29 November 2010

The Sweet By and By: Review & Christian Fiction Book Club Discussion

Book: The Sweet By and By
Authors: Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck
Pages: 305
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction

My summary: Jade is finally going to marry the man of her dreams. But she is also about to come face-to-face with the past she has spent her entire adult life running from.

My say: The Sweet By and By failed to charm me. While I enjoyed the story style (alternating perspectives from Jade to her mother Beryl) this story about communication (or the lack of) and forgiveness never inched its way into my heart. Much like the wounded bird Jade is compared to, it struggled to fly. I am however curious to see how Jade evolves in part two Softly and Tenderly due out this January. Maybe I will try book two in audio.

What I did not like: Jade. I spent most of the novel wishing I could shake some sense into her. She spends too long playing the victim and never taking responsibility for her actions. People who are too quick to place blame on other people always get under my skin.

What I did like: Beryl. Her journey through her memories (as she tries to find where she went wrong and how she lost the respect of her eldest daughter) was very touching. She is the kind of beautiful flawed character I rarely get to read; an ex-flower child of the 60s.

What I would have liked more of:
  1. Aiden. Jade's brother had a minor role but completely won me over. It is safe to say I have a minor character crush on Aiden.
  2. Willow. Jade's sister is all sauce and spirit. I have high hopes for her.
My cover thoughts: I like that it reminds me of a lazy summer day. But I think it also reflects how lost Jade was/is.

My star rating: 3 stars

My kiddie-o-meter: While everything is tasteful there are mentions to drug use, alcohol abuse, sex, infidelity, and abortion.

My favorite quote: "Even the wise need wisdom."

My Christian Fiction Book Club Discussion Q & A: The Sweet By and By was the Christian Fiction Book Club pick for November. After reading the novel, each member picks one discussion question from the back of the book to feature and discuss in a blog post. This is mine.

(SPOILER WARNING! Please highlight to read)

Jade and Max decide to let their pasts stay in the past. Is there wisdom here? How can letting the past stay out of the present benefit your heart and relationship? How might it hinder? When is it right to talk about the past? When is it best to let issues of the past go?

I think it is always best to put the past behind you. There is definite wisdom in not letting your past dictate your future. God forgives us and therefore we must forgive ourselves. But unsettled issues can hinder a person or relationship. It is so important to make peace with our pasts. The best bet is to deal with what you've been through and tell your spouse what happened so nothing ever blindsides you.

What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments field or link up to your post below.

My Christian Fiction Book Club Discussion note: Next month's read is Grace: A Sister's of the Heart Novel by Shelley Shepard Gray and will be hosted by blogger The Lemon Verveine Book Club, I do hope you will join us. The book is currently available for free on NetGalley.com under Avon publisher.

My final say: Has anyone ever read Rachel Hauck before? How does this story compare to her usual writing?


  1. I had some problems with this story, also. But I have high hopes for the second book in the series, and I love joining in a discussion! I think you have to deal with your past and ask forgiveness for your part in any of its problems before you can consign it to ancient history. I felt like you--Jade blindsided Max with all her issues. He didn't even really know her!

  2. I don't have time to respond to the whole post before work, but I wanted to say this book was similar to Rachel's other books because of the complex characterization, but different than her other books because it wasn't as funny. Rachel Hauck books usually have lots more humor in them. I don't think Jade's story lends itself to humor though, so it would have been out of place in this novel. I'll be back after work ladies to comment some more. :)

  3. I've never heard of this one, but I can see why those things would bother you. I, too, got stuck on a book that failed to impress me just barely. I am, however, pleased to see that there were a few characters you liked! Excellent review, Juju :)

  4. I didnt like it either, I think something was just missing...something deep for me to connect with the "Drama" in the novel, I got half-way and skimmed, Ill link my review/question later today...:P

  5. Great review. Not sure it is for me, something in it just fails to capture me, and well more after reading that spoiler

  6. Nice honest review! Ah, Jade sounds like a bit of a frustrating character ;)

  7. Juju, I loved this book. Maybe because I've also come from a past similar in some ways to Jade's. I disagreed with many things she did but I understood her reactions. Especially since her mother reminded me of mine.

  8. Sorry to hear that Jade wasn't the best character in the book!

  9. Gina: I love that you loved this book. Everyone please visit Gina's review/discussion. It was fantastic.

    Lea: She totally was :) Thanks for visiting.

    Blod: I feel ya ;)

    Tina: Exactly! I felt that too. Like it was missing heart or something. I desperately wanted to skim. ;)

    Melissa & Nina: Thanks for popping by sweet peas :)

    Joy: Oh thank goodness. I am SO glad to hear that. I was afraid that this is her general style. :)

    Humor is SO important to me.

    Is there a RH book you recommend?

    Renee Ann: Oh my goodness yes! I was like, how is this marriage going to work if she continues to bold face lie? And didn't you get the impression there was more to Max and his ex? Oh and his mom! I don't know how poor Jade is going to weather that storm.

  10. Sounds like a good book for discussion. :) I agree - we have to let our past BE our past, because dragging it into our present or carrying it into our future will only muddy everything else. I sometimes find, though, that I have a difficultly letting some things go. Even though I know I'm forgiven, it can be hard to leave the burden there and not take those chains with me. Thankfully, God is faithful (and patient). :)

  11. Jessica Book Lover: Amen! What a true statement. I too struggle with that. I know I'm forgiven but sometimes it's hard to let those bags/chains go. Thank you for stopping by and sharing that. I think allot of us suffer with that. :)

  12. Hmm...well it looks like this one loses itself for me at the cover appeal....but still, enjoyed the review. Thanks for the honesty Juju!

  13. There's probably something wrong with me, but I didn't really put much blame on Jade for the whole thing. I really blamed her mother. It wasn't until Jade admitted her role in things that I started to see, yeah she played a part. I have cousins who remind me sooo much of Jade and their parents played such a huge part in how they turned out. I guess everyone brings their own baggage to a story like this. :)

    Juju, I was reading your review policy and you seem to like historical romance, so contemp. might not be your thing. Rachel Hauck writes contemporary, funny romances. My favorite was Love Starts with Elle followed by the NashVegas stories (Diva Nash Vegas and Lost in Nash Vegas).

  14. Gmr: Thank you sweetheart :)

    Joy: See that is why I love discussions. I love seeing different points of view. And I love what you shared about your cousins. We all definitely bring who we are to books. Thank you so much for sharing that. :)

    You're so right. I don't dig contemporary fiction much too much so that is a very good point! And thank you for the recommendations :)

  15. Juju, do you and Joy (or whoever) have suggestions for the January book? Or does that vote happen at the Lemon Verveine blog? Just wondering . . .

  16. "Even the wise need wisdom." So true.

  17. You know after reading Joys and Renee's reviews I almost feel bad for not liking the book....:D

  18. I haven't heard of this book before. Sorry to hear you didn't like Jade. I'm not a fan of characters always playing victim.
    I really love that quote!

  19. Sometimes there are just these types of books. Either you wade through them and learn something or you wade through them and well just wade through them.

    (28 here)

    There is a new project starting in the blog-o-sphere that I want to get involved in, so spreading the word of greatness. I have a post up about Save a Tree, Read an E-Book.

    Mad Scientist

  20. Renee Ann: That vote will take place at the next site/hostess. If you have a suggestion, you should totally drop Lemon Verveine a line :)

    Midnight: I know. I love it too :)

    Tina: LOL :) Me too kinda! It's so funny how we think alike sometimes.

    Katie: Thank you and thank you for visiting :)

    Mad: LOL true true! :)

  21. Don't feel bad Tina. I had to DNF October's book pick. Everyone else loved it, but I got to page 111 and couldn't go any further. I hate abandoning books. :(

  22. I always enjoy how you set-up your reviews-clear and to the point. What I really love about this book is how we all had such different reactions to the storyline. I really loved the story but found I could simultaneously be furious or annoyed with the characters. Isn't that the best part about book clubs, that we all can read the same book but see it from different perspectives after discussing them. After reading all the posts of the other participants, I have been given so much to think about, particularly about Jade's character.

    Thanks so much for hosting.

  23. Joy: Oooo now I'm wondering what the October read was :)

    Perfectly Imperfect: Hey you! I'm so honored that you popped by! You're right, we did all have different reactions. I love that. Each reviewer has brought something different to my attention. Bravo :)

  24. Jade sounds like a character I wouldnt like either. Sorry to hear you didnt love it.

  25. Hi thanks for your comment i'm your new follower now :p !
    Yeaah I can't wait to meet Maggie !

  26. hmmm, from this review i think i'd prefer to read about Willow's story with her sauciness ;-D

  27. Jenny: Exactly ;)

    VV: OOooo me too! :)

    Ifmary: Well welcome darling! I can't wait to hear allll about your Maggie meet :)

  28. I always like reading your simple and honest reviews. What a fun idea--a book club discussion between blogging friends. I'll look into the book.

  29. Can't win them all. Nice review.

  30. I found an awesome video on YouTube of Sara Evans giving some insight into this book and the sequel:


  31. I love the new header with the woman and the tree!! :D Sorry I didn't comment in a while, but after my break last week I'm finding it hard to get back into my online groove.

    So is the Christian book club on GoodReads or just on your blog? Cause if I can get my hands on the book I'd love to participate! Also, have you ever read Lynn Austin? She's a great Christian writer.

  32. Thanks for the review! Glad to know that there were some issues with the characters. That really makes or breaks a book for me...

  33. I absolutely love the quote you picked! Just perfect in so many ways.

    I'm so sorry this didn't work all that well for you! Hopefully next months selection will be much better! ;o)

  34. i don't think i would have liked jade, either. I'm not totally a fan of sara evans after her dancing with the stars appearance. Sounds like there are a lot better books out there. thanks for the great review, juju!

  35. I very much enjoy the way to do reviews. Somehow you manage to keep things elegantly simple yet very perceptive.

    I hadn't heard of this book or author before, but it sounds like she tried to put a very realistic touch on the character, Jade. Many people struggle with owning up to their responsibilities. Most times, it is much easier to play victim. Great review.

    And yes, the cover is lovely in it laziness.

  36. Probably not for me but thanks for the insightful review!

    Teens Read and Write

  37. Sorry the protag didn’t win you over, but at least some of the minor characters were a hit. Great review BTW :)

  38. Ahhh... I think I'll give this one a miss then... thank you for sharing your honest review!!

  39. Cherry & Alyssa: Thanks for stopping by :)

    Christie & Lizzy: So very true :)

    Missie: Why thank you darling :) You're right about it being easier to play victim. :)

    Carrie: Really? Her Dancing with the Stars thing changed your view of her? Please tell me more :) I'm oddly fascinated.

    1stdaughter: Amen to that :)

    Gabrielle: The Christian Fiction Book Club is a club that jumps around from month-to-month as different blogs host it monthly. We would LOVE if you would participate. Do you have an eReader? If so the book is free right now on NetGalley. I've never tried Lynn Austin but I would love to. :)

    Joy: OOo that was really good. Thank you so much for sharing this. :)

    Andrea: Amen to that :)

    Kaye: Yah! Please do! :)