“The Road to Paradise” by Karen Barnett

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An ideal sanctuary and a dream come true–that’s what Margaret Lane feels as she takes in God’s gorgeous handiwork in Mount Rainier National Park. It’s 1927 and the National Park Service is in its youth when Margie, an avid naturalist, lands a coveted position alongside the park rangers living and working in the unrivaled splendor of Mount Rainier’s long shadow.
But Chief Ranger Ford Brayden is still haunted by his father’s death on the mountain, and the ranger takes his work managing the park and its crowd of visitors seriously. The job of watching over an idealistic senator’s daughter with few practical survival skills seems a waste of resources.
When Margie’s former fiancé sets his mind on developing the Paradise Inn and its surroundings into a tourist playground, the plans might put more than the park’s pristine beauty in danger. What will Margie and Ford sacrifice to preserve the splendor and simplicity of the wilderness they both love?
Karen Barnett’s vintage national parks novels bring to vivid life President Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for protected lands, when he wrote in Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter: “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”

The Road to Paradise

Karen Barnett has written a fantastic tale of nature conservation, spiritual lessons, and mystery!  I love the way that she has combined all of these to make a rollicking, adventure story.

One of the things that stands out to me most about The Road to Paradise is the way that Margie appreciates the plants and animals found around Mt. Rainier.  She often quotes the Bible, poetry, or famous writers as inspiration strikes, and while she comes off as a bit quirky at first, her sincerity shines through, as does Barnett’s love for God’s creation.  I absolutely love that aspect of this book, and I’ve shared it with several people already.  (In fact, I can’t wait to use this as a book club pick when my girls are a bit older!)

Margie also makes a great female lead.  She’s brave, gutsy, and she knows what’s important.  She’s not afraid to follow her dreams, and she’s willing to chase them, even when it takes her into unpopular territory.  I love the way that Barnett portrays her – as a strong woman who can be romantic and love science, too. 

Margie isn’t always wise in the ways of the world, but she does try to be smart in love.  Maybe she doesn’t always make the best choices, but if she did, what would Barnett write about?  Instead, she keeps attempting to make her next choice better than the one before it, and I love that about her.

The setting of this book caught me off guard.  I expected to read about cozy cabins and beautiful scenery, but instead Barnett really makes Mt. Rainier National Park come alive.  She wrote in park dangers, conservancy efforts, flora and fauna, as well as unique park details, making them major parts of the story.  The mountain wasn’t just there in the background, but it was almost like another character, and I enjoyed this aspect very much.

Barnett uses foreshadowing throughout the book, but it’s so subtle and well-written that I rarely picked up on it until the later event was revealed.  I admire the skill with which she placed those clues throughout the story!

The Road to Paradise is a fantastic summer read.  It’s lighthearted enough to be fun poolside and involves enough nature to make you want to go exploring.  There’s more than enough spiritual depth to keep you pondering Margie’s lessons long after you turn the last page, and you won’t want to leave Margie and Nate when the book finally ends.  Be sure to find a copy ASAP – you won’t want to miss The Road to Paradise.

I received a free copy of The Road to Paradise from Karen Barnett.  All opinions are my own.

What are your thoughts?

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