Thursday, August 29, 2013

*Into The Free* and *When Mountains Move*

                                     Into the Free

I really wanted to read these books... and I'll admit that part of it was their covers. 
There's something lonely and soul-stirring about them. The first one features a single figure walking along a dirt road with fields on the side, A Southern environment, with flower blossoms around the edges. She is setting off into the unknown, shoulders squared, and she is carrying a heavy bag that weighs her down.  

                                          When Mountains Move

The other shows us two people against the awe-inspiring desolation of the Rockies. 
A man on horseback, riding away, a woman looking into the light, watching him leave.
There is a sense that all is not right about their parting...a sense that she wants to call him back, or that he wants to turn back. You can see that they matter to each other, but something is wrong.  

The other reason I knew I had to read these books was the reviews: I had heard that these books deal with powerful themes. That they are the kind that help you grow though reading them.

That in them you to meet people that never leave your memory. That you will want to know both God and your fellow man better after your reading journey.  
Those statements about these books are true. 
Into The Free is the sort of book that leaves me asking "How does the author do that... how does she write so well that some parts of the book hurt to read, and some parts fill you with hope?" 
What a gift Mrs. Cantrell has! When I opened the pages of this book, it was like opening the very door to Millie's world.

And Millie's world overwhelms me when I think about it: such a young girl navigating a youth of storm clouds and pitch-black swirling waters that threaten to drown her, the way they seem to drown her mother and father.
Millie loves her mother, and tries her hardest to love her father, but she is just a child and can't carry those burdens by herself! She can't understand what made her family the way it is. 

A moment surrounded by joy and acceptance comes from the Gypsies that return to town every year. An old Babushka gypsy and a young man named River both draw Millie... and both have so much life in them.  Their life spills over into Millie. 

In the author's note, Julie Cantrell said that Into the Free was her love song to Mississippi. I found that fascinating. That is a perfect description of what she created when she wrote this book. A love song spun around a place and a time and a young girl living and growing... and most of all the process of healing.  

And then....

When Mountains Move. The flowing, vivid way that Julie Cantrell described Mississippi is mirrored here in her word-paintings of Colorado. 

Through the eyes of Millie, we find out what being a very young rancher's bride would have been like in 1943. Bump and Millie are together taking on a piece of the world that will prove challenging and rewarding. 
An essentially abandoned corner of God's earth and a rodent infested shack of a house: and these "two desperate kids" need to turn them into a profitable ranch and a comfortable home. The blessing is that they both know how to support each other's confidence, and they are knitted together in their desire to accomplish this dream. 

  When Mountains Move  was so full of unexpected turns and surprises that there were times when I didn't know which characters I believed, who I supported, or even what outcome I was hoping for!
There is that much tension in this book... and that much resolution. 

Maybe it is safe to say that Millie's healing, which sprouted like a hopeful springtime baby leaf in book one, really begins to grow in this sequel.

The end of Into The Free is triumphant. As Millie chooses the gentle cowboy and the life he has to offer her, she breaks a link in the chains that others have bound her with. It seems to me that all lasting relationships are maintained by making the original choice over and over again. 
The same with following Christ: many recommitments over many more years, when you let Him renew you in His love and you trust Him again.  Millie reminded me of that truth as I read this story. 
Another thing I really like was that although Bump's love for Millie is very steady and faithful, it is also human love. He did falter, he did miss the mark. He disappointed her...and me, for her sake, as I read. 
At the same time... there is such a *goodness* about Bump, so much so that he makes a startling declaration near the end of the book, one that requires sacrificial love to make. 
I can't tell you what it is...but when you read it, you'll know, and you'll cry to think that his heart worked that way. 

The reality that love does heal wounds shines like the sun out of these pages. 

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times andUSA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm. Her new novel, When Mountains Move, hits shelves September 1, 2013.

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