Book Review - A Very Large Expanse of Sea



Book Synopsis

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.



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This was a lovely read for me👏 A lot of heavy topics were explored in this book, and it broke my heart at just how extremely mean people could be. The discrimination Shirin experienced because she was a hijab-wearing Muslim from Iran was quite distressing, and I'm painfully aware of the reality of experiences like these especially in the aftermath of 9-11.

I loved that Shirin was a breakdancer😄 I found that thrilling -- a breakdancing protagonist is such a different concept than any I've ever read in a book like this one!

My takeaways:
👆We all have the same blood running through our veins --Christians, Muslims, Buddhists...all religious entities alike. Every person deserves to be heard, seen, and treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their religious preferences (or lack of) or country of origin.

👆Be kind. Just be kind, darn it.
It may come easy sometimes, but I also know it can be hard at other times especially if we've been scarred in the past. Be kind anyway. The world could do with a little bit more kindness from me and you. And we gain everything (a sense of inner peace, to say the least) when we're kind to people, not just to those we know, but especially to those we don't. Let's do better💖


ᴍʏ ʀᴀᴛɪɴɢ: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/5
ɢᴇɴʀᴇ &ᴛʜᴇᴍᴇꜱ: Romance, Literary Fiction, YA, Racism, Religious Discrimination, Politics, Terrorism
ᴍᴀᴛᴜʀɪᴛʏ ʀᴀᴛɪɴɢ: 13+




Interview with Abigail Follows, Author of 'Hidden Song of the Himalayas'

 Aug 9, 2021

I was privileged to invite Author Abigail Follows for an interview to discuss her latest book Hidden Song of the Himalayas. Enjoy!


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What's your book about, and what inspired you to write it?

Hidden Song of the Himalayas is a memoir about the seven years my family and I spent as missionaries in North India. My husband and I were really still newlyweds when we left, and we had a baby within our first year in the field. If that sounds intense... it was! The whole seven years were intense. We faced sickness, injury, and stress. I personally wrestled with God daily, asking a lot of truly difficult questions. Not the least of which was how we could explain the gospel in a way that was relevant and meaningful to a people group very different from us.


I wanted to write this book because of God's interaction with me personally during our service. He met me where I was and used our difficulties to answer my questions. Not only that, but He proved Himself to me. He showed me that even if He brings me to the brink of everything I know, He will always be there waiting on the other side. He'll catch my fall. Particularly when He asks me to do things "I can't do." He can, and does, empower us to face harder challenges than we think we're capable of handling.

Who is your target audience, and why do you think this book will appeal to them?
First of all, people who are trying to live their lives in a way that pleases God. They might have hard questions for God; they might need a little inspiration and encouragement in their journey with God; they might not know what to do next; but ultimately, they want to be a part of God's plans.

I've really bared my heart in this story--so much so that sometimes I feel a bit overexposed now--but I'm so glad I was honest about my doubts, fears, and difficulties. Many people have written to tell me that my personal spiritual journey gave them encouragement. And seeing the way God came through, even by modern-day miracles, can give us hope to keep trying.

My second target audience would be anyone interested in missions or evangelism. I deal with a lot of practical questions on how we as Christians can be a blessing in our communities, so I think that anyone in a ministry context, or supporting someone in a ministry context, would find our story interesting.

What message do you wish to pass across to your readers with this book?
I hope my readers come away with the sense that God exists, His plans are awesome, and it's worth any cost to follow Him. I also want people to know that missions can be done in a way that is redeeming rather than demeaning.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Getting started! Since the day we left India, I felt impressed that I needed to write our story. But I couldn't even look at pictures of India that whole first year after we left. Finally, I forced myself to open up our computer and look at them--I looked at thousands in the space of just a few hours. I had a good, long cry to grieve what I left behind and celebrate my experiences and relationships in India. After that, I was finally ready to write.

As a writer, is there anything you've learned about yourself while writing this book?
I learned that I really can get up at 5:30am. :) Most of my writing was done in the early mornings, before my kids were awake. I thought that would be impossible, since I'm a total night owl. But I prayed about it, and God sent me a kitten who had the habit of waking up early and pouncing me. Thank You, Lord!

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books, and why?  
I prefer reading paperback books rather than ebooks. I find them more comfortable for my eyes, and I just enjoy the whole experience of holding a book.

What is your niche genre, and if you were to write in a different genre, what would it be?
The niche of this book is Christian memoir. I'd also be interested in writing middle-grade Christian novels. There might be something in the works for that niche soon.

What books and authors have most influenced you?
Anne Lamott is so honest and funny. I also love anything written by June Strong.

But I grew up reading as much as I could get my hands on, so I'm sure I've been influenced in small ways by all the books I've read.

Is there anything you'd like readers to know about you?
I never thought I could handle being a missionary, and briefly considered breaking up with my then-boyfriend when he said he felt God was calling him to overseas missions. God had a lot of work to do to change my heart; thankfully, He's good at that.

Do you have any more books in the works?
Yes! I am working with my friend's father to write about his experiences escaping certain death under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. He eventually found himself in a refugee camp, where he became a Christian after Jesus appeared to him in a vision. I'm really excited about the project and praying I'll be able to tell his story well.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
So far, yes. :) I try to be like Jesus and not care too much what people think. But in reality, I feel like I'm going to die if I get a bad review, and like I've been given a new car when I get a good one. After those feelings fade, however, I try to mine reviews for anything that will help make my writing better. What are people resonating with? What is helpful, and what isn't? If something helps me improve my craft, it's a blessing.

𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝟯 𝗳𝗮𝘀𝘁 /𝗳𝘂𝗻 𝗳𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘀 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂:
- I'm allergic to cold (literally) but I love swimming in lakes anyway
- My husband and I like to play guitar together
- As a child, I used to cry in sympathy at the end of the song, "Ten in the Bed," when the little one was lonely.

How can readers get in touch with or follow you (website, personal blog, social media handle, Goodreads)?
www.abigailfollows.com



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Abigail Follows has lived on three continents and understood the life stories of friends in three languages. She has been a cross-cultural missionary for 11 years. Abigail lives wherever God leads with her husband, two children, and cat, Protagonist. Hidden Song of the Himalayas is her first book. To learn more, visit www.abigailfollows.com.


BIPOC Authors in Canada

July 1, 2021

Today, Canada Day, I choose to reflect on and celebrate BIPOC authors in Canada by showcasing a few amazing fiction books on my bookshelf written by them🧡

These authors have used their works as tools to showcase their beautiful cultures, but also as voices that bring awareness to, and fight against, overwhelming issues such as systemic racism, discrimination, and loss of identity that continue to threaten the BIPOC communities, cultures, and identities in Canada.

I can't deny the love for the Canada of today that I call home, but long before it was mine, it was the rightful home of the Indigenous peoples, and our nation still has a long way to go in owning up to past mistakes, especially given the recent painful discovery of mass unmarked graves of Indigenous children at residential school sites across Canada.

It's imperative that we start doing better in righting wrongs and making concrete efforts to eradicate racism & discrimination, among other issues still deeply entrenched within the system, and I sincerely hope for a more united and equal-opportunities nation in the months and years to come🧡

If you haven't read any of the featured books, I really recommend you do🔥

💥 The Book of Negros (Historical, colonialism, social issues)
💥 The Marrow Thieves (Dystopian, social issues, Indigenous)
💥 Frying Plantain (short stories, social issues)
💥 The Break (Thriller, social issues, Indigenous)
💥 Gutter Child (Dystopian, colonialism, social issues)
💥 The Boat People (immigration, social issues)