The announcement came on Facebook. David Rawlings’ new book, Where the Road Bends was up for pre-order. I thought I’d snapped it up that minute, but I didn’t. Looking back, I think I waited to make sure there wasn’t going to be a blog tour. After reading and reviewing The Baggage Handler and The Camera Never Lies, I knew this one needed a home in my library–if for no other reason than my mother would insist on it. She’s a fan.
However, when my podcast, Because Fiction went live and David Rawlings messaged me about doing an interview, I immediately ordered it then. I wanted to be able to read it before we talked. Then he worked author magic and got me a Net Galley copy. God bless David and God bless the folks at Thomas Nelson.
So, strictly speaking, I was provided an advance copy of the book I’d already purchased. If that’s not full disclosure, I don’t know what is.
I dragged out reading the book over a few days and finished just a few hours before we recorded the podcast so everything would still be fresh. That was both a really good and a really bad idea. Because here’s the thing. I’ve been asking myself one question for a few weeks now.
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So, Which of these Faces Is the Real Me?
Seriously. The characters in Where the Road Bends are four completely different people. And they’re all me.
Set in the Australian Outback, four college friends come together for a mini fifteen-year reunion to reconnect and see what’s become of their lives. Like that old Statler Brothers song, they all had their dreams, but life hasn’t turned out as they’d expected.
One of the strongest elements in this book is the characterization of four very distinct personalities. David Rawlings manages to keep each of the characters unique and consistent while allowing for realistic growth as well. Though they’ve each grown in their own lives in the past fifteen years, when they come together the old dynamic reasserts itself, as happens when old friends get together. Rawlings does this with what appears to be effortless ease. Obviously not. It takes not only skill and vision but hard work as well to pull off that kind of consistency.
These characters pulled at me–gutted me, even.
I saw myself in the strengths and weaknesses of the characters.
In this, you see David Rawlings’ true writing greatness. It’s one thing to read a book and in it, you recognize your faults and how you might overcome them. It’s another for that same author to also show you your strengths–the things the Lord has given you as tools to overcome those same weaknesses.
The setting of Where the Road Bend is, of course, fabulous. Only someone who knows Australia could pull off a tour into the Outback as naturally and believably as Rawlings has. He somehow made this strange, unfamiliar place feel familiar and yet undiscovered at the same time. We’re treated to a realistic view of authentic Australia, including learning a new meaning for “pods,” what a road train is, and what can only be described as a sand hurricane.
But beyond five interwoven stories, people you come to care about enough that you find yourself screaming aloud when one does something fantastically stupid, and a setting that, as Rawlings himself says, “will try to kill you,” the spiritual truths are the true gem of this novel. Gentle, but firm, they’re chiseled into every page. Not once does he preach or wield them with a heavy hand. Instead, you’re confronted with truths you need to examine and given that opportunity.
Seriously, Rawlings has ensured that every book he writes is an “auto-buy.”
Recommended for readers who love a gentle, introspective story that packs a punch that hurts and heals at the same time.
How did I get here?
He ripped back the zip, his heart pounding as red dust trickled in and landed on his face. He stood, brushing the dust from his eyes, a sense of vertigo launching itself up his spine. One step from the swag and his eyes snapped open. He started to lean into a void. Over a cliff.
Fifteen years after college graduation, four friends reconnect to keep a long-ago promise and go on a trip of a lifetime in the Australian Outback.
Eliza needs to disconnect from her high-powered fashion job to consider the CEO position she’s just been offered. Lincoln hopes to rekindle a past relationship and escape from another one. Bree looks forward to a fun getaway from home and her deeply buried disappointments.
Andy wants to disappear from the mess he’s made of his life—possibly forever.
Dropped at a campsite in the middle of nowhere, the friends quickly discover they aren’t the same people they once were, and they begin to confront hard truths about one another—and themselves. Then a bizarre storm sweeps across their camp, scattering them across the desert. Wondering if they are part of some strange escape game, each of the friends meets a guide to help them find exactly what they need: purpose, healing, courage, and redemption.
But they’ve already traveled far down the road of life and course-correcting to become the people they were meant to be won’t be easy.