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Marybeth Whalen’s fourth book, The Wishing Tree, is the story of one woman’s journey to forgiveness, love and rediscovery. Published by Zondervan, this Christian romance novel holds much for all readers, Christian and non-Christian alike.
Things aren’t going well for Ivy Copeland-Marshall. As she begins to realize that her relationship with her husband, Elliott, isn’t quite what she had bargained for, her world begins to spiral out of her control. Before she knows it, she has lost her job with her father’s real estate business after he’s forced to close down the office she runs; she sees Elliott leaving a strange apartment the same afternoon, making the assumption that he’s with another woman, only to later find out that her suspicions were correct; and finds herself longing for a "pilgrimage." Nothing is going according to plan.
Like any self-respecting woman would be, Ivy is angry. What she once believed to be true love, soul mate status, has slowly morphed into exactly what she never wanted. A relationship full of distance, silence and zero passion. In her flurry of anger, she decides to return to her childhood home of Sunset Beach. However, returning isn’t really the escape she had hoped it would be as she’s faced with a family she’s barely spoken to in the past five years and the looming presence of her ex-fiance, whom she left for Elliott.
Marybeth Whalen writes honestly and beautifully about the landscape, physical and emotional, that Ivy must wander through to find her way back to where she belongs. Yet, Ivy’s character is lackluster until she’s surrounded by Shea and her mother, Owen and Michael, and her Aunt Leah in Sunset Beach. Prior to her arrival there, Ivy merely comes across as whiny and somewhat annoying. Her unhappiness is blatant and should warrant more sympathy on its own merit than it actually does. Once interspersed with the problems and daily routines of those closest to, yet farthest away from her, Ivy’s character becomes much more sympathetic and complex.
While there are a variety of references, direct or indirect, to religion, God, and/or the Bible, this shouldn't deter those who don't usually lean toward Christian fiction. Neither Whalen's writing nor Ivy's story is strictly for the religious-minded. Verses that are included are less well-known and, thankfully, are not contrite. Chosen with purpose, Marybeth uses this mechanism to point Ivy toward moments of inspiration, honesty, or hope rather than to serve as lessons to her (or the reader). All of which Ivy, and even readers like me, could use a decent dose.
The road Ivy must take to return her to the place and resolve she once possessed is rough. She’s faced with not only her own pain and misfortunes, but that of those she cares for most deeply. The Wishing Tree is a harrowing tale of love lost and regained in a variety of forms, but most importantly for the self.