"Don't judge a book by its cover." It is the case with my recent read, Together with You by Victoria Bylin. I don't know much about Ms. Bylin's books since this is the first time I read one of her books.
First off, I wasn't too thrilled about the cover. I wouldn't expect this type of cover for an inspirational
fiction. And after reading the book, the cover still doesn't resonate well with me to illustrate the story line. True, it is characterize as an inspirational romance fiction, but I see this cover more for a secular theme. Plus, I don't think the romance part was the main focus or rather, it is a focus, but I think family is the main theme throughout the book. This is where I must say, Ms. Bylin did an excellent job. The plot was intriguing throughout, and it was the plot synopsis that I've decided to overlook the cover, and give the book a try. One phrase that caught my attention was, "Known for her realistic and engaging characters, Victoria Bylin delivers an emotion-packed story reminiscent of The Sound of Music, one that reminds us all to believe in the power of faith and love." The Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies/story and I was immediately drawn to it. Boy, was I glad I did. I enjoyed it so much, I finished it in one sitting, and stayed up past my bedtime to finish it.
Ms. Bylin did a wonderful job in providing readers a plot that was convincing, intriguing and captivating. She interlace the often complicated subjects of forgiveness and grace with a medically complicated subject as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) profoundly and candidly. It gives me, as a reader more knowledge (basic as it is) of what FASD is and the struggles it presents to the patient and their family and friends. Ms. Bylin, through this story beautifully illustrates the conflicts one has with forgiveness, not only for believers, but for non-believers as well. It is forgiveness that relates not only for and/or to others, but also to self and to God. Sometimes, you might not even see it. Sometimes, it's beyond the surfaces as Ms. Bylin applied into the story line of one of the main characters.
As to the characters, Ms. Bylin's development of both major characters, Carly and Ryan was done smoothly and at a good pace. I like Carly, and I understand her fears and her struggles. As to Ryan, it took a little longer because of his past mistakes. However, his strive to make things right with his family and his love for his children tugged at my heart. Penny, the little girl that no one seams to understand (except Carly), is a pleasant surprise. She has FASD and the author's use of Penny's own narration was a good addition for us to understand what she's thinking. This is a story worth your time, it certainly worth mine and I believe it's one of those that I will read again. The ending was a good ending for all characters involve, but it was the process of how each one was broken, for a lack of a better term that gives readers, like myself the satisfaction of a good read and able to learn something.
I love this book, in all, but there are flaws. As mentioned beforehand, I don't think the cover was a good fit and there are several typos - a handful. It's easy to overlook, so not a big deal.
And last (besides note below), but not least, Ms. Bylin's "A Note From the Author" further confirmed my interest in her as an author and her books, either her previous or her future books. "There are two things I hope readers take away from FASD aspect of Together With You. The first is that FASD is 100 percent preventable. If you're pregnant, don't drink. If you think you might become pregnant, don't drink. No child should sustain what's essentially a traumatic brain injury in its mother's womb. The second takeaway is that no one is perfect. No matter where we fall on the spectrum of humanity, we all need forgiveness, love, and the grace of our heavenly Father." (p330-331). Amen to that.