Setting: Sinai Peninsula
Time Period: 1860-1890
The gorgeous cover of this book caught my eye the first time I saw it advertised and thought it would make a great addition to the “Around The World In 80 Books” reading challenge I’m doing this year. At first, I thought I would place it under Egypt for the reading challenge, after all, it has a beautiful picture of the pyramids on it! But after reading “Where We Belong,” I realize it could fall under several categories – Paris, France; Cairo, Egypt; Chicago… This was truly a book about adventure, history and what it means to be called by God.
The first thing I want to point out is that the book jumps around a lot to different parts of the sisters lives and even point of view, as the story progresses. For example, Chapter One starts with Rebecca and Flora in their forties crossing the Sinai Desert to Saint Catherine’s Church. At the beginning, the story is narrated by Rebecca, as you can see by the “Part One – Rebecca,” heading. The following chapters jump back to “35 years ago,” or, “15 years ago” to give a backstory of how the sisters grew up in Chicago, made their first trip abroad, etc. At the end of Part One, you go into Part Two, which is told by Flora, and towards the end of the book Part Three is from Peterson’s point of view (he was their young butler) and Part Four is Kate’s story (their ladies maid.) At first, you may think that’s a lot of jumping around, but don’t let that you scare you away from the book. Once you take the first jump back, the author wrote the story chronologically, so it’s basically like reading the sisters whole life story. (And of course, the life of two servants.)
The second thing I would like to gush over was the amount of history woven into this story. Not only were Rebecca and Flora modeled after real sisters who discovered an ancient manuscript in Saint Catherine’s in Sinai, the author incorporated how Sunday Schools got started and then the frightening events of the Chicago Fire. Flora’s husband, originally from England, was involved (fictionally, of course) with the man who invented Sunday School and started teaching kids how to read, write and math on Sunday’s, with a Bible story always a part of the weekly lesson. In Chicago, Flora funds several Sunday School ventures and even teaches in them. As you can tell, I just loved how the author snuck this neat bit of religious history into Rebecca’s and Flora’s story. Lastly, since the sister’s were from Chicago, they lived through the Chicago Fire. All I can say about that part is “Wow!” For the first time, I truly understand how devastating the fire was and how it affected so many.
Thirdly, there was such a spiritual aspect to this book. It wasn’t preachy, but it had a clear presentation of the Gospel and what it means to have something that “God wants you to do.” Since the book went over almost a whole lifetime, you watched the sisters grow and accomplish certain “callings” in their lives, and how they transitioned from one to the other while listening for the voice of the Lord. Though it was easy to understand and grasp, it was a theme that could be felt very deeply.
Conclusion: Words like “loved” and “excellent” or “amazing” don’t even come close to describing “Where We Belong”! It was such a great book! This is definitely a book that I would recommend and though you just read why, I’ll a few minor details here. This is one of those stories that wasn’t heavy on romance. Though people did get married and fall in love, it wasn’t the central theme of the story. If you’re looking for, or, enjoy books without the love story being #1, you’d love this book. Another thing is the writing style, it reminded me at times of the way that Michael Phillips writes – a little more classic. Not hard to understand or boring, ‘cause let me tell you, these characters are, well, characters! Give it a try and I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did!