A Gem of Truth (Book Review)

  • Author: Kimberley Woodhouse
  • Publisher: Bethany House
  • Available Now
  • Synopsis: Early 1900s; Julia, who has long shrouded her personal history in fabrication, attempts to turn over a new leaf at her new place of employment, the El Tovar hotel at the Grand Canyon.
  • Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher via JustReads Publicity Tours. Opinions conveyed are my own.

Scripture Connection

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matt. 11:29

Spiritual Themes

This book is simply rich with spiritual truth and it was so timely with what the Lord has been teaching me, lately. Woodhouse explores the feelings of inadequacy that so many people experience, as well as our attempts, like Adam and Eve, to cover ourselves. In doing so, she points right back at Jesus, showing that His evaluation of our worth has nothing to do with our goodness (or very real lack thereof). Woodhouse demonstrates that we really are sinful people, but that’s actually great news! What it means is that we don’t have to hide from God, because He already knows all we have done (and will do), and that will never change His estimation of our worth.

This is such a beautiful truth! There is nothing we can do, past or present, to be separated from God’s love (see Romans 8). Woodhouse integrates this Scripture, and a variety of others, into the storyline, and it is an encouraging breath of fresh air, a lightening of the yoke. This is why I selected the verse from Matthew as the Scriptural Connection, although multiple verses could have applied.

What I Liked

Historical fiction doesn’t always draw me in, but A Gem of Truth certainly did. I had a lot of fun reading the novel, which was my first exposure to the author. I enjoyed reading about the Harvey girls and, to my surprise, the period history. I also felt that the pacing was excellent. This was an instance where the pages seemed to slip by, even when there wasn’t a lot of “action” happening.

I so appreciated that the spiritual themes were integral to the plot and introduced early on, in the story. I think this was one of the things that captured my interest. It was almost immediately apparent what the character was struggling with, and it’s something I have struggled with time and time, again. And, the resolution was not simply a secular pat on the back, but a very clear pointing to Jesus and His love.

Although romance is certainly part of the plotline, I liked that it wasn’t the cornerstone. In addition to the core spiritual theme, friendship was HUGE. We learn, early on, that Julia isn’t accustomed to having friends, so a big part of the story is simply watching to see how her relationships with her newest coworkers play out. I enjoyed getting to know several of the other Harvey girls, and observing their actions and attitudes, over time. From the outset, two of the female characters had a beautiful, Christ-centered fellowship.

Overall, I was satisfied with the treatment of the Hopi. I do wish all the treasure had been given to the Hopi, because the Grand Canyon land was stolen from them. However, I was glad that the author demonstrated respect for Hopi culture.

Content Notes

The one content note I have is about the romance. From their first meeting, Julia and Christopher clearly take an interest in one another. However, (mild spoiler) at the time Chris decides to court Julia, she is not a Christ-follower– and I don’t think Chris is aware of that. It’s quite clear that Chris is following Jesus, but there’s no indication that Julia desires to. Of course, it’s arguable that, since the point of courtship is to get to know a person better, that’s exactly what he planned to do, including learning about Julia’s faith. I do think this could be a fair explanation, and perhaps I am bringing a contemporary bias, since courtship is now seen as very serious in itself, as a substitution for dating (rather than as the main way people decide whether or not to get married).

Kissing content is absent from 98% of the story and there’s a great emphasis on sexual purity, toward the end.

Recommendation Status

This is a book I really enjoyed reading and I think it could appeal to a variety of audiences, due to the combination of faith, historical elements, friendship and even treasure hunting. Additionally, although the protagonists are adults, I would feel comfortable recommending this title for young adult readers as well, particularly because of the theme of finding acceptance and worth in Christ. This is such an important message, and the Lord used this book to reaffirm the truths He has been teaching me.

Published by Stephaniesninthsuitcase

Hi, there! My name is Stephanie and I’m a Fresno, CA native. After studying at Biola University, I received my MLIS (Masters in Library Science) from San Jose State University. I live with my mom, poet Kimberly Vargas Agnese, and serve as her unofficial agent. We reside at MeadowArc, a food forest in its infancy. I am called to, and passionate about, purity. In fact, the name Agnes means “pure.” Before I was born, my mom felt led to include the name Agnes in her name, and in the names of her children. My full, hyphenated name includes 26 letters (but not the whole alphabet).

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