Left at the Altar (GOSPA Journeys, Vol. 1)
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Pages: 81
Goes Well With: Fresh-baked bread and fresh-brewed coffee

Catholic Emma loves marriage-averse Sam, but Sam is going away, and it’s so hard to say goodbye. Author K. M. Daughters introduces her characters quickly and delightfully through Emma’s eyes as they eat one final pizza: Sam, with his history and dark-fringed hair, and Emma, quiet, agreeable, desperate not to show her deep emotions. But there are surprises in store for everyone.

The scene shifts, and Emma’s still hiding her feelings three years later, as more characters and complications are introduced. I already like her—she’s sweet, she loves her mom, she worries, she cares. And pretty soon she might be just as marriage-averse as Sam.

Left at the Altar isn’t just about people falling in love. And Emma’s Catholic faith isn’t just a background detail. Soon, the scene has shifted again, to the GOSPA journeys of the series’ title, and to Valselo, in Croatia, with its hint of miracles. Of course, the reader already knows what miracle will make Emma happy—the way she buckles at the knees whenever she sees Sam makes it abundantly clear. But following her various missteps along the path makes for an absorbing read, as Emma’s relationship with God and all men tries to fall apart despite her holy surroundings, and the promise of meeting Our Lady only adds to her confusion.

Emma’s dialogue with new-found friends carries the story happily, bringing characters to life as the tale proceeds. Faith, too, comes to life, with reminders of the importance and power of prayer and love. God’s gentle hints combine with wise questions to address our modern world-view: what would we—and should we—give up for love? And how do we choose our paths? I enjoyed the author’s exploration of conflicting needs and compromise through Emma’s relationships, making this more than just a story. As I read, I found myself turning to the Internet to learn more about Croatia’s Mir Center and the miracles that have taken place. Some of Mary’s messages began to resound for me, as they do for the characters. And reminders to trust God when the world falls apart are always timely.

Do we believe in miracles? Not all of the characters do, but not all miracles are huge and famous. God is leading Emma and Sam, and the author leads her readers to see heavenly apparitions through clear eyes and to look at love with blessedly open hearts.

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