Publisher: David C. Cook


Book Review: Into the Free

September 3, 2016 Book Review 5

Book Review: Into the FreeInto the Free by Julie Cantrell
Published by David C. Cook on February 1st 2012
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Inspirational
Pages: 329
Source: purchased


Into the Free begins with 9-year old Millie wishing for a way to escape her life, her abusive father and a mother who gets so blue she forgets to care for Millie.  The family lives in a tiny shack, former slaves quarters, which have since been remodeled into tenant housing for the farm hands. Millie’s dad, Jack, is a rodeo cowboy and helps with the horses on the farm. Millie’s mom takes in ironing and sewing when she’s not gone away to the dark place Millie calls ‘the valley.’

What is remarkable with Into the Free is the seemingly ease of interweaving hope and a realistic faith throughout the threads of the novel. Not all Christians portrayed in the book are “good” just as in real life some proclaimed Christians are bad…very bad. Had the novel been set in most recent times, Millie would have been removed from her parent’s home due to the abuse suffered at the hands of her father and the neglect of her mother. When Millie is around a regular family we can see how hard it is for an abused child to accept kindness, gentleness and love. Having worked with abused children I can attest to the absolute accuracy of Cantrell’s portrayal of Millie.

[Tweet “Beautiful coming-of-age story set in Depression-era Mississippi”]

It would have been easy for Cantrell to fall into the use of stereotypes and yet such is not the case with Into the Free. If anything, stereotypical characters are turned on their head. The gypsy is not dirty nor illiterate and the grandparents who shun Millie are supposed to be of good Christian stock. That’s not to say there’s not a few characters who happen to fall into a stereotype, but they make it so easy! For instance, the ladies who cluck about everything Millie is and does. Although the ladies did offer a little bit of comic relief, even if it was because we’ve all known those types of busy-bodies with an opinion on everything without knowing anything.

Julie Cantrell does a magnificent job of tackling diversity, child abuse, the gross hypocrisy of a few so-called Christians and the resilience of children, to not only survive a horrific childhood, but to then thrive. Believing God has forgotten about her, Millie slowly comes to realize God was with her all along, even in the deepest pits of despair.

I do two things,” she told me. “I remind myself that it’s not all about me. And I focus on the good. There’s always a way to find some good.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough. If you enjoy Joshilyn Jackson or Susan Gregg Gilmore then you’ll most likely fall in love with Julie Cantrell and her band of characters.

Just a note When Mountains Move is the follow-up to Millie’s story taking us into her adulthood. Review coming soon!

In a few words: Emotional, heart-felt coming-of-age story. Inspirational, though not overtly preachy.  Southern, yet diverse with gypsies and Indians playing vital roles. Set in a small train town during the Depression-era Mississippi. Highly Recommended.

Connect with author Julie Cantrell on website | Facebook | Twitter



Faith in Fiction Friday: Elizabeth Musser

October 3, 2013 Book Review, reviews 1

Faith in Fiction Friday: Elizabeth MusserThe Swan House by Elizabeth Musser
Published by David C. Cook on July, 2011
Genres: Christian Fiction
Pages: 448
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble


It has been several years since I first met Elizabeth Musser at the Decatur Book Festival.  I recall her to be a lovely, soft-spoken woman engaging with talk of Atlanta, reading and books.  I purchased an autographed copy of The Swan House and after leaving the festival, drove by the actual mansion that is now home to the Atlanta History Center.

The Swan House

The Swan House

For the majority of my life I have lived near Atlanta, Georgia where most of The Swan House takes place, albeit quite a few years before my time.  I was intrigued by the novel and the local history brought to life in The Swan House.

The novel opens with 16 year old Mary Swan Middleton discovering her mother was on the tragic Orly Air Crash in Paris, France that killed 106 members of Atlanta society (considered to be the worse aviation disaster in history up to June, 1962).  The young girl is lost without her beloved mother and flounders for months in grief, unable to find solace in the privileges of her life.  It’s not until Mary’s maid, cook and friend, Ella Mae, suggests to Mary that she help out at Ella Mae’s church that Mary begins to find meaning and purpose for her life.  Of course it’s 1962 in Atlanta, Georgia, directly in the midst of the civil rights movement so when Mary befriends a young black man from the church she’s helping, major problems arise. . . for both of them.

A beautiful coming-of-age novel filled with lyrical prose as graceful as the mansion it claims.  Musser treats Mary’s growing knowledge of her parent’s shortcomings with a delicate pen and sensitive soul.  Although Musser wrote about places in Georgia I was familiar with, seeing those same areas through the eyes of Mary Swan brought Buckhead and downtown Atlanta alive.  The emotional roller coaster I stayed on throughout the reading of the novel spoke to the specific pacing of the plot ~ the immediate plunge into grief, the gradual building of suspense  and Mary’s eventual understanding and growth.  Part mystery, part history, and part learning to live with grief, The Swan House shares the timeless message of hope and the belief in a servant’s spirit.  Highly recommended for those who enjoy southern literature, coming-of-age novels and highly-developed literary christian fiction.  I loved it.

13207251And I’m happy to report Elizabeth Musser’s eBook Two Crosses (Book 1) is being offered free through October 4th at most online retailers or you can visit David C Cook’s Publishing site to download the novel.



Faith in Fiction Friday is a new feature at The Novel Life to highlight and discuss those novels with a faith element ~ anything from flat-up Christian fiction, to a Pulitzer Prize literary novel, or a suspense/thriller with a compassionate character.  I invite you to join FiFF!  FiFF is open to anyone who has a review or discussion to share of a novel with a faith element.  Feel free to grab the button and link up with Mr. Linky below.

Join me in delving deep!