troubling, but still very enjoyable provided you can lay aside the thorny spiritual, ahem, issue on the literal level.