“Halstad House is like Grace Livingston Hill—you know, the good ones.”
Exactly like those two.
We both realized that few people would understand what I meant, though. She threw out a few other names. “The author of Not My Will?”
“Francena Arnold? Similar, but not as preachy as Arnold can be.”
After a moment’s thought, she tried another. “Louisa May Alcott?”
I shook my head. “No…”
And therein the problem lies. Sometimes, you can’t compare one book to another.
But I wanted to—I really wanted to. See, I’d come up with the perfect mashup for the author’s first book, Love, Mary Elizabeth (this made the top books of 2017 list HERE). This is what I said about that one:
Delightful. If I could only use one word to describe this story, it would be delightful. Written in a completely natural, believable style, this “story-in-letters” (epistolary) novel will delight readers of all ages. Martenson has written a story rich in characters, setting, and story and used them to their best potential. Love, Mary Elizabeth combines the style of Daddy Long Legs (Webster) and the relatability and joy of Understood Betsy (Canfield) into one, can’t-put-it-down novel.
By the time I finished, I felt like I wanted to move to Barstow myself!
Trying to mash up books or authors this time just didn’t work.
If I’d already written my “Six Books by Grace Livingston Hill That You Should Read” kind of blog post that I could link to—something that would explain what I mean when I say it feels like the best of GLH—I’d do it.
But I haven’t. Still, watch for that. I’ll do it soonish. Meanwhile, I’ve finally found two specific books that it feels like to me. It feels like a bit of a mashup between The Blue Castle (L.M. Montgomery) and Found Treasure (GLH). It isn’t that the stories are similar. They’re not. Instead, the tone, the humor, and the spiritual lessons that appear without pretense and preachiness are why I feel it blends the best elements of those books.
That leaves me with…
Note: links are likely affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you. Additionally, while I was provided with an ARC, I purchased both the Kindle copy and two paperbacks, so I consider this a completely unbiased review.
3 Reasons I’m Thankful for This New Release
Characters. That’s the first one. Just as she did with her first book, Christy Martenson created a cast of various characters who stayed consistent—even in their personal growth arc. I’ll admit, Allie was my favorite. Martenson writes a realistic and interesting child and in a way that doesn’t make you feel like you should be reading a children’s book. Each family member and friend appeared as distinct individuals who captured my attention and made me want to know more.
Wholesomeness. That may not feel like much of a compliment these days. Trust me, it’s meant to be. Of late, when I see a book touted as “wholesome,” I cringe. The image of insipid story lines, Mary Sue characters, and heavy-handed sermonizing sends me running.
But there are a lot of wonderful books that I consider wholesome. The Anne books, Stevenson’s Miss Buncle books, and, of course, Daddy Long Legs!
Halstad House has the same, timeless feel as these books. Although they all take place in different eras in history, the same feel about them emerges. Feelings of home, friendship, and a “can-do” spirit.
Finally, there’s faith.
That’s the last one. Martenson wrote about true, gritty faith—and the loss of it. She didn’t do it by dragging us through muck and ick. Instead, she showed that sometimes “good people” get hit hard with the ugly reality of life, and when that happens, once faithful people just can’t anymore.
Can’t trust. Can’t hope. And worst of all, can’t turn to the One Who will help them… can again.
Yes, that’s terrible grammar. Too bad. It says what I mean best. So I’m leaving it.
Christy Martenson wrote a book that isn’t too fussy for daily wear or so simplistic that there’s no depth. No, she balances story with characterization and keeps the reader engaged from the first page to the last. I’m hoping she’ll tell Allie’s story next. I’m sure there’s one in there somewhere.
Recommended for lovers of L.M. Montgomery, Jean Webster, and the finest of Grace Livingston Hill’s works. While I knew I loved the story from the first pages, I didn’t realize how much until I still found myself thinking of it days after I’d finished. Martenson has created timeless characters who steal into your heart and make it their home. Definitely made my top books of 2019 list.
Halstad House. Come for the cinnamon rolls, pass on the biscuits, but stay for the fellowship—the love.
I ordered two paperback copies of Halstad House.
I don’t know when I’ll get them, but when they come in, I’ll be drawing a name for one of you to win a copy. Just leave a comment and let me know what your favorite “wholesome” book is. (Lucinda, I know yours).
About the Halstad House:
A rambling white house. An unopened letter. A young woman in need of a miracle. Halstad House offers more than lodgings and a good meal to boarders. In the aftermath of World War I, the boarding house gives Grace Halstad a way to drown her heartache in never-ending work.
Seeds of bitterness have grown in her heart, but as much as she tries to shut Him out, the Lord is not giving up on her. Torn between the past and the future, in the wake of shattered dreams, can Grace risk opening her heart again?