Trusting God's Wisdom to Find Love in Rose Mountain

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I chose this book because the author goes to our church and our boys have grown up together.  I recognize how hard it is to write a book and juggle a full time job and family and wanted to support the woman I call a friend.  She told me her goals were to write a fictional world that is "safe" and does not contradict with the reader's moral and ethical values.  She also hoped to teach non-Catholics a little more about Catholicism.  On those two points - the book is a success.

This is the first book in a Christian fiction genre that I have ever read, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  Even so, the book was not what I expected.  At its deepest roots, it is a nice story.  But I struggled with the writing style.  I felt there were too many redundant adjectives and some of the character actions seemed over-dramatic.  However, this is the beauty of the human condition - we are all unique.  The style doesn't appeal to me, but it might appeal to other people.  It took me a while to put my finger on it, but I think part of what bothered me is that still, in the second-to-last chapter, we are reading things like: the caring paramedic looked at his beautiful blonde fiancé.  By that point in the story, I was well aware that they were engaged and I'd been told numerous times that Jenny was both pretty and blonde.  Furthermore, I'd been told how caring Mike was - not to mention his being a first responder which is a profession that you assume has a large degree of caring about others.  I prefer to be shown the qualities of caring demonstrated through the characters actions and draw my own conclusions than to just be repeatedly told that the character is caring.  Indeed, his actions are consistent with a caring person - so I really didn't feel the need to be told, especially so late in the story, that he was caring.  Another style choice that seemed odd to me (but, as I said - different people, different styles) was frequently reading something like: Jenny eyed her feet to hear her date share his insecurities.  On the surface this reads as if her looking at her feet caused him to share his insecurities.  Personally, I would prefer it to read: Jenny looked at her feet while listening to her date share his insecurities.  Clearly it is a style the author prefers because the book is full of this pattern [character + action + to something] such as Jenny's face brightened to consider she had been right] instead of Jenny's face brightened when she realized she'd been right.  I also think, in general, there could have been more dialogue and less narration.

Jenny is a young woman in her first year of teaching.  Her college boyfriend, Lucas, was abusive.  Her parents are missionaries and not present in her life.  She moves to a small town seeking safety and a hiding place from the ex.  She begins dating a first responder, Mike, and they soon become engaged.  The story somewhat profiles the life of a first responder and their loved ones.  It also shows the lingering affects of domestic abuse.  I expected more tension around the couple maintaining their chastity.  There were references to it, but nothing dramatic.

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex: 0

Religion: 5

Gruesome: 2

Suspense: 1

Morality: 4

Traditional: 5

Sex - as expected in this genre, the couple will not have sex before marriage.  It is unclear whether Jenny had sex with Lucas.  There are married couples but no mention of their bedroom intimacies.  Otherwise, it's just kissing, hugging, and a few massages between Jenny and Mike.

Religion - the couple goes to church together, Jenny volunteers to lead the Christmas play at church, there are prayers, references to saints and Catholic traditions (many examples including Ch. 15, ePg. 294)

Gruesome - minor recounts of paramedic incidents, there is some blood but it was not described with a lot of gore

Suspense - I felt some suspense wondering why Jenny was so averse to hospitals.  I felt some suspense when Mike had a high fever. (ePg. 168)  There was weak suspense around the idea of who was stalking Jenny and would they be caught. There was suspense when Jenny thought a firefighter had died. (Ch. 11, ePg. 214)  I felt suspense when Mike picked up Jenny from the airport and she "weakly gripped his arm, explaining, 'I wish I had never left you.' " (Ch. 21, ePg. 392)

Morality - none of us are perfect human beings so it is understandable that the characters have fears and don't trust in God 100%, but sometimes the fears were paralyzing or caused greater harm

Traditional - no cursing, no homosexuality

I've never been a paramedic, or lived in a town like Rose Mountain, but I feel like they were over-cautious.  For example, when a teenager choked while eating, an off-duty paramedic did the Heimlich, then an ambulance came and took the young man to the hospital to be checked out further.  There were many other hospital trips that seemed unnecessary.  There are also numerous examples of paramedics surreptitiously taking someone's pulse by casually holding onto their arm/wrist.  So many examples that it kinda started to feel a little creepy.  I've also not been around many people who have suffered domestic abuse, and I know that each survivor is different, but Jenny's actions seemed inconsistent.  There were times she freaked out over almost nothing but yet we are supposed to believe she is a competent teacher who moved herself to a new town.  Other times she engaged in negative self-talk - which seemed very believable as a symptom of past abuse.  Even after she knows that there is no longer a threat to her, she then worries that any random male could overpower her.  I suppose there are some victims that suffer like this, but I don't think those are the same victims that move to a new town, start a new job, and get engaged.

Discussion Questions

On their first date, Mike told Jenny he hadn't dated in a year.  Jenny said she hadn't dated in two years.  Did you think they hadn't dated because they were being careful or did you suspect that there was something more behind the reason?

How do you feel about this life philosophy: God never gives you more than you can handle.  As long as you're doing your best, everything else is God's will. (Ch. 3, ePg. 80)

Were you surprised that Jenny and Patrick were "best friends"?  Is this appropriate while she is engaged to Mike?  Does it match with someone who has been abused and is generally distrusting of males?

Jenny and Mike received pre-marital counseling from another couple.  "...with Bob offering advice on everyday marriage matters, such as not drinking out of the milk carton" (Ch. 11, ePg. 230)  What advice would you give Mike and Jenny?  What advice would you give any young engaged couple?

Jenny had a strong need to make sure the people in her life remained safe.  What was the motivating force behind this need?  Why was she not more concerned with self-preservation? (for example, Ch. 15, ePg. 295)

Late in the novel (for example, Ch. 17, ePg. 333) it is mentioned twice that everyone Mike has ever loved has died.  Did we know this before?  What insight does this give to Mike?  

"Jenny recalled Mike's attempt to persuade Lucas, endangering his life to save hers." (Ch. 17, ePg. 335)  Is it really a noble act to give your life to save someone?  

There are also five "Questions for Reflection" at the end of the book. (ePg. 395)

Theme Ideas

Jenny made a picnic after their movie date and after Mike sent roses to her at school.  Like Jenny, serve: sandwiches, layered with different cuts of lunchmeat, cheeses, tomato, spinach, mayonnaise, mustard, and pickles ...placed in a picnic basket, along with a container of icy cold lemonade, freshly baked sugar cookies, and a yellow gingham blanket. (Ch. 3, ePg. 60)   Jenny and Brenda also took premade sandwiches to a fire scene. (Ch. 11, ePg. 218)

Serve chocolate chip cookies like Jenny brought to the scouts tour. (Ch. 5, ePg. 107)  She also took them to the firefighter's picnic in the park. (Ch. 20, ePg. 382)

Serve raisin oatmeal cookies like Jenny took to dinner at the fire house and also tool to her students. (Ch. 6, ePg. 114)

Serve sausage lasagna (Jose's family recipe) and brownies like the second time Jenny ate at the fire station. (Ch. 6, ePg. 136)

Serve cheese pizza like Jenny and Mike ate at her apartment when they watched a movie. (Ch. 7, ePg. 138)

Mike packed a picnic in Ch. 8 (ePg. 160) when they went hiking in the snow.  Serve: fried chicken, potato salad, and beans with chocolate cake for dessert.

Serve Chinese food, especially lemon chicken, because Mike and Jenny went to a Chinese restaurant on the day he introduced her to his parents. (Ch. 9, ePg. 179)

Jenny baked apple pies from scratch and took them to the fire house. (Ch. 9, ePg. 181)   She also took one to Patrick. (Ch. 20, ePg. 375) 

I feel like you could make any dessert from scratch and say it was in honor of Jenny who liked to bake.

Serve pot roast like Mike and Bob made. (Ch. 12, ePg. 247)

Serve cheesecake like Jenny brought to dinner with the first responders after the stalking incident was resolved. (Ch. 19, ePg. 371)

As a group, visit a firehouse and take them a show of appreciation.