This was my first time reading a novel by Susan May Warren and was, on the whole, a pleasant experience for me
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.Prov. 16:9
Sunrise incorporates some excellent spiritual themes, making for a very satisfying read. Warren delves into the sovereignty of God as she addresses the common question: Why do bad things happen to “good” (or in this case, “young and innocent”) people? The author invites the reader to focus on the miracles we do see God performing, as we come to recognize that God sees all the pieces and outcomes that we cannot. Where we focus on the bad in a situation, God may be protecting us in a way we are unaware of.
For me, the Proverbs 16 verse fits this theme, in its treatment of God’s Sovereignty, generally speaking, and in its allusion to the way we think our lives should go. When we think we have our lives perfectly planned, God often surprises us– and we don’t always like those surprises! But He is the One in control and is working all things together in ways that we can’t begin to comprehend.
In direct alignment with Prov. 16:9, Dodge, the male protagonist, learns to seek the Lord’s will, rather than chasing down his own dreams.
What I Liked
- This is, to my knowledge, the first full-length novel I have read that takes place in Alaska, and I feel that Warren does a good job crafting a balanced, realistic picture of the setting. Several of the characters in Sunrise are homesteaders and while I certainly did not envy their lifestyle, I did get to step into the shoes of the characters who feel so at home in a place that is so foreign to me. The book captures some of the harsh realities of the cold climate (a big “no thank-you!” for me), but also highlights the beauty of the setting. As a reader, I had the opportunity to glimpse the wonder of the aurora borealis and to hear about the rebirth of hope after a long, freezing winter.
- I enjoyed reading about the homesteading lifestyle.
- I liked Barry Kingston, Dodge’s dad (even though Dodge bothered me at points). Barry was a loving, gentle father who taught his children about God’s love and continued to instruct them with godly counsel.
- Charlie, Echo’s father, was also pretty neat because of his determination to protect the local bears from creepy poachers.
- I really appreciated the overt spiritual content. There are multiple instances where Barry talks to either Dodge or Echo about God, and I can recall at least one of these conversations lasting for several pages. However, the dialogue doesn’t feel forced and unnatural. Instead, it melds well with the narrative, as Barry interacts with the other characters in a personal way, speaking into their current place in life, rather than rambling off a sermon he heard at church.
- In addition to the discussion about God’s Sovereignty, there are very clear messages about forgiveness and redemption, which really grounded the novel for me, especially because Sunrise is, largely, a romance.
The romance centers around two best friends, Dodge and Echo, whose brief romance ended ten years prior to the start of the novel. There are multiple kissing scenes, as well as some internal discussion about the passion that the characters are feeling for one another and how the physicality is contributing to those feelings. For me, it was a bit intense.
While it was somewhat ambiguous, it appeared to me that the characters were coming from different places, spiritually, as there’s a reference to “your God,” just after one of the kissing scenes.
Additionally there were a few lines scattered throughout that hinted of the characters’ finding fulfillment in one another. One such line described the love interest in terms of light, which made me really uncomfortable, because Jesus is the light. While the redemption theme was also strong, I don’t endorse the idea that a person can be our fulfillment.
There is some violence, throughout the novel, as well as some hard things happening to animals. For me, personally, neither of these were “over the top” (However, my main area of sensitivity is to romantic content/purity).
I would recommend this title, with reader discretion, due to the romantic content/themes. For me, the spiritual content was strong and redemptive, making for a worthwhile read. Recommended to readers who enjoy romance and suspense– in that order.