I don’t usually do thorough reviews of books written by people I know – it puts you in a slightly awkward position. Especially when that author also is your partner. But then, I guess there’s a reason I teamed up with Chautona Havig (and Chuck Waldron, as well).
I first “met” Chautona a few years back when she was looking for an editor. In the end, she found a good friend to do it for free, but I was so interested in her writing, I followed up and requested a signed copy of Shadows and Secrets. That was when I knew Chautona Havig had a great gift for storytelling. Every “Christian” book before hers had largely turned me off. I felt preached at, sermonized and stuffed in a box. Yes, I am a Christian, but I’m far from orthodox. I don’t like being forced into a box and labeled.
So it is a rare occasion when I read Christian anything. Even rarer when I read anything under the guise of romance. Put the two together and it’s pretty much a neon sign telling me to skip to the next shelf.
I didn’t read 30 Days Hath because Chautona is my friend. I didn’t read it because she is my partner or because she had a free Kindle book giveaway. I read it because she told me the plot months ago when she started writing the book and I’ve had a hard time waiting for her to finish. I saw bits and pieces during the writing phase and they were like little pieces of cheese in a mousetrap waiting for me to grab a bite. I honestly couldn’t wait to read the final product.
Let me start by saying that the one thing I admire about Chautona is that she’s a Christian writer who can think outside the box. There have been a few comments that the premise – a Christian man being set up by his pastor/brother-in-law with a year full of month-long dates pseudo The Bachelor style – is decidedly unChristian. That is really what is brilliant about Chautona’s writing. She brings Christian themes and morals out of the Dark Ages of St. Augustine and actually applies them to modern themes and settings. She makes them applicable in a world that no longer holds even a resemblance of the days of the Bible.
The plot is simple and unique. Adric Garrison is a 37-year-old bachelor looking for love, a wife and a family, but having a difficult time fitting that search into his busy life. In a sense, we can see throughout the story that Adric doesn’t necessarily trust his own judgment of women. Like many of us, he floats back and forth, wondering which path will lead him to the “right one.” Reluctantly, he agrees to his brother-in-law’s hair-brained scheme to find him the woman of his dreams. Did I mention that his brother-in-law, Tom, is also his pastor?
Twelve women, twelve months. Twelve chances to find the woman of his dreams. Each woman will live with Adric – chaperoned, of course – for an entire month. No hanky panky, either. Just total respect and getting to know one another. Yes, that’s right: no sex, and the potential couple actually uses the time to date and get to know each other. Total fiction, right? It’s sad that this type of plot actually surprises us and makes us dubious.
One of the things that attracted me to this book is the variety of the characters. None of them had led mythically perfect lives. They were all real-world characters with faults and fractures, as well as uplifting qualities. Not even all of the women were virgins, nor had all remained single their whole lives. So if you’re looking for a book where the characters are paragons of Christian virtue that we can try to emulate, you better turn back now.
One of the important lessons of this book is just how many people we can be attracted to and with whom we can find companionship and solace. This is a hard thing to accept in a world where we want instant gratification and love at first sight. As we learn somewhat early on, Adric has already made that mistake as a younger man. He’s now seeking something deeper, something lasting. He learns a very hard lesson in this: There isn’t just one magical woman who will solve all of his issues and instantly make his dreams come true. Each woman, in her own way, brings something special to the table that the others don’t. They each bring their own flaws as well. One of Adric’s hurdles is to determine whether those special qualities are enough, and whether he can accept the flaws every day for the next 50 years without needing to change the women who bring them.
This is not a theme limited to Christian society, either. Christian, Muslim or atheist, we all face this same exact question in our own lives and relationships. What we see is the importance of making informed decisions in our lives instead of letting passion rule us in the moment. In some ways, this is a very non-traditional romance in that the question of love and marriage is addressed in a practical and modern way. We see how the pressures of modern life affect the way we act and make decisions – for better or for worse. We see how little we truly communicate in a relationship unless we are truly pushed to do it.
Chautona Havig does not preach at her reader. She lays out different morals and values with her characters and analyses different approaches to love, attraction and marriage. It is a very complex theme that she deftly weaves into an inspiring and beautiful story that really makes you realize that true love and commitment does still exist.
I do want to address one of the reviews posted on Amazon of this book:
I know it isn’t very nice to review a book without finishing it but I just couldn’t do it. The premise was creepy to me, but I thought since the other reviewers were able to get over it, I could, too. I couldn’t. The idea that a Christian pastor (Tom) would even propose this idea and that a Christian man (or the women) would agree to it is beyond me and the more I read, the more I felt almost angry. It was a unique premise for Christian fiction but one I’m surprised a Christian publisher would endorse. I suspect it had to do to with capitalizing on the reality television craze. I would never want anyone to read anything like this and have them think it is a good idea, fiction or not.
One of my true dissatisfactions with reading traditional Christian literature is its inability to apply Christian faith outside of a neat little moral box. Christian literature, even today, has difficulty incorporating modernity into its themes. The challenges we face today are unique and we need to start addressing them. One of those challenges is where and how to find the right person, especially when you’re Christian. The premise, to me, is far from “creepy,” and I would hope that, like Adric, we don’t simply want to “settle” for only those choices that are within our limited view. The idea of a match-making pastor looking out for his flock and truly wanting two people to make the best possible match is actually comforting in a way. The reviewer here has obviously forgotten her history, since Christian matchmaking is far from a new phenomenon and has its roots farther back than I can probably say.
In a nutshell, I give this book two thumb’s up and highly recommend it as a good read.