On the day of her university graduation, Kaylan Richards stood at the crossroads of her future. She could choose a safe and secure route, work at her family's dance studio until she begins her internship and gets her certification. She would be near home and family. Or she could take the road less traveled, making a decision to follow the Lord's leading in a completely different direction. That would take her to Haiti as a volunteer for six months putting her recent training to use in a more challenging situation.
Kaylan's choices were not so simple. A few years ago she gave her heart to Nick Carmichael, a Navy SEAL and best buds and fellow Team member of her brother Micah. But he had crushed her love and hopes when he had suddenly called off their relationship, shortly after his first deployment. Now, on her day of graduation, he was back. He wanted a second chance with her. She was angry with both Micah and Nick. What of her decision now?
Kaylan and her best friend, Sarah Beth, were finally settled into Rhonda's extra bedroom in Haiti's capitol city, Port-au-Prince. They were both working with Rhonda's organization as volunteers, Kaylan as the clinic nurse, and Sarah Beth with the children in the neighborhood, teaching them to read. They were quickly falling in love with the people whose spirit of survival seemed indomitable. The poverty was overwhelming, but the people were tough. Over time, it felt as if the girls were the ones learning the most...about survival and what really mattered in life.
Then came disaster. A large earthquake hit the country, especially in the capitol city of Port-au-Prince where the girls were living. Lives all around them were lost, and Kaylan and Sarah Beth were trapped in the collapsed house with no way to escape until someone could come to dig them out. By that time, it was too late for Sarah Beth. Kaylan was pulled out, only hurt a little, but emotionally broken and in shock. In an effort to put off facing the loss of her best friend, she threw herself into the work of helping those injured at the clinic.
When Micah and his family and Nick heard about the earthquake, the SEAL buddies made use of their contacts to fly out to Haiti to bring the girls back home. By some miracle they found Kaylan--feverish, malnourished, dazed, working like a bulldog to help as many victims as possible, but on the verge of collapse. While she healed quickly enough at home in the hospital, it soon became obvious that Kaylan needed time to heal emotionally and spiritually. She had been tested, and believed she had been found wanting. This was when Nick began to prove to her and her family his rock solid commitment to her. Only he seemed to be able to reach her heart and help her through the nightmares, the flashbacks, and her insecurities. It took time.
The author, Kariss Lynch, has written a powerful story that touches our hearts with its poignancy, heights of adventure, and the depths of despair. It shakes our hearts from their complacency and makes us ask ourselves how our faith in Christ would survive if faced with a similar challenge.
Additionally, the author successfully communicates to her readers the plight of the Haitians both before the 7.0 magnitude earthquake and after. She clearly portrays the dual struggle for physical survival and the spiritual battle being waged over peoples' souls in a society where the culture combines voodoo beliefs with those of Christianity in a twisted hybrid that benefits no one. Yet in spite of the spiritual darkness, flickers of light shine out when someone finds their hope and purpose in Jesus.
Thirdly, I was drawn to the complex relationship Nick has with Kayla in light of his calling and desire to serve his country as a SEAL, and Kayla's struggle to deal with this. The reader is pulled into the fray as the two attempt to reach an understanding they can both live with.
I enjoyed the finely tuned balance the author found between struggle and victory, between weakness and strength of spirit, between belief and practice of faith. It is not easy to write this kind of balance. I have often read stories where struggles and angst in life are overly drawn out--where the resolution is too hastily contrived. Some tales leave the reader dissatisfied or feeling as if something was missing. But I believe this book offers the readers a satisfying resolution while at the same time making it clear the tale will continue as a series. With an equal amount of character development and action, I can highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys Christian fiction novels.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Booketeria on behalf of Charisma Media/Realms. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:
“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Kaylan has just graduated from college and has six months before her internship starts. Her best friend, Sarah Beth, insists they both go to Haiti to do short time work in a clinic in Port-au-Prince. They share a passion to change the world.
Before long, Kaylan comes to love the country and the Haitian people, despite her run in with a voodoo priest. She is amazed at the church services of the Haitians. “These people with nothing truly showed Kaylan that God was their everything.” (87)
Yet Kaylan experiences frustration. It seems hopeless, trying to change the years of oppression, the voodoo, the extreme poverty. It is hard for her to accept the word of the clinic director, that the world is changed one life at a time.
Then the worst earthquake Haiti has ever seen occurs and Kaylan's life is forever changed.
This novel is a good character study of a young woman, idealistic and sheltered, who is faced with death and destruction. Where is God in all of this? How could this have happened? Interwoven into Kaylan's experience in Haiti is a romance with a Navy SEAL. She and Nick had had a close relationship but when he deployed, he knew he needed to leave her behind. He broke her heart. Just before Kaylan leaves for Haiti, Nick shows up wanting to renew their relationship.
There are a number of issues covered in this book. The major one is faced by Kaylan. How do you still believe in a God Who says He is good in the face of great tragedy and death that strikes so close to you? Another issue is guilt. Both Kaylan and Nick face this issue, Kaylan because the voodoo priest says the earthquake was her fault, and Nick because he lost part of his team in an attack.
This is a very good debut novel. I recommend it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
You have to read "Shaken"!! It is such a thrilling book that will captivate you from beginning to end...I read it in 3 days...couldn't put it down! These characters are very relatable and their stories reflect the struggles, triumphs, mountains, and valleys that we all have in life and in our daily walk with Christ. It's message of hope, love, and sacrifice is inspiring!! Lynch uses each character and each situation to display God's everlasting love and grace, allowing us all to realize that He has a unique plan for each of us.
I can hardly wait for "Shadowed" to be released in 2015!
"Sometimes it's like trying to swim upstream. You fight the current the whole way, and only those determined to tough out the heat, animals, natural disasters, and blase attitude make it. This country isn't for the fainthearted or idealistic." ~Rhonda, aid worker down in Haiti.
"Love is a really strong word." ~Kaylan, nutritionist volunteering her skill in Haiti.
"Pray for Kaylan and leave her in the capable hands of the God who has her wrapped in his arms, even when she can't feel him right now." ~Pap, Kaylan's wonderful Grandfather.
This book will be on my Best of 2014 list, I just know it. Shaken is an emotional tour-de-force. I cringed at the scenes of the earthquake's destruction, and the descriptions of life ebbing away in the rubble wrenched my heart. Once she was lifted from the ruins and returned to America, Kaylan's reactions to the tragedy were visceral and I longed for Kaylan to experience peace again. I love the fact that her renewal was not easy, or simple, or instant. I appreciated the fact that she knew she had lost her old self, and that she'd never be the same again, but that bit by bit she could find goodness in life once more. That is what gives this novel its power, it is honest and real and heart-wrenching. (It is also never graphic or heavy, so don't avoid this novel out of those concerns.)
As well as being the story of a young woman who undergoes a baptism by fire, this is also a family story.
God brings Kaylan back to life slowly, using the people around her to help her and support her. She has three great brothers, the kind who tease her kindly and look out for her and spend time listening to her and threaten to throw her over their shoulder and carry her if she's late for dinner. :) And she has Pap... who made me laugh so hard when he told her that he was old and lived vicariously through her so he needed the details of her date.
Which brings us to another element of this novel, the love story. It was a genuine love story, which is oh so rare and precious, where there is a bond being formed and sacrifices made and trust growing along with affection. As a SEAL, who bears the weight of responsibility for all of his men, Nick understands guilt when you lose somebody. Through this story, his own patience and love God shine into Kaylan's life when she needs them most. Perhaps best of all, as good as he is as a man, he knows that he can't save her. He alone can't be her rescuer. Yet he also knows her Rescuer, and he knows how to guide her to Him.
Thank you to the Booketeria for my review copy! I'm so happy to see that book two, Shadowed, also features Kaylan, and that chapter one was included at the end of Shaken.
Kariss Lynch is an author to take note of, people. Refreshing, Real, and with a well-wrought message of Redemption that doesn't feel preachy, it just feels right.
"Shaken" is a Christian romance novel. I thought this novel would be mainly set in Haiti and show the struggles they deal with, but only a third of the book occurs in Haiti and much of the detailed description was of the earthquake and the immediate aftermath. Since I've read some nonfiction about what Haiti is like, I was confused that problems like AIDs were never mention in the novel, especially as the characters were giving medical care to bleeding people.
I also had a hard time getting immersed in the story because I was constantly confused by what we were supposed to think about the characters. We're told that Kaylan deeply trusts her family and distrusts Nick, but after the earthquake, she more open (trusting) with Nick than her family. And I wasn't sure if we were supposed to believe that Kaylan was struggling against a genuine call from God or if she was simply following her friend's vision and figured God would approve. We do eventually get a clear answer to that one, but by then I had new questions.
Much of the book was Kaylan thinking things over rather than actually interacting with people. If Kaylan and her best friend had interacted more--like showing them struggling together with culture shock (which was blurred over) or the memories shared earlier--I would have understood how much that relationship defined Kaylan's identity. As it is, it came across as a good but casual friendship until halfway through the book.
Kaylan frequently prayed at God and did Christian things, but she didn't really know God. She referred to faith in God as "blind faith," but it isn't blind if you know the One you're putting your trust it. She told a Haitian that Jesus died to "heal us" but never said from what, and I wondered if she really understood why Christ died. She constantly told God what to do and judged Him for not fixing things in her way and timing. So she's going to fix things since God is failing in His job. She further questions God after the earthquake. While some answers were seen about what good could come out of the earthquake, I didn't feel like she'd grown in her understanding of God.
There was no sex or bad language. Overall, if you're interested in the Haiti aspect, you'll probably get more out of a non-fiction book. If you want a novel about a shallow Christian undergoing deep trauma and her family's efforts to help her heal emotionally, you might like this book.
I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.