Wow, what a powerful book. I will start off by saying that it is completely vital that you have read all 7 of the previous books in this series. This book moves at a fast pace, and you must be familiar with the characters and storylines that have already been covered in order to keep up. Tanner states at the beginning that he is not going to re-tell any of the stories, he is simply going to fill in the gaps from his point of view.
I absolutely fell in love with Tanner's character in this book. While he was prominently featured in some of the past storylines, we never saw into is soul the way we do now. I was surprised, really, at how much emotional depth there was to Tanner; in the past stories, he seems to have hidden behind a dumb jock persona, to protect himself. Now, we see see rawness and vulnerability. We always knew Tanner cared for Laci, but I was amazed, and a little heartbroken, to read how deep his love for her truly was, to the point that he had to let her go.
I am also amazed to see Tanner's difficulties with substance abuse, depression, the impact of premarital sex, and David's illness. Again, we have seen some of these things hinted to in past stories, but never have we gotten the full impact of the situation. The book sends a strong message about faithfulness in many forms, particularly faithfulness when it goes against our own wishes.
The book is chock full of struggles, mostly because it covers a span of fifty years. Yet with all the struggles, heartaches, and losses in the book, the ultimate message is so incredibly uplifting. The story is one of Christian fiction, yet the characters are flawed, the situations difficult, and the topics heavy. Just like the real life of a Christian. And while the message of the gospels is clearly spelled out in the story, it is done in a way that will still allow the book to interest (and witness to) non-Christian readers.
I cannot think of a more perfect way to end this series full of characters I have come to know and love like friends.
I received a review copy courtesy of the author in exchange for my honest review.
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