Title: Where We Belong
Author: Lynn Austin
Major Themes: Archeology, Chicago Fire, Civil War, Holy Land
Synopsis: Rebecca and Flora find adventures everywhere they go, as they try to find God’s plan for their lives.
I really enjoyed Where We Belong. It took a few chapters to understand what was happening, but within a few chapters I got it—and in the meantime had a few good laughs at the antics of the middle-aged sisters! There is a lot of switching back and forth in this book, from the Sinai Desert in 1890 to Chicago and Paris in 1860. There is also some switching of points of view, but this is made very plain, so if you pay attention to the titles of the parts of the book, and the header of each chapter, you’ll know who is narrating and where and when you are!
The first part of the story is told through Rebecca’s eyes. She and Flora, her younger sister, have a great longing to see more of the world than just their hometown of Chicago. They talk their father into taking them on a tour of Europe—but Rebecca is horrified when the widow they meet on the way home seems to have ensnared her father. The widow works hard to make the girls fit into society’s mold—but Rebecca does not want to fit into that mold! She feels like God wants more for her—but what?
Later parts of this wonderfully complicated story are told by Flora, and then by their servants Peterson and Kate, with the last couple of chapters switching back to Rebecca. The adventurous sisters explore the Holy Land, once their lives are able to go back to normal after the American Civil War. Flora meets her true love on one of those trips, and marries him. Rebecca meets the man she can love, Timothy, as well—but he is an atheist, so she knows she cannot marry him.
The Great Fire of Chicago disrupts the sister’s lives. They begin an orphanage, but the greatest adventure of their lives comes when they decide they must go to Mount Sinai to try to find old manuscripts to prove to Timothy that the Bible is true. Getting caught in a sandstorm, being left alone in the middle of the desert by their Bedouin guides, arranging a mock wedding…what a trip! Through it all, can Rebecca and Flora find where they truly belong?
I loved this story. It is long and involved, with many subplots. I appreciated the sisters’ deep faith and trust in God. One quote I appreciated was, “So the disaster in Chicago might be God’s way of teaching us something, too?” “Yes, if we take time to listen to Him.” I also really enjoyed the natural humor. As I said at the beginning, I laughed several times in the first chapter! The emphasis on being who God made you to be, and not allowing society’s expectations to make you into something else, was good, too. I also appreciated that the romance was not the main focus of this story—it was there, but took rather a minor role.
WARNING: Chapter 29 describes a young woman being prepared to “work” in a brothel—no details, however.