Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Book Review: FINDING ME

Title: Finding Me
Author: Kathryn Cushman
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Pages: 336

Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman deals with issues of grief, abandonment and trust and the feeling of loss and dejection when one is betrayed by the person one trusts the most. The protagonist here, however, is not the one who was betrayed, but the one who feels someone else’s guilt.

The prologue takes us back 26 years before the present time, and shows how certain events, that were to alter the course of life of many people, were set in motion. David Waters can’t stop thinking of the attractive waitress at the diner he visits every day. His wife is too busy with the children and the demands made on her by their church and the kids’ school and has no time for him. David feels tempted to give in to the attraction posed by the waitress who does not hide her feelings for him.

Twenty-six years later, we meet Kelli Huddleston, a strong character, driven by her sense of ethics and honesty. She does not hesitate to blow the whistle on her unscrupulous employer, and is fired for her pains.

It’s a bad time. Kelli has lost her father and stepmother recently and the mountains of debt are accumulating. Her father and stepmother were the only family she had. Her own mom, and older brother and sister had been killed in a fire that struck their home when Kelli was an infant. That is what her dad, Don Huddlestone, had told her. Even their photographs had been lost in the fire.

While looking through her dad’s safe, out of bounds for her during his lifetime, Kelli is shocked to find photos proving that he had a whole other life as David Waters, and a wife, son and daughter that she knew nothing of. She also learns that David Waters and his one-year-old daughter Darcy had disappeared, and were later presumed dead, in a boat accident.

At first, Kelli wonders if her dad acted as he did because his wife was abusive or of unsound mental health. Her desire to find out more so she can continue with her life lead her to the town of Shoal Creek, Tennessee, where she makes investigations, and finds herself a job with Kenmore, her dad’s old friend. 

Soon she is befriended by Beth, her sister, and Alison, her mother. She is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of her father’s planned disappearance and then leave town before anyone finds out who she really is, but she feels drawn closer to the two women every day. Soon she is consumed by guilt at the realization that she is deceiving them. She looks forward to her reunion with her mother and siblings while fearing it at the same time.

Part of the title involves Kelli’s search for who she really is, the biological family she never knew, as also her struggle to find her way, through the church, to God, the God who is so intimate with her mother and sister, but with whom her father had nothing to do.

Bit by bit, Kelli’s faith increases and she learns bits of her earlier life, and learns of the family and their memories of David and Darcy. After a brief period of antagonism, Kelli and Shane, Kenmore’s son, also become attracted to each other.

Kathryn does a better job when it comes to crafting her female characters than the males here. As a character, Kelli shows her strength by standing up for her values and convictions even at the cost of losing her job. The same honesty is evident in her journal entries which are written in the first person.

Both Beth and Alison come across as wonderful women, fierce in their loyalties and loves. Denice, Kelli’s best friend, is also a pillar of support for Kelli.

Even Kelli’s stepmother manages to gain a bit of our sympathy, as we see her through the letters she wrote to her mother.

The men, however, have to try harder to gain our understanding. David’s own selfishness and willingness to turn his back on his family in order to deviously work out a new life for himself wins him no votes from any reader. Poor Max, Kelli’s brother, suffers because he is absent through the course of the book and is brought in, as an afterthought, in the Epilogue.

Kenmore is the only man who has Kelli’s confidence, and he fares marginally better as a result. Shane’s romance with Kelli, however, comes across as insipid and banal. He seems force-fit to give Kelli the mandatory romance that her life lacked.

The only exceptions to this trend are Rand, Beth’s husband, and Jones, Denice’s husband, who come across as likeable, probably because they are redeemed by their closeness with their wives.

Cushman’s writing is easy. You find yourself settling into this world of her creation very quickly.

The book talks about faith, about believing that God is in control even in difficult times. It is a belief that is tested when Kelli’s pregnant sister, Beth, begins to get dreams about hurting her own baby, and later when she miscarries.

Much as Kelli tries to make amends for her father’s sins, Kenmore who suspected her from the beginning tells her that
“There’s only one person who can pay for someone else’s sins, and you’re not Him. He died on a cross a couple thousand years ago.” Kenmore also explains the difference between doing the easy thing and the right thing through the example of Joseph from the Old Testament.

Unlike most Christian fiction, the lead character is not particularly religious. In fact, Kelli is most uncomfortable with ‘church’ people.

Despite the deviousness of the planned disappearance upon which the plot hinges, this book is no thriller. Its concern is with those left behind and how they cope with their feelings of betrayal and with the turn their lives take.

I must confess that towards the end of the book, I just couldn’t stop the tears from free-falling. I’m a total crybaby, of course. But the book is sweet too.

(I received a free e-copy of this book from Bethany House. I read it through NetGalley.)


  1. Nice review dear :)


  2. Nice review dear :)




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