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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
It is said that to err is human and to forgive is divine, and how this might play out is a foundational element of the Christian romance novel The Rock at the Bottom by Cynthia Hilston. But forgiveness of who? Your biological father? Yourself? Stephen starts his life under a cloud of hatred, his father's contempt for him further complicated by a penchant for drinking. Stephen tries his best to craft a place for himself in an imagination that thrives against a backdrop of abuse. He is a wordsmith, a writer, and proving his worth is a powerful driver. Once old enough to leave home, Stephen moves out with his childhood friend and marries the tenacious Anna “Julie”. Stephen's success and his life with Julie, along with those of two others, are abruptly interrupted when Stephen dredges up his father's own issues from within himself. Stephen is haunted by his mistakes but whether or not he can overcome his own worst enemy, himself, will determine the rest of his life, both lived and eternal.
I love a good redemption story and my goodness author Cynthia Hilston is able to serve it up in The Rock at the Bottom. The analogy of the title shows up unexpectedly as Stephen's story progresses, and the nuance of Hilston having one word or phrase narrated and a reader discovering it is the sign of a gifted writer. She does this a few times and it is fantastic. I admit that I did not read books one or two in the Lorna and Tristan series, Lorna Versus Laura and Rocks and Flowers in a Box, but it didn't impact the readability of book three. That said, I was clueless about how the story of a guy named Stephen tied into a series with a different name, but Hilston unveils the connection in a beautiful, metaphysical reveal. Readers should be warned that Stephen goes through a dark period where he is deeply troubled and, frankly, becomes a character so flawed that he morphs into one that is genuinely unlikeable. This is the moment we start to witness God's grace and mercy and, yet again, where Hilston proves the divinity of forgiveness that comes. I'm human and struggled with Stephen...but God is patient and loving, and readers who stay the course will see how amazing this can be, no matter how far we fall.