Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Review: Anchor in the Storm

Anchor in the Storm
By Sarah Sundin
Waves of Freedom, #2
Revell, 2016


One plucky female pharmacist + one high-society naval officer = romance-and danger

For plucky Lillian Avery, America's entry into World War II means a chance to prove herself as a pharmacist in Boston. The challenges of her new job energize her. But society boy Ensign Archer Vandenberg's attentions only annoy---even if he is her brother's best friend.

During the darkest days of the war, Arch's destroyer hunts German U-boats in vain as the submarines sink dozens of merchant ships along the East Coast. Still shaken by battles at sea, Arch notices his men also struggle with their nerves---and with drowsiness. Could there be a link to the large prescriptions for sedatives Lillian has filled? The two work together to answer that question, but can Arch ever earn Lillian's trust and affection?

Sarah Sundin brings World War II to life, offering readers an intense experience they won't soon forget.

My thoughts

Although I’m not usually a fan of WWII fiction, I adore the work of Sarah Sundin. Anchor in the Storm has that perfect blend of historical detail, rich characterization, suspense, romance, and spiritual depth – resulting in a highly entertaining story that was hard to put down. I’ve read five of Sarah’s novels, all of which are excellent, but I believe this one is my favorite so far. It was great to reconnect with Jim Avery from book #1, Through Waters Deep, and continue with the story of his best friend, Arch.

For one thing, I always learn something historically from every story. Anchor in the Storm follows a dramatic aspect of the war … the U-boat attacks off America’s Eastern Seaboard during the first six months of 1942, when the Germans sank one hundred merchant ships. In this early stage of America’s involvement, frustration was caused by a shortage of naval vessels that resulted in fruitless patrols and rescuing survivors. Arch and Jim experience this firsthand as they serve on the USS Ettinger.

Capturing the emotions is the fact that Arch and several other servicemen live with combat fatigue, which we know today as PTSD. Only those who have experienced the horrors of war fully know what this is like, but my heart goes out to all who suffer its effects. Even more heartbreaking is that 1942 was a time when men were put in combat, then punished for their humanity, making them fearful of seeking help.

Lillian Avery and Ensign Archer (Arch) Vandenberg are compelling characters, so appealing and relatable in their humanness that I would choose them as best friends in real life if possible.  Losing her leg due to a childhood accident and having to wear a prosthesis gave Lillian a determination and desire for independence, and she became one of the few women pharmacists at the time. Arch comes from old New England money, yet he despises wealth and longs for the simple life. Without a war to level the playing field, this unlikely pair would never have met, and yet they both share a desire to be loved for who they are inside. I loved the romantic tension and slowly growing friendship between them.

“Arch had grown up with an aloof stained-glass Jesus, but Jim had introduced him to the rugged carpenter in the fishing boat, genuine and straightforward.” Lillian and Arch are both believers, but important lessons are still to be learned, lessons that speak to us as well. This world will always be full of physical and emotional storms, and the message that Jesus is our anchor, hope and refuge is needed just as much today as it was for Arch and Lillian.

I’d like to end with the beautiful passage that Sarah quoted, especially meaningful in light of Lillian’s handicap, but one that is timeless . . .

And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Highly recommended.


Sarah Sundin is the author of Through Waters Deep, as well as Wings of the Nightingale and the Wings of Glory series. A graduate of UC San Francisco School of Pharmacy, she works on call as a hospital pharmacist. During WWII, her grandfather served as a pharmacist's mate (medic) in the Navy and her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force. Sarah lives in California.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Caryl! It's really a wonderful story. Have you read any of Sarah's books?

  2. fantastic review - you highlighted so many marvelous things from the book that touched me as well <3

  3. Thank you for the lovely review, Carole! I'm so glad you enjoyed Arch & Lillian's story!