Going home means different things to different people. For some, it is an expectation of warm, exciting conversations and laughter with families and loved ones. For others, returning home conjures up painful memories of broken relationships and unexpected loss.
In Crossing Oceans by novelist Gina Holmes, the protagonist, Jenny (short for Genevieve Lucas) returns to her quaint hometown in North Carolina with her five-year-old daughter, Isabella. She is about to face her stern and detached father, Jacob Lucas; her ailing grandmother, Peggy; and the man she both loves and hates, Isabella’s father, David Preston.
After Jenny left home, David married the love of his life, Lindsey. David and Lindsey dream of a blissful future together. Jenny dreads telling David about their daughter. What will David react to the news after years of Jenny’s disappearance? Unknown to anyone, Jenny harbors a secret bigger than having an illegitimate child—a terminal disease that is spreading through her body. She is told that she has only months to live.
Denying herself any chance of a new love, Jenny meets an old friend, Craig, who rents her father’s home. Craig has deep affection for Jenny, but her impassiveness to him is transparent.
At first glance, Crossing Oceans seems like a modern retelling of a biblical story of the prodigal son (in this case, a daughter) coming home to a loving, forgiving father. However, as the story progresses, we see each character not only struggles with restoring ailing relationships but also confronts a tremendous responsibility of making life-changing decisions.
Using first-person narrative, Holmes succeeds in exposing to us Jenny’s every hidden thought. We quickly learn about her insecurities, her jealousy toward Lindsey, her anger at her father, and her deep love for her only child. Together with witty dialogue and a vivid descriptive prose, the characters in this novel become real. The readers will feel as if they were eavesdropping on intimate family conversations. As I turned the pages, engrossed in the characters’ problems and laughing at their quirks, I felt as if they were people I knew in my own life.
Even though the theme of sickness, death, and loss is prominent, the author interweaves tender love, acceptance, and forgiveness into the story. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Jenny views an act of crossing oceans from one side to the other as an allegory for travelling from life to death, but hope awaits those who believe.
This book is Holmes’s debut novel. But her attempts to get it published date back to 1988. Holmes has written numerous articles and short stories and founded a literary blog titled Novel Journey, where authors and readers meet to discuss Christian fiction and writing. To give a bit of a background about herself and her work, she included a Conversation with the Author and Discussion Question section at the end of this book aimed for use at a book group. I found this extra section helpful.
Crossing Oceans reminds me of Nicholas Sparks’ popular book, A Walk to Remember. Both novels portray a dying yet courageous heroine. While A Walk to Remember is about a romantic first love, Crossing Oceans affirms a mother’s love for her child and insinuates a strong element of faith. It is an unforgettable book that reminds us of the fragility of life and encourages us to cherish every moment we have with people we love.
About the Author
Sukalaya Kenworthy is a senior library assistant at the Westport Branch. To join the Inspirational Book Group, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 816.701.3488 for more information. The group meets the third Wednesday of the month at 4:30 p.m.