Geesje de Jonge crossed the ocean at age seventeen with her parents and a small group of immigrants from the Netherlands to settle in the Michigan wilderness. Fifty years later, in 1897, she’s asked to write a memoir of her early experiences as the town celebrates its anniversary. Reluctant at first, she soon uncovers memories and emotions hidden all these years, including the story of her one true love.
At the nearby Hotel Ottawa Resort on the shore of Lake Michigan, twenty-three-year-old Anna Nicholson is trying to ease the pain of a broken engagement to a wealthy Chicago banker. But her time of introspection is disturbed after a violent storm aboard a steamship stirs up memories of a childhood nightmare. As more memories and dreams surface, Anna begins to question who she is and whether she wants to return to her wealthy life in Chicago. When she befriends a young seminary student who is working at the hotel for the summer, she finds herself asking him all the questions that have been troubling her.
Neither Geesje nor Anna, who are different in every possible way, can foresee the life-altering surprises awaiting them before the summer ends.
Waves of Mercy completely enthralled me – I couldn’t put it down until I’d turned the last page! Author Lynn Austin excels at sweeping the reader right along with the main characters in her story, and the same is true for Waves of Mercy.
Austin makes use of my favorite writing technique in this new story – parallel stories that happen at different points in history. I love the way that she builds the theme of mercy and God’s goodness by layering it as details are revealed with each story. The final twist at the end was not unexpected, but the details were gratifying to read, and I couldn’t stop reading until I got there – I had to know what would happen to the characters I’d fallen in love with.
That’s not to say that I love the ending – because I don’t. Austin leaves the ending somewhat open, without clear resolution for one of the major issues relating to the main characters, and I prefer to have those details all wrapped up with neat bows. Real life rarely works like that, however, and perhaps she’ll write a sequel that will answer those open questions? I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Waves of Mercy is based on real history – the settlement of Holland, Michigan, by a group of Dutch immigrants searching for religious freedom in the early 1800s. Their story closely mirrors that of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts, though later, and makes for a fascinating backdrop to this story. I loved learning about what these people endured.
It might sound as if reading about persecution and strife would be depressing, and that angle isn’t exactly a tea party – but the best aspect of the story is the quiet, steady faith that runs through each page. While the main characters are often struggling, there’s always someone who’s helping them along. Those people act both as mentors to the characters and examples to us all, even though some of the situations are fictional. I appreciated both the scripture references used for teaching and the wisdom and advice scattered throughout the pages. The messages of hope and God’s enduring goodness are inspirational and resonate in one’s mind long after the last page is turned.
Waves of Mercy is the kind of book that you put on your shelf and reread over and over. If fiction with a strong message of ‘hope’ is the kind of book you like, you’ll definitely want to read this one.
Want to know more? See what Lynn Austin has to say about Waves of Mercy:
What inspired you to write this particular story?
I grew up in the area of New York State that was originally owned and settled by the Dutch, and I visited Holland, MI for the first time when I attended Hope College. I was immediately impressed by how proud the community was of their faith and their Dutch heritage. My husband grew up in Holland, so when we decided to move back here two years ago, I began researching Holland’s history to see if it would make a good novel. It intrigued me to learn that the first Dutch settlers came here in 1846 for religious freedom after suffering persecution in the Netherlands. Since that’s true of so many other immigrant peoples over the years, I knew the story would resonate with many readers. I was very surprised to learn how much hardship these early settlers suffered in the process of founding this community. If nothing else, their story taught me not to take our religious freedom or the American Dream for granted.
What is your favorite quote from the book?
It’s actually a promise from Jesus that the characters often refer to: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them . . . I give them eternal life . . . and no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
What do you hope readers will come away with after finishing Waves?
I hope they see what a close relationship with God is really like, and will learn to trust Him through the hard times and praise Him in all circumstances.
Is it possible to get a small clue, say, the year of the setting on your current work in progress?
It’s about two wealthy sisters who live in Chicago in the late 1800s. They love to travel the world and seek adventure.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.