Chasing Hope by Kathryn Cushman is a stand-alone novel that explores the world of competitive running, chronic disease, and times when dreams die and life feels terribly unfair. Kathryn always writes great contemporary fiction that often deals with emotional issues, but I believe this is one of her best. Highly recommended!
A talented runner fully committed to Olympic dreams, Sabrina Rice's future was shattered by a devastating diagnosis. One forfeited scholarship and several years later, she has new goals and dreams that have nothing to do with running--something that's become far too painful to think on.
Until the day she sees Brandy Philip running across the community college campus, easily outpacing security. Sabrina immediately recognizes world-class speed, and it's all the more painful that it belongs to a teenage graffiti artist. When a chance encounter brings the two young women together, Sabrina becomes Brandy's best hope for staying out of juvenile hall. Soon, Sabrina begins to feel an uncomfortable nudge that her new life is just about to be toppled...that God may be calling her to minister to this talented but troubled girl.
Track enthusiasts will especially enjoy this novel, but so will those not athletically inclined, like me - for this is more of a relationship drama between two strong women who are extremely unlikely to ever form a bond. Chasing Hope is about shattered dreams and second chances. Anyone who has grown up in a less-than-perfect home environment will relate to Brandy, and anyone who has thought they were using their talent and ability as God desired, only to have that door firmly shut in their face, will relate to Sabrina.
Kathryn uses two themes that really drew me in, the first of which was Olympian Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire. At the age of twelve, Sabrina watched Eric "drink in God's pleasure as he ran" and felt the same calling on her life. But ten years later, doubts cloud her relationship with God as she struggles to understand why He would take away the means to accomplish that call.
"Look for where God wants you to be great."
The second theme relates to a devotional Sabrina had written at the age of 17, when all was going well along her career track - a devotional about how the Israelites had been called to a life of freedom, only to whine and look back longingly toward Egypt when life in the desert became difficult. It takes her grandmother's words to help Sabrina see the personal application to her desert journey: "You thought you were going to serve God by Olympic glory. Well, maybe the truth is you are going to serve God because of your running, but through a much more difficult scenario than you'd expected - one involving pain and suffering and loss. Perhaps you didn't misunderstand God's call, perhaps you took some of the details in the middle for granted."
It is a joy to watch both Brandy and Sabrina grow physically, emotionally and spiritually through the pages of Chasing Hope. The ending is realistic and powerful at the same time, and actually had me in tears. Sabrina came to the realization that for Eric Liddell, Olympic dreams were secondary to his desire to follow God in the best way he knew how. And for Brandy, it was the discovery that "maybe sometimes you have to lose almost everything to realize that there is something valuable that you've had in your possession all along."
As I said earlier, please don't pass this book by because you're not into athletics. Chasing Hope is a character-driven drama that offers so much insight into the Christian life. And of course, sports fans will easily relate to its theme and message. It was an honor to review this novel and I highly recommend it to all readers.
"Go through the camp and tell the people,
'Get your provisions ready. Three days from now
you will cross the Jordan here to go in
and take possession of the land the Lord your God
is giving you for your own'" (Joshua 1:11).
Visit Kathryn's website at kathryncushman.com to learn more.
Kathryn also has a great resource board for Chasing Hope on Pinterest at pinterest.com/katiecushman/chasing-hope.
A digital copy of Chasing Hope was provided by Amanda Dykes, Amy Green and Bethany House Publishing in exchange for my honest review.