Inspirational Tale Not for the Light of Heart

5/5 Stars

Sometimes the promotional materials for a book prepare you for the pages inside the cover. Other times, you’re left blindsided when the “Jewish” heroine is the most fervent believer in Jesus you’ve ever seen outside of the Bible.

Rebecca is a young woman who has been unlucky in all of her personal relationships. She has recently left the haven of the church she found solace in after leaving her family’s church. The story slowly reveals that abuses of power and other abuses were rampant in both congregations. She throws herself into her work, helped by the “Mighty Margolin” a looming figure who piles more and more paperwork on her desk. A love triangle she can’t see for herself quickly blossoms, coming to a violent head when her father threatens her in front of Margolin, serving as the catalyst for a whirlwind romance and reckoning of Rebecca’s past.

In “Tabula Rasa: Writing a New Story,” Ana Waters has not penned a story for the light-hearted. It is a beautiful, clean romance that doesn’t shy away from the dark abuse hidden behind pulpits across the country. Rebecca’s faith in God is like that rarely portrayed in literature or media. She can hear God’s voice clearly, like a prophet. Non-believers, and even some believers, might find this hard to swallow. I’ll admit, I sometimes felt this portrayal of God a little too supernatural. Yes, I understand He is supernatural, it just isn’t what I’m used to seeing. I come from Baptist and Pentecostal traditions, which have their own quirks, but not this. A story line featuring a “Leviathan” demon also seemed more appropriate for the pages of a fantasy novel than the inspirational story of Rebecca taking back her life.

While not uncommon in the genre, the whirlwind romance almost caused whiplash. Rebecca admits they are unevenly yolked. Even so, she says God wants them married. Having grown up in the church, it was all a little too neat and perfect. Luckily, the author had friends and family question them, which added authenticity to the fact that they were moving quickly. A brief argument before the wedding helped highlight this as well.

Waters built fantastic characters. Rebecca, though extremely religious, wasn’t perfect. She had faults, including the hatred she held in her heart toward all those who wronged her. And Margolin, though a “heathen” at first, wasn’t a monster. Waters built amazing villains. All were people you wouldn’t want to run into at a party, or the grocery store. Reading this will undoubtedly make sitting in a sanctuary a little awkward for a while. Though, the world was a little heavy on villains. It seemed a little hard to believe that four different religious leaders in this one town were so corrupt. But I suppose there was some overlap, making it somewhat more believable.

I thoroughly enjoyed the incorporation of the Jewish traditions into the story. Waters heavily marketed the book as having a Jewish main character, and it was a little confusing because it doesn’t come up until pretty far into the story. But I really enjoyed what Waters did with it. I admit to not knowing much about Judaism, but the little I know seemed well represented in this book.

I would have given four stars because I was a little thrown off by the handling of religion and praying; and the pace of the relationship was just a little too fast. But overall, the storytelling was strong, the characters were enjoyable to spend time with, and I enjoyed the story of this incredibly powerful woman who overcame a horrific past to embrace her future. All of this earns back the nearly lost star, and I look forward to reading the next one.

In some ways, the story felt a little like a Biblical, modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Though they were both a little prideful, and both had some prejudices. This story is for you if you’re interested in stories about strong women who overcome difficult situations, clean romance stories, exploration of Christianity and Judaism, and stories of justice.

Content Warning: Abuse of all kinds, including child abuse; Violence; Cursing; Religious Messaging (Christian and Judaism)

Side note: my personal faith journey took me through nearly being agnostic. But having grown up nearly as Christian as the main character of this book, I could never fully accept being agnostic. Agnostic with Christian leanings is as far as I went. Anyway, I found my way back, though I now practice my beliefs in a milder church that is kinder and welcoming to all – the way I interpret God and Jesus would actually want us to be. This is mostly to point out that these biases could affect my interpretation of the book. We all bring our own experiences to each book we read. So wherever you fall on the religious spectrum could affect your interpretation and potential enjoyment of this book. It falls heavily into the inspirational category, and doesn’t shy away from the discussion of religion.