Review: Cottage by the Sea by Robin Jones Gunn

20 Jul

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

My opinions on this book are mixed– conflicted, even.

Description via the Howard Books website:

A daughter’s gift of time, a father’s silent wish.

Erin Bryce and her best friend, Sharlene, count the day they start their wedding planning business as a very happy day. So much so that they name their company The Happiest Day to reflect the fulfillment of their long-held dream as well as their clients’ longing for a wedding celebration to match the exhilaration of being in love. As a bonus, the two women utilize their business to help Erin’s son Jordan and his fiancée, Sierra, plan a grand wedding.

But the two friends aren’t prepared for the cloud moving in to cover the sunny, successful start of their business. Erin’s father, who lives in a small coastal Oregon community with his brusque, downright odd second wife, Delores, develops a medical problem that puts him in the hospital. Erin responds by rushing from Southern California to her father’s—and oh, yeah, Delores’s—cottage by the sea.

What greets Erin when she arrives sends her tumbling down a bewildering path to a different kind of happiest day. Her journey tosses her through highs and lows of hurt and healing, betrayal and renewal, wrong assumptions righted, and the brightest future one could ever hope for. All just around the corner, at the cottage by the sea.

I have to start out by saying that I’ve been reluctant to read Christian fiction. One reason is that I really don’t want to read a book that preaches at me. That was not an issue at all with this book. The other is that I really don’t want there to be a shortcut, where God reaches down and fixes everything, and the righteous live happily ever after. This was a problem for me with Cottage by the Sea.

On the one hand, I really liked Erin and the way she handled a very tough situation with faith and strength. In fact, I thought all of the characters were interesting. I liked the writing in this book, and I felt it delivered the story as intended, with only a few exceptions.

I thought the book portrayed a very real, very tough situation, as Erin attempts to come to terms with the ups and downs of her past, and she tries to mend ties with her father who both loved her and hurt her. Overall, her reactions were exactly as they should have been.

So why am I conflicted about this book?

There is an early section where Erin describes her husband’s history of depression. The book gives realistic detail about his sinking into a state which threatened her family. When she couldn’t take any more, she turned to her mother, who told her to pray. And she did. And everything got better. By the time the book takes place, he is the rock she can rely on. And this bothered me. Because if prayer was the cure for depression, I know of several people that would be living happier lives. If prayer had given her strength, and pointed her to someone (a therapist, a religious leader) that had given him the help to fight his way out, with her by his side, I would have been very happy. But that’s not what happened.

On the other hand, this was a bit of history, not the meat of the book. So I wasn’t going to let it get in my way. And indeed, there were no more miraculous interventions through the majority of the book.

Unfortunately, the end of the book was riddled with them, situations which suddenly veered off the path that events were leading them to. Erin still suffered loss, but too many other things were cleaned up far too neatly for me, in a way that I didn’t feel honored the rest of the events or her journey.

I’m not sure if I should just accept this as part of the Christian Fiction genre, and give this book a shrug, but avoid the genre, or count it as a weakness of this book, and continue to carefully explore others.

I received this book for review from Howard Books.  Thank you for this opportunity.


Posted by on July 20, 2012 in books, reviews


Tags: , , ,

3 responses to “Review: Cottage by the Sea by Robin Jones Gunn

  1. lemon123

    July 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Oh boy, you hit the nail on the head. Depression is hideous. You can’t pass over the fight and struggle to become better in order to make a neat package.

  2. Howard Sherman

    July 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

    This is why I always steer clear of Christian fiction. Forgetting I’m Jewish for a moment, i wouldn’t be even slightly interested in the Christian flavor of fiction.


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