Waters helps us restore what was lost
5 out of 5 stars
“Forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re required to trust someone who hurt or wronged you.”
Forgiveness is the overarching theme in “Tikkun Olam: Restoring What Was Lost,” the latest installment of Ana Waters’s “Beauty for Ashes” series. While all three of her books have had similar themes – narcissistic abusers, love, loss, forgiveness, burgeoning romance, renewed faith – each has had its own unique take.
“Tikkun Olam” follows the story of Poppy, a woman with three small kids living in her parent’s basement. Married young, Poppy is devastated, bitter, and overwhelmed by life. Her husband’s betrayal left her vulnerable, but skeptical when he came spouting salvation as his reasons for reconciliation. And, of course, a new pair of green eyes at work – along with her husband’s history of abuse and betrayal – make her reluctant to give her marriage – or any new relationships – another try.
All three of Waters’ books involve marrying Jewish and Christian identities in a new way. Sometimes, deeply Christian individuals navigate their Jewish cultural identities, and sometimes, like in this novel, a lifelong Jewish culture and religious Jewish heroine struggles with burgeoning Christian ideas.
Waters is wonderful at weaving the story and building the world in such a way that the reader feels drawn in and present in the story. I could hardly put this third installment down, drawn in by the drama and waiting to see what would happen next. Though a few times, Waters did so well at building the tension and drama I had to put it down to take an emotional break for a bit.
Twists and Turns
I didn’t expect this story to end the way it did, and I’ll admit that is quite unusual and a refreshing turn for me. I devour so many stories – whether through books, television, movies, or other forms – that it’s rare for me to be that surprised. So, when an author does it, I am especially surprised and pleased.
Angels and Demons
The struggles of personal demons – both literal and figurative – were so real and vibrant on these pages. It is a special talent of Waters to make the human experience come alive. Much like our heroine herself, I struggle a little with the Leviathan of it all. I’ve mentioned in past reviews that the almost magical quality of the religious aspects is something I didn’t personally grow up with in my religious upbringing. Poppy, too, is uncomfortable and uncertain about it. Perhaps it’s why Poppy and I meshed so well, together. But I respect others’ beliefs, and I enjoy the read immensely.
Overall, Waters ability to craft flawed, real, but redeemable characters is a skill all unto itself. As a fellow writer, I tip my hat, because it is hard to turn a villain into a beloved character, and she has done it on more than one occasion. Finding that line between love and hate can be difficult, and she traverses it beautifully. Joe Trautwieg, one of Poppy’s love interests in the book, was one of my favorite so far. While I loved the nerdy Ian Horner in book two – something about Joe really touched my soul in a way I can’t quite put my finger on yet.
If you love a drama that at times pulls you through the wringer – but in that good, emotionally cathartic way – this is the book for you. If you’re Jewish, and a little nervous about Christianity, this might challenge your beliefs some, so be forewarned on that point. But I think we can all use a little challenge sometimes. One of my favorite scenes in this particular book involved a rabbi, a bat mitzvah, and Jesus. You’ll know it when you see it.
I can’t wait to see what beauty Waters next raises from the ashes.
Content Warning: Abuse, Demons, Spiritual Warfare, Religious Challenges
Haven’t read any books in the Beauty for Ashes series?
See my thoughts on Waters’ first book Tabula Rasa: Writing a New Story here.
See my thoughts on Waters’ second book Ex Nihilo: Learning to Live Again here.