Prepublication Reviews and Expertly Selected Title Lists

The Guest Book by MaryBeth Whalen

I don’t typically pick up Christian fiction to read, but I was intrigued by the premise of MaryBeth Whalen’s The Guest Book, so I decided to pick it up. There was more to the story than the initial mystery that pulled me in, and it was a good thing.

Macy Dillon and her family vacationed in a beach home called Time in a Bottle every year. When she was five, her father gave her a pack of colored pencils, and she drew a picture in the guest book. She and a mysterious boy would draw pictures back and forth to each other in the book every year after, until Macy and her family stopped going to the beach.

Years later, Macy’s family is still mourning the death of her father ten years ago, including morbid birthday parties in honor of him and a “shrine” in her mother’s home. When her mom announces she’d like to resurrect their yearly visit to Time in a Bottle, Macy is very excited. Not only is Macy excited at the chance to possibly find her fellow art pal, but she’s ready for a chance to get away from her troubles at home. Chase, the recently returned father of her five-year-old daughter, is trying to work his way back into her life, and Macy isn’t sure she’s ready, or able, to let him back into her life.

While at the beach, Macy finds herself making life changing decisions, as she reconnects with God, weighs the affections of not one, but three, men, and tries to figure out who left her drawings for all those years.

At first, I wasn’t happy with how long it was taking to get the hook that drew me in: the mystery of the boy’s identity. I was hoping the novel would be more about that, but as it progressed and I started getting invested in other characters and other plot lines, I was okay with where the novel was going.

I felt compassion for Brenda, Macy’s mother, who was struggling with moving on after her husband’s passing. I worried about Max, Macy’s brother, who seemed to be dealing with his grief in multiple bottles and with a variety of women. I also worried about Macy, who seemed to be unwillingly tethered to Chase, a character I did not like from the start (which may have been influenced by other character’s feelings toward him).

Even though the novel went in more places than I had originally thought it would, I enjoyed the read. Fans of Christian fiction will undoubtedly enjoy this one. Those who may not necessarily enjoy Christian fiction, but are interested in good and wholesome romances and plots, won’t be turned off as the religious implications are subtle. Definitely worth adding to your shelf.


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