The fourth installment in the Karen Kingsbury’s Redemption series, Rejoice catches readers up with the lives of the Baxter family. While the authors do a great job in continuing the story of this family’s life, not much else occurs in this book. Rejoice is a quick read about an interesting family, but too much preaching takes the focus off of characterization in the book.
Brooke and Peter Baxter start out fighting to keep their marriage together, but after an act of neglect are forced to fight for their daughter’s life. Brooke and Peter have grown apart and no longer feel connected to one another. Then the unthinkable happens: while in Peter’s care their daughter Hayley nearly drowns. She survives but just barely; she is in a coma and has severe brain damage. The resulting guilt sends Peter in a downward spiral of self-hate and prescription drug abuse. Although Peter and Brooke are the main focus of the book, a good portion of it is spent on other members of the Baxter family.
My problems with this book were many. First as a reader I felt as if I was dropped into the middle of a story and had no clue what was going on, just like when you flip through the channels and end up watching a program at the half way point. So I spent much of the first half of the book trying to figure out who was who and what was going on. This was extremely difficult because of the multiple story lines. This book does not work at all well as a stand-alone story; too many important events happen in the first three books.
Another major issue for me was the way the authors brought God into the story. I have no problem reading Christian literature, but this book went overboard. God was like another character in the story and I guess on paper that sounds good, but in the book the characters took it to an extreme. If they were not talking to God, He was speaking to them, literally. When Peter contemplated suicide, God spoke to him saying over and over again “I am who I am, son. Repent and be saved.” Let’s not forget the one conversation with the devil. Does it seem like a bit much? Then you get my point! I just felt a little hit over the head with it all. Every character in the book believed in God and trusted he would lead them out of trouble but I am left wondering if the characters have any depth beyond being Christians following what God told them to do. I much prefer an inspirational novel wherein the authors show me through the story how God leads characters. Multiple paragraphs of prayer and of God directing people on how to behave left me with my eyes glazed over.
There was one high point in the story for me as a reader; the night before her son’s wedding, Elizabeth Baxter wrote him a letter about how she wished she had savored the “lasts” in his life, such as the last time tucked him into bed, the last time she took him to Little League, and all the other things mothers do in care of thier children. The letter was very sweet and caused me to reflect on how much my own daughter has grown. That section alone made the book a lot more tolerable to me. I thought if she could write such a sweet chapter about a mother and son, surely the book was going to get better. Alas, I was wrong.
The Redemption series is supposed to show how adversity and trials help Christians grow stronger in their faith. This book instead felt like this family just got the raw end of the stick and God threw everything but the kitchen sink at them to test their faith. Good does prevail and almost all ends well, and as a reader I think I get her point. If you are interested in reading this book I suggest you start at book one. I, however, will not bother since book four barely held my attention. I found out that the author is turning the touching mother/son letter into a children’s book, which will be due out in August. If you want to read the best part of Rejoice, you might want to wait and just read that instead.