Here's a description of the book from Tyndale House Publishers:
"Michael Archer is nothing if not a man of his word. Though he was unable to save Ben Carstairs, Michael is determined to carry out Ben’s dying wish: to be reconciled with his father. Unfortunately, Sam Carstairs, one of the most ruthless businessmen on the frontier, has no use for his own son, much less a man of God seeking reconciliation.
Soon after arriving in Riverbend, Michael meets and falls for the stunning Rachel Stone while waiting for Sam to return from a business trip. Beautiful yet guarded, Rachel seems to be running from a past as dark as Michael’s.
When word reaches town that Sam has been kidnapped on the stagecoach home, Michael offers to join the search party formed by the local sheriff. With a budding romance behind him and a dangerous rescue ahead of him, he sets out on the trail, determined to complete his journey no matter the cost."
My Rating: Spring/Summer
The American West was a rough place to live. In my Literature of the American West class, I've been reminded that as much as the West has been romanticized as a symbol of freedom and grandeur, the realities of those ideals were often gritty and costly.
In Journey to Riverbend, one thing I really admire is McLaughlin's ability to balance hope and faith with the violence and debauchery that was a part of the time and place he chose as the setting for the book. In that sense, the book is not a light-hearted read. McLaughlin walks a fine line between being too "preachy" for some readers and being too "edgy" for others. Depending on the individual reader's preferences, it's possible that the book might go too far in one direction or the other at various times. But overall, I feel that McLaughlin did a good job both of staying true to his message/beliefs and true to the setting.
This book is a challenging read. As I read the conclusion, I wasn't sure what to think. I was caught up in quite a journey in these pages, and in the end I was left wondering if the destination was worth it. Looking back, I think that the question isn't so much "What was left in the end?" but rather "What did this journey teach me?"
My impression of the characters is also ambiguous. I really appreciate how McLaughlin gives multiple points of view throughout the story and shows that each character has his/her good points and bad points. None of the characters are seen as perfect, and yet each character has some quality that makes the reader sympathize with him/her, although for some it's still very hard to like them! However, in regards to the characters I confess that the romance, while sweet, is a bit "hard to swallow" because of the shortness of time the two characters have together before they fall in love.
The Journey to Riverbend is a long, painful journey, but also a very rewarding one. With violence and other edgy content, this book might not be for everyone. But for all those who love Westerns and a good, thought-provoking read, I recommend taking the Journey to Riverbend!
*With thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*