Professor Gabriel Emerson has left his position at the University of Toronto to embark on a new life with his beloved Julianne. Together, he’s confident that they can face any challenge. And he’s eager to become a father.
But Julianne’s graduate program threatens Gabriel’s plans, as the pressures of being a student become all consuming. When she is given the honor of presenting an academic lecture at Oxford, Gabriel is forced to confront Julianne about the subject of her presentation—research that conflicts with his own. And in Oxford, several individuals from their past appear, including an old nemesis intent on humiliating Julia and exposing one of Gabriel’s darkest secrets.
In an effort to confront his remaining demons, Gabriel begins a quest to discover more about his biological parents, beginning a chain of events that has startling repercussions for himself, Julianne, and his hope of having a family.
Fear not if you haven’t read GABRIEL’S REDEMPTION yet. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling this book for any reader. This isn’t so much a review of only GABRIEL’S REDEMPTION, but my perspectives on the series. I will try VERY hard not to gush. I won’t succeed, but I’ll try nonetheless. I’m going to start with a quick personal detour, but it will all make sense. Trust me.
I was beyond stunned by this series. I picked it up late last year during some outpatient appointments my daughter had at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. My daughter came to us with quite a few medical issues. When she was still in utero, I had one of those remarkable ultrasounds that you don’t ever want to have. Having entered the room with pretty pink and blue thoughts, my husband and I had no reason to think of anything being “wrong”. We were mostly thinking about nursery colors and if the 5th boy of his family’s generation was coming or if the long shot girl was on her way. We really didn’t care. You know, “as long as it’s healthy”.
When a radiologist arrived to explain the ultrasound, my heart sank. This wasn’t our first rodeo…we knew a doctor didn’t show up for just any ultrasound. As he went down the black and white image her sweet body from head to toe and we got all the scary news. Hydrocephalus. Chiari Malformation. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Spina Bifida. Clubbed feet.
You should know that this girl is perfection. Neurotypical and a speed racer with a self-propelled pink wheelchair that has light-up front wheels. She is full of life and light and all of the things people are drawn to. She’s a dancer and a singer and a little sister to her loving (and often annoyed) big brother. She’s 7 surgeries in, last I checked. Like a vintage automobile, she requires fine tuning to perform at her best. Her heart is actually perfect but all of the other anomalies discovered on that snowy day in early 2008 were appropriately diagnosed. There are too many emotions and not enough words to describe knowing how altered your world becomes with that kind of knowledge.
So, I have to tell you. This story will feel familiar to you after you finish GABRIEL’S REDEMPTION. And you should know that Sylvain Reynard got every single word of this particular story arc right. Stunningly right.
I used to think that romances weren’t written for academics or intellectuals. That they were somehow less-intelligent mind candy. Don’t get me wrong…I love a good diversion. I was proved wrong that day last year when I decided to read GABRIEL’S INFERNO. Clearly Sylvain Reynard is a student of so many schools. Art history, of course, is right at the top. A flair for Romance languages, clearly. The ones that speak most to me are his perspectives of C.S. Lewis’ and St. Francis’ works. For example, Julia explains God’s intent to Gabriel.
“God wants to rescue us, not destroy us. You don’t have to be afraid of being happy, thinking that he wants to take that happiness away from you. That’s not who he is.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because when you’ve had a taste of goodness, it helps you recognize the difference between good and evil. I believe that people like Grace and St. Francis and a whole host of other kind, loving people show us what God is like. He isn’t waiting to punish you and he doesn’t give you blessings just to strip them away.”
To suggest that I devoured the first book is an understatement. The second book, GABRIEL’S RAPTURE was harder to feel my way through. So much injustice. So much pain. So many feelings to feel and emotions to process. So, why? Why all of the fuss? Why the devotion? I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure that out. After all, there are all sorts of good books to read. I’ve read them and written about them and professed my love for them. My experience with these books has been unique to this series, though.
I find myself experiencing the emotions of all the characters when I read these books. Seamlessly moving from Julia to Paul to Rachel to Gabriel. Regardless of which character is narrating the story, you feel everything from their perspective so fully. You have empathy for every character at every point. The empathy doesn’t always spill over to support a character’s actions or intentions. Even the horrible, Gollum-like Christa has her reasons, of course, but you’ll never support them.
I loved knowing more about Richard in this installment because his counsel is especially wise when it comes to the imperfections of love.
Learning how to argue with a spouse is an art, not a science. It took your mother and me a long time to figure it out. But once we did, we rarely argued. And when we did, it wasn’t ugly or hurtful. If you can argue with Julia while still convincing her that you love her and that she’s important to you, your conflicts will be easier to manage.
Katherine Picton’s perspective is one we don’t ever get in the first-person. Like God, her wisdom must be interpreted by scholars and disciples. Katherine always knows the score, though, and even her now-revealed past is beautifully marled with missteps. Before she was the austere Dante expert, she was young once, too, and not immune from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Gabriel continues to struggle with the fragility of loving people. It’s so much more convenient to wall up his heart where he won’t be hurt. Gabriel explains his fears to Paul.
Every night when I fall asleep with her in my arms, I thank God she’s mine. Every morning when I wake up, my first thought is that I’m grateful she married me. I will never be worthy of her. But I spend every day trying my damnedest.
Redemption is the name of the game this time around, after all. It’s right in the title. In spite of all of the pathos, each character meets a satisfactory end to the my heart’s desire. Minor and major characters alike are heard from. All of the plot lines from the previous installments are tied up expertly. The level of satisfaction for where they all ended up? Infinite. An old-fashioned Happily Ever After for a modern tale about timeless love. A romance of intelligence and of learning. Of love, not just sex. Of faith and questioning faith. Of returning to where we started, as that’s where so many of life’s answers wait for us.
Of The Professor and his Beatrice. In their orchard. Together at last.
About Sylvain Reynard
I’m interested in the way literature can help us explore aspects of the human condition – particularly suffering, sex, love, faith, and redemption. My favourite stories are those in which a character takes a journey, either a physical journey to a new and exciting place, or a personal journey in which he or she learns something about himself/herself.
I’m also interested in how aesthetic elements such as art, architecture, and music can be used to tell a story or to illuminate the traits of a particular character. In my writing, I combine all of these elements with the themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the transformative power of goodness.
I try to use my platform as an author to raise awareness about the following charities: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation, WorldVision, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and Covenant House. For more information, see my Twitter account.
Find Sylvain Reynard and GABRIEL’S REDEMPTION on the interwebz
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