Friday, December 21, 2018

Review: Swimming in the Deep End by Christina Suzann Nelson

Swimming in the Deep End
By Christina Suzann Nelson
Kregel, 2018


A moving novel entwining the many faces of motherly love...

Jillian Cline has the perfect daughter: loving and smart, she's an Olympic hopeful with a bright future. But when Izzy becomes pregnant, Jillian fears that future is lost. Worse, she must confront her own secret past and hope the decisions she's made don't drown their whole family.

Izzy can't believe God let this happen to her. She knew the risks, but who thinks about that when they're in love? Now she has to face the consequences--and the disappointed stares from everyone who thought she was the perfect Christian girl. At least she has the baby's father, Travis. Nothing can tear them apart, right?

Margaret Owens had determined dreams for her son. She's furious that Izzy's pregnancy jeopardizes his college baseball scholarship and terrified that Travis will be trapped in a life of struggle and poverty--the life she's tried so hard to save him from. She'll do anything to protect him--even if it means forcing him to leave Izzy.

Stacey Frey is aching for a child of her own. But the son she was meant to adopt was taken before she could hold him in her arms. It feels like she'll never stop mourning; even the move to this new town hasn't distracted her from the pain. How can she and her husband find peace? Is there any hope of a family in their future?

And in the midst of all this . . . an unborn baby. Whose arms will hold him in the end?


My thoughts

Everyone I’ve loved slips through my fingers,
and the harder I hold on, the faster I lose them.
– Jillian

Emotionally gripping, bittersweet, compelling and heartwarming … Swimming in the Deep End is an engrossing read that I highly recommend. In a realistic and thought-provoking way, it shines the light on emotional themes of teen pregnancy, abortion, infertility, and adoption.

I grew up loving women’s fiction and have long been frustrated at the lack of these stories in Christian fiction. With the release of Swimming in the Deep End, Christina Suzann Nelson has joined the ranks of a handful of authors who write quality fiction in this genre – right up there with Cynthia Ruchti and Kellie Coates Gilbert.

The use of four different voices works very well – mothers of soon-to-be-parent teens (Jillian and Margaret), the teenage girl herself (Izzy), and an infertile young woman (Stacey) – and gives insight into all their thoughts and struggles in a personal way. This story plumbs the depths of almost every emotion imaginable and I never wanted to put it down. Guilt, regret, and fear are major themes – emotions that we can all identify with, even though the root cause might be different.

Christina Suzann Nelson is a gifted writer, with a prose that flows effortlessly, complex characters, and multilayered storylines. Jillian, with her guilt-ridden secret from 20 years ago and her craving for control as her comfortable world fell apart, is a character that I wanted to wrap my arms around. Another character that grabbed my heart is Irene, manager of the home for teenage girls in a crisis pregnancy, a home filled with love, acceptance, faith and hope. The characters interconnect in such a creative way and there's a heartwarming twist toward the end that I loved.

For the first time in my life, God is truly real.
I can feel Him. All I held between us is gone.
He sent it into some dungeon. And I am free.
- Jillian

It was impossible not to shed some tears while reading, many of which were tears of happiness. This story is filled with imperfect Christians, just like us, who learn that God works to fulfill His purpose in every situation. These words, spoken to Jillian by her husband, especially spoke to my heart: “Sometimes, especially in the tough times, we have to come to God even if it’s only in obedience.”

Swimming in the Deep End is a story of the highest quality, a “best of the best” read for me. I hope many more stories flow from the pen of Christina Suzann Nelson.

Very highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book through JustRead Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Christina Suzann Nelson, inspirational speaker and award-winning author of If We Make It Home, is celebrating the release of Swimming in the Deep End on September 25, 2018.

Her first novel was honored as one of Library Journal’s top five inspirational novels of 2017. She was named the 2017 OCW Cascade’s Writer of Promise. Her stories have been published in the Cup of Comfort for a Better WorldCup of Comfort for Adoptive Families, as well as other publications. She writes and speaks about hope after dysfunction.

Christina is over the top about her passions, including the stories created somewhere in the twists and turns of her less-than-focused brain. When she’s not writing, she’s working with the Every Child initiative, chasing escaped steers, reading, breathing in the sweet smell of her horse, hiking with her dog, or enjoying her just-as-crazy family.


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