Book Review: Ascension of Larks by Rachel Linden

". . . a skylark. Their call was a song for travelers and weary pilgrims, for those who had lost their way or were longing for a place to rest."

Title:  Ascension of Larks
Author: Rachel Linden
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction
Release Date:  June 20, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Literary Fiction

When globetrotting photographer Maggie Henry loses the only man she’s ever loved, she jeopardizes her rising career and steps in to care for her best friends’ three young children on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest. 

Free-spirited and fiercely independent, Maggie’s star is rising fast. But she has a secret. She can’t let go of her first and only love, renowned architect Marco Firelli, now married to her best friend Lena.

With the shattering news of Marco’s death, Maggie rushes to the Firelli family’s summer home on San Juan Island and attempts to provide stability for the children as fragile, perfectionist Lena slowly falls apart.

When Maggie is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete in the world’s most prestigious photography competition, she finds herself unable to leave the only family she has during their time of need. Devastated, Maggie takes a series of photographs documenting their life in limbo.

A mysterious man appears on the island, and Maggie soon realizes there is more to him than meets the eye. Daniel Wolfe, an award-winning Native American poet hiding in exile on the island, is responsible for Marco’s death. Maggie is both drawn to and repelled by Daniel, a sensitive, tortured soul with secrets of his own. Out of their loneliness and grief they form an unlikely friendship.

Maggie develops her recent photographs, and she’s elated to discover that they are good enough for the photography competition. She still has a chance to win. But she must first relinquish the past so that she can move forward and embrace the reality of her unexpected life.

"Wherever you go in life. . . remember I loved you enough to let you go. "

Complex and engaging, Ascension of Larks by Rachel Linden is a promising debut novel. There's an element of imagery that is somewhat poetic as it was wistfully haunting. A story that dives into the psyche of our characters that readers can't help but be drawn to. Be careful though, you might not like what you read about the characters, but you can be sure it evokes some type of reaction.

"He kept his vigil through the darkness until he heard the first trill of a lark from the meadow nearby, signaling the dawn. Only then did he rise. . . his job for the day was done."

Vivid in its language, I was drawn into Maggie's thoughts, and finding along with her what it is that she wants. Ascension of Larks is very much about loss, as it is about finding the answers for hope. It's about ascending beyond that grief to see clearly what there is. I wouldn't call this a Christian fiction, as many areas border on the mystical aspect that many might find uncomfortable. Despite that, I was enthralled with the story early on. Though I did find the end a tad bit rushed to tie up loose ends, I still felt it closed as it should.

"We can't always live behind a camera, my dear. Life has to be touched and tasted and smelled in all its bloody, messy glory. Remember that. You have to live in the world, not just observe it."
" . . . he gave his life to save yours. That's the biggest gift anyone can give another person. So don't treat it lightly, don't throw it away. If you do, you'll waste the life he gave for you."

In all, I enjoyed Ascension of Larks for the complexity of its characters, as well as the message of loss, grief and hope.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the author/publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, and have not been compensated for this. This is my honest opinion.

Please note, all quotes are taken from ARC (essentially an uncorrected proof). Please do not share quote or if do, please make note that it is taken from an ARC. 

For my review policy, please see my Disclosure page.



Rachel Linden is a novelist and international aid worker whose adventures living and traveling in fifty countries around the world provide excellent grist for her stories. She holds an MA in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College, a BA in Literature from Huntington University, and studied creative writing at Oxford University during college. Currently, Rachel splits her time between Seattle, Washington and Budapest, Hungary where she lives with her husband and two children. Rachel enjoys creating stories about hope and courage with a hint of romance and a touch of whimsy.


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