Book review: Mercy Triumphs

When Jana Kelly published Side by Side in 2015, I got the opportunity to review the book before it hit stores. It was great getting into the stories of Mia, Halimah, and Rania, and then to get deeper into their lives with the next book in the series, Door to Freedom. I’m excited to announce the third book in the series has just been released: Mercy Triumphs, and it’s just as great as the previous two. All three books can be read on their own, but it’s a much more satisfying story to read them all in order.

Mercy Triumphs continues the stories of Mia, Halimah, and Rania. Mia is settled in her life in Khartoum, continuing building and strengthening friendships, and maturing in her faith. Halimah works in a refugee camp and then gets to transfer to Nairobi, but she is unsure whether that is the God’s will for her to do. Rania is almost at the end of her year’s studies at the art school in Dubai where she lives with her uncle and aunt, and is dreading return to Sudan to marry her older cousin. She is also growing in her faith, especially with Halimah’s encouragement via text, email and phone calls. Through some turns of events, Halimah winds up living with Rania in Dubai with their uncle and aunt, but fearing for their lives and the imminent arrival of their parents from Sudan, Halimah and Rania manages to escape to the States thanks to the help of the organization where Mia’s husband, Michael, works. The ending is bittersweet, but hopeful in the knowledge that God is merciful in all circumstances. The ending is rather open-ended — how do Halimah and Rania adjust to life in America? Do they reconcile with their parents? Do Uncle Faisal and Aunty Badria come to faith? I wonder if this means there will be another book? ;-)

Reading through this series has been a really special experience for me personally, having spent about half a year in Sudan back in 2004. One of the things that resonated with me strongly was the reverse culture shock Mia experiences on her return to America. I remember feeling overwhelmed with how clean and un-dusty everything was upon my return to New Zealand, how beautiful the tar-sealed roads without potholes were, what insane amount of choice there were at fully stocked supermarkets, and what a profound sense of guilt I felt for getting to live in a place like that where I could freely worship Christ. I cried a lot during that time — and it was a happy time, I was about to get married! — but I just had a lot of trouble readjusting. The thing is, I was only in Sudan for 5 months — how much more is this not an issue for people who have lived on the mission field for years! Thankfully, God put a wise woman in my life who pointed out to me that God calls us to be content with whatever God has given you in His mercy. We usually (to our shame) read a passage like that and think about how we have to put up with the little we have, but she pointed out to me that it was not my place to feel guilty about what was mine, but that I should be content with the much that God had given me. Not to live selfishly, of course, but with thankfulness.

Contentment is definitely something that needs to be learned, and I think this book does a great job of showing how that is possible when we trust that God is merciful, no matter what. God is merciful wherever he’s planted you, whatever lot he’s given you, with whomever you’re writing your life’s story. Mercy triumphs.


 

I received a complimentary copy of Mercy Triumphs but have not been compensated in any other way for this review. Buy your copy today!

Book review: Door to Freedom

Back in 2015, I was given the opportunity to review the book Side by Side by Jana Kelley. It was a realistic and an enjoyable read, which I was excited to hear is turning into a trilogy. The second book in the series was published this year, and is called Door to Freedom. I was very happy to be offered the chance to review it as well!

These days there seems to be some sort of hype-driven fear that all Muslims are evil and just waiting for their chance to kill someone. This book helps to drive that unrealistic fear away and shows that Muslims are people just like us, with friends,  with family tensions, with hopes and dreams, but mostly with a deep need for the peace that comes only from the Gospel.

As with Side by Side, it was wonderful to feel as if I was back in Sudan through all the descriptions in the book. I could feel the grit of the dust, hear the honking of rickshaws and taxis, taste the food, and feel the heat. In Side by Side,  we meet Halimah who is a convert to Christianity and has to flee and leave her family and all she knows behind to save her life. We also meet an American couple, Mia and Michael, who are working in Sudan with an aid organization.

Door to Freedom is set about a year later. Rania, Halimah’s sister, misses her sister dreadfully and expresses her feelings through art. She keeps thinking about her sister’s courage and eventually she builds up enough courage to read the book of John that Halimah had left behind and she becomes a Christian. Soon she faces the prospect of marriage to a much older cousin, but her mother steps in and convinces her father it would be a good idea to send her to live with family in Dubai where she can also study art. We are left at the end of the book with the hope that Rania’s mother might also be on the road towards putting her trust in Jesus.

Mia and Michael have matured more in their faith and have become more bold in their witness, and experience various trials as a result of that. In fact, Door to Freedom deals with some more of the difficulties of living in a country like Sudan in more detail, including a fairly tense few chapters where Michael is under investigation by the police.

I loved seeing how the characters have developed and matured, and how Michael and Mia have increased in their boldness in sharing the Gospel. There was, however, one thing that didn’t sit right with me: the ‘lone ranger’ type of work Michael and Mia were doing. From my experience (which was, I admit, pretty limited) in Sudan, Christians stuck together and supported each other, even when they were not working with the same organization. In the book, Michael and Mia lead a couple to Christ and even baptize them, but without other Christian witnesses and with seemingly little long-term Christian support and discipleship. There might well be an explanation for this, but it struck me as odd. It’s also odd to me how little other Christians feature as a support network for Michael and Mia — we do hear about them going to church, but it doesn’t seem to be a large part of their lives. Maybe we’ll see more  Christian support for them in the next book?

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Door to Freedom, and I’m very much looking forward to reading the next book. I should mention that while this is a series, each book stands on its own pretty well. Get yourself a copy, or enter the giveaway to win!

Giveaway: I’m giving away one free copy of Door to Freedom! Reply in the comments section with a sentence about why you’d like this book and I’ll enter you in the draw. I’ll announce the winner next Friday, the 10th of March. (This giveaway is sponsored by me.)

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I received a complimentary copy of Door to Freedom but have not been compensated in any other way for this review.