Due to the sudden death of her mother, prodigal daughter Nel Stewart returns to her home in Michigan and discovers her father’s desperate need for care. Will she put her career on hold in order to give her dad the help he cries out for? Or will his horrifying nightmares and her haunting memories keep them apart?
The setting of Then Sings My Soul is one of the greatest strengths of the story. The scenic descriptions are breathtaking and a feast for the mind’s eye, whether they are of the changing seasons of Michigan or the hillsides of sunflowers in the Ukraine. Sorrells, who did more than her fair share of research for each unique locale, does a wonderful job of transitioning from scene to scene by painting the landscape around the characters.
Then Sings My Soul is told through the dual viewpoints of Jakob and Nel, who are present-day characters. However, Jakob, the father, is constantly haunted by memories of his beloved homeland and his harrowing journey to the United States from the Ukraine in the early 1900’s. Nel, his daughter, also has a troubled past but her story is told from a contemporary perspective. Each viewpoint has a unique voice and personality, giving a beautiful contrast and adding rich texture to the novel.
Though there are a few instances where the conversation is used to inform the reader or to make a point, most of the dialogue aids the story’s flow and reveals characters who are likeable and sympathetic. However, in the contemporary situation, some of the personalities lack depth and rely too heavily on clichés. As a result, it is easier to identify with the characters from the past historical setting.
Then Sings My Soul has a serious tone and deals with disturbing historical events as well as some heavy contemporary issues. Even though the novel takes place in two different time frames, the storyline flows seamlessly. Both plots are driven by outside events, leading to the internal turmoil of the personalities. The events which take place in the past are far more interesting than those of the modern-day storyline because of the heart-breaking trials of the characters. The present-day plot lagged a bit for a lack of suspense.
The conflict in Then Sings My Soul is driven by the external events. Most of these lay beyond the characters’ control and affect the way they live their own lives. This tension allows Jakob to have a complete character arc while Nel experiences some growth. However, in many ways, she doesn’t develop to her full potential, which is disappointing. The internal conflict adds little to the plot in the contemporary time frame, and the novel ends before the internal issues are sufficiently explored or resolved. The romantic aspect of the story has potential but seems underdeveloped. Still, Sorells may be laying the groundwork for a sequel.
A definite spiritual message is seen throughout the novel as Sorrells explores themes such as death, suffering, and the purpose of God. These issues are dealt with beautifully for the vast majority of the book. A few scenes have a preachy tone but, for the most part, the characters are allowed to grow gradually in their spiritual knowledge.
Then Sings My Soul is a stand-alone novel and is geared for Christian women who like contemporary and historical fiction. However, Nel is a non-Christian and some of her choices make that evident in the novel. Some scenes reflect the brutality suffered by the Russian Jews and Christians at the beginning of the twentieth century, which may be disturbing to some readers.
Despite a few shallow characters, and an abrupt ending, Then Sings My Soul is a well-written, heart-rending tale, full of breathtaking scenery and proof that God’s redemption can reach the darkest of places.
I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.