I love reading debut novels. There is always a freshness as a new author tests the waters of fiction writing. Naturally, there are things that only a seasoned author can truly incorporate into a novel, but there are also aspects of writing that are beautiful from a fresh hand.
And, it was a delight to read Regina Jennings’ debut novel Sixty Acres and a Bride. In fact, it was pretty easy to forget this was her debut novel. Set in Texas not long after the Civil War, Sixty Acres and a Bride is somewhat inspired by the story of Ruth. In one day Louise Garner and her new Mexican daughter-in-law Rosa find themselves both widowed. Louise is living in a strange land with no family, and Rosa’s family has rejected her as definitively as she has rejected the faith of her people. The Garner women feel that their only choice is to return to Louise’s Texan home and pray that God will open the doors for them to pay the back taxes on the family ranch and find a way to support themselves.
While romantic fiction cannot help but be predictable, Jennings does a good job of leaving the reader wondering just how the walls will finally come down. But, the tension of romance is not the highlight of Sixty Acres and a Bride. Instead, the highlight for me was the cultural interplay. Jennings does a fantastic job of presenting the conflict between what is acceptable to Rosa and her Mexican culture and what is acceptable in her new home in Texas. As in many stories, the outsider’s strange behaviors are seen through the eyes of the local cultured society. But, in this story, the reader is also granted an image of what is proper and acceptable in the outsider’s own culture. This “fly on the wall” view of both sides of the conflict draws the reader into the story in a powerful way.
I definitely recommend Regina Jennings’ debut novel to Christian fiction lovers. And I look forward to seeing where God takes her writing from here.
I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.