Heaven & Earth

Fiction - Literary
290 Pages
Reviewed on 12/29/2022
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Heaven & Earth is a work of fiction in the drama subgenre. It is suitable for the general reading audience and was penned by author Joshua Senter. The book follows Ruth Christianson, wife of well-regarded Pastor Sam, following the incredible revelation that Sam has had a covert sexual relationship with a male prostitute. The scandal sees the pair thrown out of the church that they themselves had founded, and they must seek refuge with their children on the small farm where Sam was raised. Away from the storm, Ruth must decide what path to follow now that Sam’s truth is known; honor her marriage vows and stand by him or abandon the only man she’s ever loved.

There’s a great deal of maturity needed to explore a story such as this, one where from the outside, the solution seems obvious, but a deep emotional complexity makes the situation significantly less cut and dried. Author Joshua Senter takes a deep dive into the head and heart of Ruth as she wrestles with how to deal with the revelations that have rocked her life, resulting in a character study of a woman whose identity has been defined by her faith thus far facing a crisis that will shake who she is to the very foundations. It is an emotional journey written with a great deal of depth and attention to detail that highlights the turbulent nature of Ruth’s life during the story's events. Overall, Heaven & Earth asks some fascinating questions about the role of faith in a person's life and the relationship they have with that faith; the answers it finds to those questions are fascinating and well worth a reader's time.

Alma Boucher

Ruth’s world is turned upside down in Heaven & Earth by Joshua Senter. She just learned from the media that her husband, Pastor Sam Christianson, had an affair with a male prostitute and was using drugs. They fled with their children to Charleston to live with his parents, Joe and Naomi. Naomi cannot stand her daughter-in-law and wants her to leave her house. Ruth interrogates Sam about the events to try to understand why he did it. She hates him for what he did but is still in love with him. She realizes she has to choose whether she is going to fight for her marriage and whether she should rather let Sam go. The situation also affects their children, and she has to look out for their happiness and future as well. She has to make a decision soon.

Heaven & Earth by Joshua Senter has a deep and complex plot. The story is fast-moving and interesting. There was more than enough action and information to keep my interest. The events that started everything were shocking and had my attention from the beginning. I wanted to know what choice Ruth was going to make. Will she stay married to Sam or divorce him? Everything unfolded naturally and was interesting. The characters were excellently developed. My favorite character is Ruth. She is a strong woman, despite everything going on in her life. The characters had backgrounds that were described in a way that I could relate to them. The story is gripping and well-written. I did not expect the ending and it was surprising. Heaven & Earth is worth taking the time to read.

Courtnee Turner Hoyle

Heaven & Earth by Joshua Senter broaches the uncomfortable subject of preachers who do not live up to their parishioners’ expectations and the effect it has on their families. Ruth tries to pick up the pieces of her life after her husband, Sam Christianson, has an affair with a male prostitute. When publicly defamed, Sam packs up Ruth and their three children and moves to his hometown in Missouri. Ruth struggles to find herself as she learns to accept the truth about her husband and determine whether or not to remain married to him.

Heaven & Earth could be categorized as women’s fiction as the story is similar to others I have read in that genre. Ruth isn’t as likable because she is a realistic character, although she faces hardships and seeks to persevere in much the same way as her namesake and the other women of the Bible overcame their odds. The history of Sam’s and Ruth’s parents and grandparents pulled me out of the story, but I understood the reason Joshua Senter deeply discussed their origins. It helped explain the actions and behaviors of the characters, as everyone is molded from their past experiences. Even though the story seemed as though it was geared toward the Christian faith, it took a turn I didn’t quite expect. However, humans in life and literature can be unpredictable. I recommend it for mature readers, as some of the subject matter is intense, and there are sexual scenes.