Last year, I had the opportunity to read Joan Embola’s debut novel, The One Who Knows Me. I really enjoyed the novel and eagerly awaited its sequel. Because I wanted to read the book before endorsing it in the cover reveal, I requested to read it early and Joan was so kind to share an eARC with me. Like the first book, The One Who Loves Me was a delight to read, with an excellent and beautiful message.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.1 Peter 1:18-19
Spiritual Themes / Content
I chose the verse from 1 Peter, because the novel’s central theme is identity in Christ. Amara eperiences considerable internal conflict with regard to her self-worth, as she constantly recalls the insults of a high-school bully. Throughout, she questions whether or not she is “enough.” Ultimately (and powerfully), Jesus teaches her that He is enough and is the One who imparts value to her.
Most of the main characters are Christians, and their faith actively informs their life decisions and actions. Additionally, the characters encourage each other in the Lord.
What I Liked
In the first novel, I really enjoyed the friendship between Teeyana and Amara, which is one of the reasons I was so looking forward to reading book two. The One Who Loves Me maintains that beautiful friendship, and theirs is definitely one of my favorite fictional friendships.
- The girls point each other to Jesus! They are a source of truth and encouragement to one another, as they “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Rather than simply telling one another what the other person wants to hear, they state the facts.
- The friendship feels so realistic! It was so fun to listen in on their “girl talk” and enjoy catching up with these two.
- I liked getting Amara’s perspective. In The One Who Knows Me, she comes across as very confident as she supports Teeyana. In this book, we gain more insight into Amara’s own struggles with self-confidence.
The novel’s pacing definitely contributed to my enjoyment. While many books take place over a relatively short period of time, and the reader is invited into each detail, The One who Loves Me is spread out over more than a year. Embola does this by quickly covering certain periods of time with brief, overarching summaries. I appreciated this style, because I didn’t feel bogged down waiting for interesting things to happen. This contributed to a fast-paced narration.
The novel’s message is so good and points to the reality of Christ as bridegroom. I don’t want to give too much away, but the message is what makes this book so commendable. As with the first book, this is one that I really want young ladies to be reading! It goes beyond what most Christian romance novels portray, as there is a strong emphasis on calling, as well. Relationship with Christ is integral to Amara’s relationship with Ray.
The author includes a letter to readers, after the text. I considered this to be really powerful, just like the letter in the first book. This note concentrates the messages of the novel, articulating the themes in a clear and concise way. I really appreciate that she uses this note to discuss singleness and marriage, as well, emphasizing the fact that there is nothing incomplete about being single. This is such an important message for Christians, in general, and even more so in a book where parents are strongly encouraging their children to marry.
Amara is an NICU nurse and author Joan Embola is a qualified physician assistant. I like it when an author brings their own background knowledge to the text.
Joan Embola is a Nigerian author, and the novel very much reflects that. There’s a lot of Nigerian dialect interspersed, throughout, plus a glossary at the end of the book. Additionally, the author includes a list of the names used in the text, as well as their meanings.
The book also portrays various aspects of the culture, including the strong emphasis on marriage, and the parents’ encouragement for their children to get married. There’s also a subplot involving tribalism, which is delved into more in the Author’s Note.
Compared to the first book, there was considerably more in the way of kissing. Mutual kisses, however, are in the context of a committed relationship. There is also a line where the character stops because of a prompting by the Holy Spirit 🙂
There are maybe 1-2 uses of the Lord’s name outside of prayer.
In general, Amara is a realistic protagonist who learns from her mistakes (and she does make some wrong choices). However, there is one thing she does that she doesn’t seem to regret: she tells her date that she has a church event after their meeting. She narrates that this isn’t true, but it’s something she had to say, to see how he would react to the mention of church. This is a small moment in the text, and it definitely sounds believable, in terms of how someone might behave and justify herself.
Along this line, there seemed to be some conflation between being a Christian and attending church. While the novel definitely shows what it looks like to walk in active relationship with Jesus, I felt like there was a bit of emphasis on church attendance.
Despite the above mentioned concerns, this is a book I am willing to recommend. It combines the sweetness and fun of my favorite romcoms, but also packs in a powerful message that needs to be heard. This is a great book for teens and young women!