Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review | Remember the Lilies

Remember the Lilies
Liz Tolsma
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Genre:  Christian, Fiction, Historical, Romance
Released:  2015

{back cover}
How will two very different people find love--and survive the impossible circumstances of war?

In 1941, Rand Sterling was a wealthy, womanizing club owner and an American of note among ex-pats and locals alike.  Now two years later, Rand is just another civilian prisoner of war--one whose planned escape from the Santo Tomas Internment Camp could put him and others in grace danger.

Irene Reynolds grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippine jungle.  Now she works for the paranoid Japanese authorities, delivering censored messages to the other American prisoners in Santo Tomas.

When Irene's negligence leads to Rand's failed escape attempt, Rand is sent to the torture chambers of Fort Santiago--and Irene suffers under the weight of her guilt.  Yet when she crosses paths with Rand again after his unexpected return to camp, something more than mere survival draws the unlikely pair together.

As life in Manila becomes more and more desperate, and another threatening letter finds its way from Irene's hands to Rand's, the reluctant couple struggles to find a way to stay alive. . . and to keep their growing feelings for each other from compromising the safety of everyone around them.

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WARNING: Possible Spoilers

{The Basics}
Set during the Second World War, this tale follows two people's lives as they struggle to survive as prisoners of war in the Philippines.  Life at Santo Tomas Internment Camp is brutal.  People are suffering from multiple diseases, starvation, and malnutrition.  The Japanese captors are cruel and unmerciful, arresting at random (or for ridiculous reasons) and sending them to the torture chambers of Fort Santiago.

{Positives}
Through it all, faith plays a huge part in the lives of a few.  Anita, Irene's aunt and only close relative, is the perfect example of a prayer warrior.  Though frail in physical body and blind, she never ceases to stand strong and look for the good in the bad.  She doesn't complain.  She simply trusts that freedom will come, one way or another.

Men and women help each other.  At great risk to their own lives, a group smuggles food into the camp.

Rand Sterling, once a wealthy businessman with everything he could ever want, now a nobody, tries to keep hope alive.  He plays with the children of the camp, has a compassionate and generous heart, and would risk his life if his efforts would help to grant food to others.

Irene and another woman part as friends after months of anger and betrayal on Irene's part.

{Negatives}
Rand is a womanizer.  He likes the freedom of having a new girl with him every now and then.  (His thoughts change entirely on this subject, later.)

Irene, a sweet missionary girl, knows what is right, but always seems to have one grudge or another.  She is hurt many times, and forgiveness does not come easily.  She avoids a friend who needs her during these trying times, shunning her.

A man blackmails Rand, and later Irene.

{Spiritual Content}
Even in trial and troubles, God is present.  Rand comes to understand this when he wonders if anything good will come of captivity.  Eventually, he gives his life to the Lord and experiences the life-changing feel of a different kind of freedom.

As mentioned earlier, Aunt Anita is a solid rock, encouraging Irene with Scripture.  Her love and wisdom, brings Irene through the toughest of trials.

Forgiveness, in a way, is freedom.  And it takes a great deal of strength and courage.  When asked to forgive a Japanese soldier of all the wrongs and torture he went through, Rand nearly gives in to hatred and anger.  But it is then he realizes he is no different from this soldier who fights for his own country, just as Rand would if his path left him in the States.  He (Rand) has just as much blood and sin on his hands as any of the enemy, and thanks to Christ, he is washed clean.  Only with this knowledge of God's forgiveness of him can he do the same.

{Violence}
Fort Santiago is a place of death and torture.  Many who are sent there do not return.  A man's fingers are broken with a hammer in an attempt to gain information.  {SPOILER!} He doesn't give in. Instead of giving the names of his accomplices, he writes a list of American presidents, baseball players, singers.

A woman dies of disease and fever.  Two patients are trapped in an ambulance that wrecks, falling to its side.  Gasoline vapors fill the compartment, threatening to ignite until rescue arrives.

Japanese soldiers unload bags and bags of rice before the hopeful internees, only to rip them open and trample the precious grains into the mud.

Men, women, and children are starving, bone-skinny, and weak.  A couple men are beaten by soldiers and taken to the Fort.  Conditions there are beyond worse.  One man suffers through nights in a dank cell with dirty (that word doesn't quite cover it) water up to his waist.  Moans can be heard from other cells.

Bombs, shrapnel, Japanese pom-poms showers the land, some hitting awfully close.  One woman is hit in the thigh by a bullet.  On the edge of liberation, Japanese hold hostage to a couple hundred men after American soldiers storm the compound.  Tanks tear through gates and destroy buildings.  A man is hit and later dies.

{Language, Alcohol & Drugs}
No language, other than the occasional "bangers and mash" from a British friend of Irene's. Cigars, cigarettes.  Brandy is mentioned.  Morphine is used for medicinal purposes.

{Love-y Content}
There is obvious attraction between Rand and Irene.  They holds hands, embrace, and share some kisses.

{SPOILER!} Rand learns that he had fathered a daughter six years earlier, out of wedlock.  The girl's mother wants him to stay out of it and only wrote to him because of the insistence of another man (who blackmails Rand with this info).  Rand wishes to marry Irene and respect the choice of the girl's mother.

{Conclusion}
I love historical fiction, especially when it lends little tidbits of facts along the way.  And Liz Tolsma does a fantastic job!  This is the third of her novels that I have had the privilege to read. (You can read my review of Daisies are Forever here.)  And while it is not a favorite, I still enjoyed the tale woven in these pages.

We are nothing without Christ, and we have nothing if not Christ.  Faith is beautifully portrayed in this novel by characters who are flawed and realistic.  It is so difficult to believe God truly has a plan in the impossible trials of life, and that He can make something good from evil.  But it's true!  And these characters learn firsthand of God's provision and protection.


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Recommended ages:
 18+
Due to the graphics of violence, war, and the sufferings of the POWs.



I was provided a copy of this novel
thanks to BookLookBloggers, in 
exchange for my honest review.
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3 comments:

Autumn Raelin said...

wow...I really think I should pick this book up sometime now :) I loved this review, and all the little details you gave in it. It must've taken a while to write up :)

- autumn
http://autumnreadsandwritesallday.blogspot.com/

Sarah Elizabeth said...

I thank you for commenting, Autumn!

Before I pick up a new book that I have no idea what it's about, I like to read the reviews and know it might be worth my while. Thus, I like to write detailed reviews, because I want the reader to know the good and the bad before picking up a book. My reviews do take a little time, but I'm getting better at dishin' 'em out quicker. :]

Nightingale said...

Your review are always helpful! I'm simply TERRIBLE at giving reliable recommendations (as you probably know, lol).
I think I'm going to going request this author from my library, it sounds like you've quite enjoyed her books and I love the historical aspect!