Monday, January 15, 2018

Review: Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke

Until We Find Home

Cathy Gohlke - view author info
Cover: Until We Find Home

Trim Size:
5.5 x 8.25  
January 2018 

For American Claire Stewart, joining the French Resistance sounded as romantic as the storylines she hopes will one day grace the novels she wants to write. But when she finds herself stranded on English shores, with five French Jewish children she smuggled across the channel before Nazis stormed Paris, reality feels more akin to fear.

With nowhere to go, Claire throws herself on the mercy of an estranged aunt, begging Lady Miranda Langford to take the children into her magnificent estate. Heavily weighted with grief of her own, Miranda reluctantly agrees . . . if Claire will stay to help. Though desperate to return to France and the man she loves, Claire has few options. But her tumultuous upbringing—spent in the refuge of novels with fictional friends—has ill-prepared her for the daily dramas of raising children, or for the way David Campbell, a fellow American boarder, challenges her notions of love. Nor could she foresee how the tentacles of war will invade their quiet haven, threatening all who have come to call Bluebell Wood home and risking the only family she’s ever known.

Set in England’s lush and storied Lake District in the early days of World War II, and featuring cameos from beloved literary icons Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis, Until We Find Home is an unforgettable portrait of life on the British home front, challenging us to remember that bravery and family come in many forms.

Q & A with Cathy Gohlke

Three-time Christy and two-time Carol and INSPY Award–winning and bestselling author Cathy Gohlke writes novels steeped with inspirational lessons, speaking of world and life events through the lens of history. She champions the battle against oppression, celebrating the freedom found only in Christ. Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children's and education ministries. When not traveling to historic sites for research, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between northern Virginia and the Jersey Shore, enjoying time with their grown children and grandchildren. Visit her website at and find her on Facebook at CathyGohlkeBooks.
1. What inspired you to write Until We Find Home? Alarmed by the plight of young refugees fleeing gangs in Mexico to cross United States borders, and heart heavy for victims and refugees worldwide who’ve suffered and continue to suffer under oppressive regimes, I looked for a moment in history to tell their tale as I wish it could play out. I didn’t have to look far. The Kindertransport of 1938–1940 brought 10,000 predominantly Jewish children to Great Britain for refuge from Nazi oppression. Accounts abound of men and women who rescued children through resistance, often at great cost to themselves—even life itself. But what happened next? What happened when those children entered countries of refuge? I wondered about the average person and what role they might have played once the children were out of immediate danger . . . and what role we might play in the world’s need today. The UN Refugee Agency reported that in 2015, 51% of the world’s refugees were children. Jesus told us to care for widows and orphans. How do we do that from where we live, and as Christians, how do we reconcile Jesus’ directive with the world’s reality and our need for safe borders? The characters’ personalities were in inspired, in part, by people I know (the youngest character, Aimee, was inspired by my granddaughter). Some of the children’s antics and some of the older characters’ struggles were inspired by my own life stories, including Miranda’s journey with cancer. Bluebell Wood’s secret garden and many of the books and poems Claire loves in the story are based on books and poems I grew up knowing and loving—thanks especially to my dear grandmother, who read to me. This novel embodies a great many things important to me. It is, in some ways, my victory book through battling cancer.
2. The novel is set during WWII in England’s Lake District—not a location we typically think of in relation to the war. What is unique about this location and why did you choose to set your novel there? England’s magnificent Lake District—breathtakingly beautiful and pristine—might seem an unlikely place to portray wartime life on the home front. In reality, the area demonstrates just what could happen to an unsuspecting English village—a location that seemed safe and far from the maddening war. Because of its apparent safety, the Sunderland Flying Boat Factory built an entire village—Calgarth—there to house its employees and manufacture its flying boats for the war effort. After the war, those empty buildings set amid the peaceful and beautiful Lake District became temporary homes for the Windermere Boys—over 300 children who had barely survived Nazi concentration camps in Europe and who were in desperate need of rest and restoration. Nearby Grizedale Hall became one of the first prisoner of war camps for German prisoners—particularly naval officers. In Keswick, a nondescript pencil factory, which had supplied the nation’s pencils for years, secretly created spy pencils during the war—pencils with hollow barrels in which tightly rolled maps were hidden to aid British aviators shot down over enemy territory. In each eraser was a compass. The region, like other areas deemed “safe,” took in child evacuees from Britain and refugees from foreign lands. The Lake District was also the home of Beatrix Potter Heelis—worldrenowned children’s author and illustrator. Including the whimsy of snippets from her stories and her ironic character as an older woman during these years provided a contrast and relief from the fear of invasion that residents endured for years. These were just a few of the things that drew me to this portion of England’s “green and pleasant land.”
3. How do you expect the novel, especially the struggles of your characters, to resonate with your audience? Until We Find Home confronts fear and the lies we tell ourselves about our need to become worthy in order to be loved and valued. Freedom from our own demons, forgiveness received and given, and redemption through Christ are available to all who believe. Claire learns that repentance and belief opens a personal relationship with Christ (not simply a “legal transaction”) leading to the abundant life He died to give us. Miranda learns that dying with grace and dignity is not as important as learning to live in God’s grace. These are things I’ve had to learn in life, and I hope these characters’ journeys spill into the hearts of readers. I also hope readers will ponder this: Most of us live quiet lives, rarely making decisions that change the world. But what if we could change the life of one person by providing a home and family for them? How would we cope with the everydayness, not to mention the prejudice, public opinion, injustice, necessary sacrifice, and potential crises? Would we do it? Will we? There are no easy answers, and the answers are not the same for everyone. But we have been made for hard things. Will we stand up or sit down? I also hope that the writings of C. S. Lewis will be brought to the attention of readers who may not know him or who may want to revisit his books. His was a voice of reason in a terrifying time—a voice of integrity and purpose that is needed in our day.
4. Can you tell us about the historical research that went into writing this novel? Did you learn anything new that surprised you? Knowing I would set this story during WWII in England’s Lake District, in 2014 I traveled with my friend and writing colleague Carrie Turansky to England and Scotland, where we both did research for our book projects. For me, we traveled to Windermere and the Lake District to research Beatrix Potter and her renowned Hill Top Farm, explore the poetry and world of Wordsworth, and learn just what happened to refugees and evacuees in the district during WWII. As a result I learned more about the Sunderland Flying Boat Factory and its village of Calgarth, camps for German prisoners of war including Grizedale Hall, wartime homes for British evacuees and foreign refugees, the Keswick Pencil Museum and the famous spy pencil, the postwar arrival of the Windermere Boys, and so much more. I ran my fingers over the desk where Wordsworth had carved his name as a boy, visited his burial ground, and fell in love with that poet’s fields of golden daffodils, the heady perfume of lilacs, the glory of woodlands spread with sapphire carpets of bluebells, and newborn lambs tottering across the fells, butting tiny heads against their mothers’ sides in search of lunch. We ferried across Lake Windermere, ate Grasmere’s famous gingerbread, and took tea with jam and bread. Nowhere is the grass greener or the air purer than the Lake District in springtime. Beatrix Potter Heelis’s Hill Top Farm, with its rooms and their contents reminiscent of her books, was a real treat. During WWII, Hill Top Farm housed British evacuees. Our research trip culminated when we joined a ten-day tour of Scotland’s “Highlands, Islands, and Gardens,” guided by Liz Curtis Higgs. Forty ladies followed in Liz’s wake as she inspired us through Bible study each morning, then guided us through magnificent Scotland by day. As a result of that trip, I could not help but include in my story a good Scottish doctor, as well as memories of the terrible feud between the MacDonalds and Campbells. In regard to that feud, we visited Glencoe and the site of that terrible massacre. That was the travel portion of my research. Internet investigations and the reading of books, old and new, continued for months. Included in those books were wartime diaries, especially those compiled from Britain’s Mass Observation Project; day-by-day histories of the war waged against Britain; journals and letters from Beatrix Potter Heelis; journals, letters, and biographies of C. S. Lewis; the books and notes of C. S. Lewis; the history of Glencoe; biographies and histories of Sylvia Beach and details of Shakespeare and Company, the American bookstore in Paris; studies of Europe’s child refugees housed in Britain; and so much more. Perhaps the most fun was found in rereading childhood classics.
5. Stories of wartime like Until We Find Home highlight the difficulty of living in uncertainty and dealing with the unexpected on a daily basis. How does faith play into this aspect of the novel and into the novel more generally? Each day is a gift, not a guarantee. Each day offers us a new beginning to remain focused on what we can do, to stay in the moment with our eyes on the Giver of Life, rather than to cower, paralyzed because we don’t know how we’ll deal with tomorrow. This is faith that Claire learns—faith we all learn—to live in the present and surrender the future, and our worry for the future, to God. Knowing that not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father’s knowledge—and that we are more valuable than many sparrows—is a reminder that “God’s got this.” It doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen—as Claire learned and Miranda knew. Jesus assured us that there will be trouble in this world. But the good news is that we don’t go it alone—He is with us, and He has overcome the world. Fear, as Claire learned, is a pinpoint in time, but faith is long-term—eternity driven—and sees the bigger picture.
6. As an author, what did you particularly enjoy about crafting this story? I loved weaving the history of the location with the unusual characters I brought to it. Throughout much of my life I have felt like an outsider discovering new things, new places, even when living long in one location. I brought that sense of discovery to the book through my characters. I absolutely loved writing the children, their viewpoints, their resiliency, their playfulness. Their views are reminiscent of my own view of childhood and the imagination that thrives there. I loved connecting Claire’s thinking with childhood books that she’d loved. I do that—have always done that. There is, perhaps, more of me in this book than any I have written. The opportunity to pour out my love for stories and children and home and family— even when family comes in forms we don’t expect—was great joy for me.
7. Until We Find Home presents so many intriguing and lovable characters—did the journeys of any of the characters surprise you as you wrote? The children in my story took on lives of their own. I was surprised and pleased by the competition, the antics and the eventual friendship and heroism of young Gaston and Josef. I was moved by the tender growth of affection between young Aimee and the older Claire, who slowly, reluctantly assumed a motherly role toward the child. I was especially moved by the deepening of the late-in-life love and relationship between Miranda Langford and Dr. MacDonald. I hadn’t expected David to be quite so winsome, but I suppose that’s the way of Scottish men transplanted to the Appalachians and back to England. :)
8. Is there one character whose experience you especially identify with or one whose story grew out of lessons you learned in your own life? I must give two here: a. Claire’s ability to view life and relate through stories she’s loved and read is one that’s long been my own. Her desire to be loved and belong, and her journey to knowing she is loved by our Lord—that only He can calm our restless spirits and give peace to our souls—is my own. b. Miranda’s journey through grief and illness, and the desire the Lord creates and leads her to—to live with His grace—is reflective of my own journey through those dark valleys.
9. A number of classic authors are mentioned in Until We Find Home, Beatrix Potter and C. S. Lewis particularly. How have these authors and others inspired you in your life and writing? Beatrix Potter, her stories and illustrations, have been dearly loved since childhood. To me, it was as if she spoke the language of children and animals. It seemed to me that if she could learn their language, I could learn the language of my characters, too, and tell their stories in ways readers would understand. I loved learning that the stories and illustrations of Beatrix Potter influenced C. S. Lewis and his brother as children and inspired them to write the story and illustrate an entire kingdom. It felt as if they—and I—rode the current of a continuing stream, a stream that brought readers and writers together. C. S. Lewis is a voice of reason. He came to faith not through Scripture nor through an appreciation of divine design in nature. He was not born with an innate faith. In fact, he was an atheist who struggled against faith. But he came to belief in God—to theism—through reason. Coming to belief in Jesus as Lord and Redeemer was a separate journey. I’ve known many people who seemed to have been born without faith. It is something I observe but don’t fully understand. I wanted to highlight Lewis’s writings in the hope that those who believe will be encouraged, and in the hope that those who do not believe will be encouraged to consider his reasoning. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity describes some of his journey through reason, and was taken from his WWII radio broadcasts that began at the time Until We Find Home takes place. I was able to include some material from his earlier book The Problem of Pain in this story, and those messages help in Claire’s journey, as they did in mine. It’s important to me to highlight the writings of classic Christian writers for a new generation, to share with others the blessing those books have been in my own life.
10. Until We Find Home portrays the fear, pain, and anxiety of living in a time of war in a very personal way. Are there lessons from the struggles of those who lived through WWII that you think Christians need today? We live in an uncertain and rapidly changing world. Fear, pain, and anxiety can all too easily become our unwelcome and constant companions. During WWII, people on Britain’s home front struggled with fear of invasion from a cruel oppressor, pain over the possibility of losing loved ones serving overseas, and anxiety over everything from bombing, rationed food, shortages of petrol, and fuel for warmth, to the fate of their nation and the world. Remarkably, with limited outside resources (cut off by Germany’s submarine warfare), Britain’s citizens pulled together, sacrificed, shared personal resources, and made do through very difficult years. They were noted for taking in refugees from foreign countries, particularly the Kindertransport of Jewish children. Though their faith was challenged, they worked hard to protect their shores and citizens, to grow food for themselves and their soldiers, and even to provide countless packages of clothing and supplies to starving Russians and others. I’ve been inspired by their willingness to dig in and help one another, rather than to cower in fear and hoard out of possessiveness. Of course there were those who did not step up, and some who abused the systems in place, just as there are today. But I think those lessons of generosity, hard work, and determination to care for one another to the point of sacrifice are ones we can all take to heart and hand in these uncertain days.
11. A major historical focus of the novel is the European Jewish children who were given refuge in Britain. What led you to focus on this specific aspect of WWII? Children everywhere hold a special place in my heart. They are the most vulnerable, the least prepared physically or experientially to face war and the deprivation of home and family. Jewish children in WWII Europe had absolutely no recourse when their parents were taken away. The state did not support or help them. It was up to compassionate individuals and citizen-organized networks to step up to the plate, to assist and protect those in need. In many cases the people of Britain did that—by taking in their own evacuees and by taking in children from overseas. Modest governmental financial assistance was available, though not everyone took advantage of that. Sadly, not all children were treated well, but all adults had the opportunity to do something generous, something naturally heroic for those children. I very much wanted to show that while it can be difficult to peel back the reserves, the grief and fears and heartaches in our own adult lives in order to reach outward and embrace those in need, it is possible. Not only is the journey possible, but it is blessed . . . blessed as we sacrifice, and blessed as we embrace a different life and a new family. Stepping out of our comfort zones, shedding the shackles of all we’ve come to believe we need and must preserve, means simultaneously stepping into a freedom we didn’t know existed.
12. What can be done to help children affected by war, unrest, or other instabilities today? Some of us have the health or finances or opportunity to engage in hands-on work with children in need in this country or around the world, either full-time or through shorter mission trips. Some of us are able to foster or adopt children into our families. Others can contribute resources—real estate or transportation or finances—to agencies, groups, churches, or individuals able to do the hands-on work. There are numerous organizations working to help refugee children and children living in unstable situations. Partnering with them in one of the above ways is possible. These organizations include: Compassion International, World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Remember Nhu, Hear the Cry, World Orphans, Run Ministries, and World Relief. Soon I hope to post a page (listed on my website’s book page for Until We Find Home) that gives a more extensive list of organizations and resources that help refugees and families in need. A list of organizations geared specifically to helping those who are caught in slavery or human trafficking can be found on my website: We can all pray for those who are displaced, abused, caught in slavery, living in poverty, or made vulnerable through threatening natural or moral conditions. We can join others in prayer at Pray for Them:
13. What led you to choose the title Until We Find Home? My editor Stephanie Broene and the Tyndale team chose the title. We collaborated long and hard to find just the right words to capture the essence of this story. I believe the ever-wistful longing for home, the hope each character harbored—despite their loss—to find a place of family and belonging makes this title ideal.
14. What did you learn through writing this novel, and what lessons do you hope your readers take away? I’ve learned in life and more fully in the writing of this story that letting go of fear, surrendering insecurity—which torments—to the Lord, is the path to freedom. I’ve learned, just as the Scripture says, that “perfect love casts out fear.” I hope recognition of the need to surrender, to let go of fear and to embrace the joy and freedom found in Christ, is what readers take away. I hope we all walk boldly into the future, whatever that future may call us to sacrifice or to embrace.
15. What are some future projects you’re working on? I’m currently writing a WWII novel that begins in Warsaw, Poland—such a different wartime experience than that of any other occupied country. This story was inspired by two courageous people, some real-life events discovered through multiple research and news sources, and a Facebook message from a friend, all on separate occasions. It was as if the story was given to me piece by piece. From the very beginning it was a story I’ve felt compelled to write. Its working title is The Medallion, and it will release in 2019. Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke ISBN: 978-1-4964-2830-1 | Hardcover: $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-4964-1096-2 | Softcover: $15.99 400 Pages January 2018

My Review: 

Until We Find Home is another exciting novel by Cathy Gohlke. I was hooked from the start and I did not want to put it down until about halfway when the story slowed down a little bit. But it quickly picked back up. I loved the characters, the settings and the author's descriptions and details of the time.

I believe anyone who love a faith-filled and inspiring historical set during World War II would enjoy Until We Find Home.

I give it 4 stars.

I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.

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