Book Review by Gwendolyn Elliott
Roseway The Road that Never Ends – Review by Gwendolyn Elliott
Introduction – I will be speaking about the characters because that is what stands out to me about the books.
In the first book, Roseway listens to a sermon. The story in the sermon is of a child returning home (prodical son) despite misbehaviour parallels, the story reminds her of her friend Ripley. Roseway wishes that her friend could have stayed to listen to the sermon and learn from it. I feel that the Narrow Road series is like this. For each one of us, there is a story in the series that parallels our own lives if we only look for it because the characters and events are so relatable.
It is a major pet peeve of mine to see a great lack of real, dynamic characters in books and the media. So many characters are so flat. Good or bad. Hero or villain. I have always said that I would love to sink my teeth in to a story about a seemingly pure figure who is dealing with serious inner evils. That is real life. In each and every one of us there is good and evil and they fight a constant battle. For some of us it is more of a battle and some of us are able to find peace.
The characters in this series are very real. We can all connect to the characters on some level because of the relatable psychology woven through the stories.
In a sense, Roseway is a coming-of-age story. Roseway herself is the maiden archetype, trying to find herself and “grow up.” But instead of there being a fairytale moment where we see her as a woman and she rides off in to the sunset to live happily ever after, her growth is a never ending process. Her happily-ever-after is an adventure of growth and self-discovery. Personally, I connect with Roseway. Clearly I am young and female and going through the same stage of my life stepping in to my adult shoes. I am questioning who I am, questioning my upbringing and my life to this point, questioning my faith and trying to find my way in the world. Like Roseway, girls my age feel the pull from many angles and struggle to figure out where to direct their attention, which path to choose. Sometimes that involves temptation and danger.
For an older reader, Roseway’s story may be more have more nostalgic value looking back at a time past, recognizing daughters and young relatives going through the same thing. I think everyone has gone through a similar struggle to Roseway because we all have to grow up. She is a very relatable character whose spirit inspires the people in her life, and the reader.
Ripley – The Road to Acceptance
Ripley is the character that I feel battles with her inner demons the most. She is the teen angst character. She is frustrated and angry with herself, the people around her and the world at large. When Roseway finds her, she has largely given up hope for the good in humanity. She is pessimistic, jaded and bitter. She is very hard-headed and has trouble taking in new ideas and different perspectives. Ripley is fun because she often acts as the devil on your shoulder.
At first she is very opposed to religion of any sort. We all know people like this. The sort that say, “Oh no that’s not for me. I don’t want to wake up early to hear someone tell me that everything I’m doing is wrong.”
But, little by little Ripley finds her way. She learns the truth about God’s love and she learns to accept things in her life. Her biggest battle at first is learning to let the past go. Like MANY people I know, so much energy is wasted on negative emotions even though nothing we can think or feel will ever change the past. I think about my own mother who still rants about her marriage and brings up events from over 20 years ago that do nothing but upset her.
Ripley has to confront the demons of her past throughout the books. Roseway encourages her to do her best to reconcile with her estranged family. Fortunately, everyone makes an effort to work together to bring about positive change. Through God’s love and His lessons they are able to let the past go and move forward together. I wish that everyone could learn from Ripley’s story.
Her story doesn’t end there though. Although her personality remains the same hard-headed fighter, she changes her lifestyle so drastically that she ends up building her career around the work of God. Her life mission is to bring the Lord to those who need him most. She has interesting adventures with God, romance, relationships and death. Throughout everything she remains strong and faithful to her own beliefs. Her challenges are the most dramatic and exciting out of all the characters. I could not believe what I was reading and could not stop myself from turning page after page to see how it would unfold.
Big Joe reminds me of a man I know who seems completely unfulfilled. He is never satisfied, and almost nothing makes him happy. He is that traditional father stereotype: emotionally closed, hard-headed, uncaring and unfeeling. The sort that would never tell his wife or his daughter that he loves them. Overall, a tragic character that leaves me thinking “if only…”
His actions drive the events and the actions of others. He is the villain of the story. The shadow in an otherwise sunny day. He destroys what the innocence and light that he touches. There is no chance that he will ever turn his life around unless there is a big change. And there is. And we see Big Joe for what he truly is. A deeper character than just a simple “bad guy”. Will he ever find redemption? This character is meant to be hated, but he is entertaining to read because there is a lot to think about and really something to sink your teeth in to. He is just so evil!
Jenn – The Road of Sacrifice
Jenn is possibly my favourite book. It plays out like a detective story: lots of sneaky business and parallel storylines, with danger around every turn. It is a web of interconnected characters, lies, emotions and deceit.
Jenn and Ripley’s sister are both entangled with criminal activity and drugs. The pull for drugs is always the connection to money and power. Just last night I was speaking to someone who was explaining to me how he made so much money selling drugs and the luxuries he bought with it. I was baffled. I would never have expected it from a person like him who seems like a genuinely good person. For someone like Jen who is living on the streets and doesn’t have many options, criminal means of income is very appealing. For Ripley’s sister, she gets involved with more organized crime, but the pull is the same. It’s all about money. And it’s a slippery slope. It looks like you can go up, but the only direction you travel is down.
What is the answer? What can pull you out of a dark situation like this? Criminal punishment? The fear of danger? I doubt it. What cures the situation in Jen’s book is hard working, loving family members and friends. I was listening to a radio program last week that was talking about how the so-called “war on drugs” in America has reached a trillion dollars in spending. And it hasn’t helped. What has helped is getting people the proper family and support that they need. Friends of mine who have overcome drugs and alcohol were never punished under the law. They turned their lives around because their families helped. Someone they loved spoke up and worked hard to fight. For the friend I mentioned, he turned his life around because there was a drug-related death in the family.
Jenn’s book is the same. The law enforcement is corrupt and it is difficult to figure out who to trust. Yet again, God’s love prevails. A crisis brings the issues to the forefront of family life and everyone pulls together in the nick of time.
The last character I will talk about, just briefly, is Camay. To me she is the motherly or grandmotherly figure of the books. She is Roseway’s guide and gentle moral voice. There are other mothers in the book, but to me Camay holds the wisdom of age. It is people like this that I always look for in my life. People to learn from who are a living example of their own values. Camay is a caring and touching figure.
I would like to close by bringing up the concept of the boy band. Boy bands are specifically chosen so that every girl can have a favourite. I know that you will find that in these books. You will find a character who reflects an image of yourself. You will find a character who reflects your mother, best friend, or someone else you know. And in it the stories will run close enough to your own experiences for you to learn something and take something away.