Title: Baggage Claim
Author: Cathe Swanson
Series: Hope Again series, book 1
Major Themes: Adoption, Families
Synopsis: Ben Taylor, adoptee, struggles to balance his professional life and spending time with his children—and just about the time he reconnects with his real family, his life spins out of control.
After reading Snow Angels last October, I knew I’d want to read any following books. If the debut book, a novella, was good, the novel surely would be even better! I was not disappointed in the least. Baggage Claim, the first official book in the Hope Again series, is a fascinating, extremely well-written book that all will enjoy. (As an aside, I feel like I say that a lot—“this book is great.” Fact is, it’s true. You’ll enjoy this, I’m sure.)
Ben, young widower with four small children, is struggling to find balance in his life. Although his wonderful adoptive parents do their best to care for him and his family, and help him keep a nanny, he still has a hard time knowing how to balance work, school, and family evenly. If he could, he’d quit his job—but he can’t, and in the meantime he tries to make the best of every opportunity he has with his children. However, he would like to know about his real family—and as he embarks on a search to find his birth parents he discovers truths he’s not sure he’s all that excited to learn about in the end. Coming to grips with his past—his parent’s past—is one thing, but when a situation at work comes up that could severely threaten his family, he must make some careful decisions in order to keep everyone safe. Will his life ever settle down?
Adoption. Fraud. Family. All of these and much more come together in Baggage Claim in a beautiful harmony of many different colors, characters, and circumstances. Although this book is mostly based in Chicago, where Ben’s family lives and where he works, it also encompasses parts of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan—thus bringing together an amazing variety of settings and personalities that wouldn’t otherwise have been there. I loved the UP part, especially, because I’ve visited the area at least once, maybe twice, as a girl. So reading about something close to what used to be home was very fun.
Besides setting, the characters were very well formed; a medley of differing interests, abilities, and goals. I enjoyed getting to know each one not only because of the effect they had on the story but because of their personalities as well—a 34-year-old pretending to be about 50, and a reclusive but also very sociable ex-army artist and wildlife photographer, are just two of the characters this book contains. The Christian faith expressed by the characters was very genuine—maybe not perfect, but true-to-life. In all, I loved Baggage Claim, and can’t wait for another book to come out by Cathe Swanson!
I don’t know when I’ve read a book I’ve enjoyed as much as I enjoyed Baggage Claim. I loved all of it. Cathe Swanson is one of my very favorite authors! I hope she keeps writing. This is only her second published book, but it’s a winner.
Ben Taylor is a young widower with four children, and he has a nanny who keeps his life in order. Teresa Cooper not only takes care of the children, she also keeps the house tidy and meals on the table. Ben has never had life so easy since he got married at 18 after Anneliese got pregnant. Now, though, he is searching for his birthparents. What a mess he finds!
One thing I love about this book is the many stories interwoven skillfully into one. Teresa has a fascinating story; Ben’s history is mysterious and I absolutely loved what he ended up finding; Ben’s life ends up full of intrigue and possible danger. I also love the setting. Ben lives in Chicago, but he ends up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a few times. One thing I really liked was the mention of Bond Falls in the U. P. I had never heard of it until our family was traveling through that area a number of years ago and saw a sign pointing down a side road toward Bond Falls. It was the most spectacular waterfall I have seen in my life, and is a very special memory, so I was delighted to see it in a book. It was also fun to see the mention of Ontanagon, just because it’s an unusual name for a place, and it’s real. I think I would love this book just for the portrayal of my home state, even if the story wasn’t quite so good!
Besides simply enjoying the story, there were some very meaty parts to it, too. One scene that really stands out in my mind is when Teresa is telling the story to a friend of her experience in a women’s shelter. She describes another woman who was in there, and says that she was the reason that Teresa became a Christian. It wasn’t because she told Teresa about Jesus, but rather that she was a “living testimony” that other women could build on to explain salvation to Teresa. I shared that passage with my husband one afternoon when he was talking about his frustration with himself and not sharing Jesus with the world as much as he wants to. Teresa’s friend’s response was just what my husband needed that day, “Some plant the seed, some water and some harvest. God put it all in place for you. He’s just amazing that way.”
I highly recommend Baggage Claim if you’re looking for a great story that’s perfectly clean and pulls you in. It is a long book, but keeps moving. I’m hoping for a sequel—Ben had some unfinished business at the end, although Teresa’s story had a satisfying conclusion! Oh, and my favorite quote from the book? “And Jonah couldn’t find the outhouse at all.” You’ll have to read the book to find out who Jonah is and how an outhouse comes into the story.
Note: I received a free copy of this book, and chose to review it.
WARNING: Near the beginning, there is a fairly graphic account of a young girl’s “looseness”, her pregnancy, and how she died. There are several kisses mentioned in the book. At one stage, a character whacks another character over the head with the butt of a rifle.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults