Series: Flowers of Eden #2
Publisher: Franciscan Media (2016 - Aug. 26)
eARC (304 pages)
Reading Challenges: Read 2016
The first book in the Flowers of Eden series introduced readers to Bryony Linwood, an orphan trying desperately to provide for her sisters in the shadow of the Great Depression. In Castles in the Clouds, we meet one of those sisters—Larkspur Linwood, a young woman who has a passion for teaching but yearns for something more than life as a small-town Arkansas schoolmarm.
Young and impressionable, Lark mistakes a college professor’s interest for romantic love. When he offers her the chance to join his efforts to start a school in Kenya, she pictures herself bringing the light of knowledge to hundreds of African children eager to learn. But the menial tasks she’s assigned at the school aren’t so different from life on the farm where she grew up. Miserable and deflated, with her fragile heart broken, she gives up and returns home.
Enter Professor Anson Schafer, whom she met briefly in Kenya. Partially blinded from an eye infection he contracted there, Professor Schafer cannot return to Africa. He has come to Lark’s school to recruit teachers like her for a more modest venture—the founding of schools and relief efforts here in the U.S. for those struggling through the Depression.
Still stinging from her experience in Kenya, Lark is reluctant to risk leaving her familiar surroundings, but she knows how great the need has become, and—although this isn’t the exciting life she’d envisioned—she finally agrees. As they work side by side, Lark begins to realize that the deepest satisfaction comes not so much from what you do, or where you do it, but from the attitude of your heart.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into Castles in the Clouds. I guess I would say that I didn’t have many expectations at all. The cover caught my eye and the fact that is was a Catholic publisher made me want to pick this novel up.
Lark is an independent young woman. She loves her family very much and yet they don’t completely define her. She is on the path to becoming a teacher, something she has always wanted. She is a bit naive sometimes and, once in awhile, completely clueless. I liked that about her because it made her more of a real person. She wasn’t always self-assured and perfectly perceptive.
Lark is convinced by her college professor, Professor Keene, to join a mission to Kenya to teach for a year. She is promised this will give her valuable experience. Lark jumps at this chance to go to Africa and make a difference. However, the situation in Africa is not a good fit for Lark and she returns home to Arkansas.
In Arkansas, Lark again meets Anson Schafer, the director of the Kenyan school returned to the United States due to an eye infection. Anson is working on a new project to educate the poor in Arkansas since he is unable to return to Africa. He is willing to offer a spot in the project to Lark, should she choose to take it.
So Lark is left with some decisions to make. This is during the Great Depression and money is scarce. Can she afford to work for a meager salary? Arkansas has been in a drought for years and her grandfather could always use help on the farm. Should she stay and help her grandfather? Lark has just recently returned from Africa. Can she leave her sisters again so soon?
I really, really loved this book! We have some very real characters with some very real (dare I say relatable) circumstances. We have a historical setting that was all-encompassing and reminded me of things I sometimes forget (Jim Crow laws anyone? I don’t think of them much since I have never lived in the South). The mentions of the Catholic Church made me happy. They weren’t forceful references or anything but the characters do attend Latin Mass (I should add that the Mass was only in Latin at this time period).
To sum up this review, I leave you with the following: Go read this book! Especially if you like historical fiction. Double especially if you like Christain historical fiction. It was that good!
I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley for
review consideration. This in no way affects my opinion of the title
nor the content of this review.