The tragic start of the classic work that is Redeeming Love almost caused me to give up reading it barely an hour into the biblical inspired novel. This was mostly thanks to the author’s heart-shattering portrayal of the life of Sarah, a seven-year-old innocent and naïve girl.
At that tender age, Sarah learns that her beloved father would have been happier if she hadn’t been born. Over time and with the help of her drunk nanny, she moreover observes the wretch that her mother’s love for her deadbeat dad turns her into. Cold and cruel, her dad values her mother only for the sexual pleasure she offers him. So, when he finally has used Sarah’s mother enough he disposes her off without thought about her feelings or her wellbeing. The poor woman has to fend for herself and her illegitimate daughter.
Dejected, alone and poor, Sarah’s mother seeks refuge at her own parents’ abode but their “dignity” wouldn’t allow them to take her in. Being a believer and always prayerful, the church is her next natural recourse. But even there she’s rudely turned away landing her and Sarah in a poor New York shack. By the time her mother dies in the impoverished neighborhood, Sarah’s view of people and of God is almost incorrigibly soiled.
At eight, life deals Sarah another rude shock. Her guardian unwittingly sells her to Duke, a wealthy diabolical man who runs brothels and finds pleasure in raping little girls. This turn off events only furthers her dislike and disdain for men and God. To her all men are egocentrically evil, always trying to prey on others; God is a being hell-bent on punishing and never giving humans a break; and Love is a terrible thing to be eschewed like leprosy – it only causes heartache and nothing good comes off it.
With these beliefs, it is astounding to her when a grown man comes to the brothel she works in wanting not what all other men always want – using her body for their pleasure. The strange chaste farmer in a brothel wants to talk! Naturally, Sarah, who goes by the name of Angel in her line of work, has no patience for him. But the farmer with a prophetic name, without ever giving up, comes in day after day, paying hefty sums of money to be with Angel. In spite of Angel’s tempting beauty and seductive moves, all Michael Hosea wants each single day is to talk. Through hard work, perseverance, prayer, dogged persistence, and sometimes outright force, Michael wears down Sarah’s unscalable walls and makes a hard-working, loving, devoted, and God-fearing wife out of a seasoned high-priced prostitute. His love redeems her unyielding soul, even turning her into a savior to other prostitutes who, given a choice, would elect an alternative way of living.
Artistically written and peppered with epigraphs from the bible and classic texts, Redeeming Love is a work of art like no other. Among other literary devices, Francine Rivers’ use of dialogue makes the text come alive almost in conversation with the reader. Characters converse among themselves and within themselves. But they even go further. They hear both malevolent and benevolent forces urging them on or discouraging them from various actions in their dealing with each other and their conduct towards themselves. Even the great I AM’s still small voice is present in the characters’ everyday lives. Characters seek the voice of God and respond to the urgings of these forces both by word and deed.
More than anything, Redeeming Love skillfully demonstrates that no one is too sinful for God to save them, and that no one is too holy to not need God’s mercy and salvation. It’s a book that every Christian ought to read. It’s one that every human being is likely to enjoy and most definitely stands to benefit a great deal from.