5/5 stars for excellence all around, 4/4 hearts for spiritual significance and healing hearts!
About the book:
Jakob and Meri's story continues...
Meredith Louis's Hollywood career is at a point of transition. No longer under Majestic Studios control, Meri is free to broaden her appeal as an actress and finally earn the recognition she desires.
Meri and Jakob return to their hometown for the holidays where Meri hopes to reconcile with her parents after a decade of silence. But after a disastrous encounter, Meri is plunged into turmoil as old fears resurface in unexpected ways.
Jakob, already dealing with unresolved family issues of his own, is further burdened by his inability to help his wife. Can he learn to step aside and trust God's plan.Will Meri recognize what she already has?
In All Things is a story of faith and restoration, cemented in the belief, "...that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
I didn't think I could possibly enjoy the second book in this series more than the first. After all, No Other made my top fiction list for 2010. It's rare that more than one book in a series ends up on my favorites list in the same year. But In All Things struck a chord in me that resonates still. It had to do with characterization. Ms. Williams does a better job than most novelists in this department because she's not afraid to create human characters. Flawed characters. Characters who act like people act, not how we wish they would act or like some people's idea of publishing standards tells us they should act. I loved that about this book. The spiritual journey of each character flowed naturally and thus inspired me. Nothing seemed forced or contrived. Was anything "over the top?" Nope. Was there real emotion in this book? You betcha! I loved that. I also loved how the author showed the marital conflict and issues that came up in their relationship. Anyone could relate to those situations.
My heart engaged with each of the characters to some degree--even a few of the unlikable ones. They all made mistakes and had convincing regrets for those mistakes. They also made some good decisions along the way. The characters often tried to solve problems on their own rather than trusting God, and it took some major pitfalls to help them see that they needed to give everything they were trying to control over to God.
I loved the message about expectations and about trying to prove yourself to people. Sometimes people do things for the dumbest reasons, but to hurting hearts those things made a whole lot of sense at the time. People want to show their rivals that they weren't like some said they were or implied they were. Getting caught up in jealousies and insecurities made them vulnerable to all of the schemes the enemy cooked up to destroy their relationships with the Lord. This book exposes many of those nefarious tactics through the power of storytelling. I could go on and on but don't want to accidentally post any spoilers, so I'll refrain.
One of my favorite things about this book were Meri's dreams. The one about her seeing the housemaid when she was little was so realistic that I felt like I was watching a movie. I even heard the creaking and could see the maid's terrified face. That was a powerful scene, and the child's point of view that it was written in was flawlessly done. Also, the dreams Meri had about the future had almost a "Christmas Carol" feel to them, making them quite effective.
I loved how the author clearly showed the manipulation and seduction used by selfish people and how these schemes are often hard to detect at first. I was rooting for Meri and holding my breath at the same time. I loved how she had to deal with what really mattered most and loved experiencing with her the road she traveled to come to that conclusion. Bottom line--it had to be her choice. This issue was quite powerfully written and effectively shown.
There were so many insightful lessons in this book that were naturally woven into the plot and characterization that I could write a novel just posting them all. However, I want everyone to read this book for themselves. It had so much heart to it, unlike some of the anemic books I've read this year that barely touched on the inner workings of the heart and focused more on the era or the setting. This book was brave on so many levels, and I felt like I got to know the characters personally. I'm sure going to miss them. They'll have to live on forever on my favorite reads list for 2010.
Note: I reviewed an ARC of this book, but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.