Today's the day. After two years of writing, polishing, revising, and sharing, today is the day my book, Finding Heaven, is being released into the world.
Two years ago, when I began this journey, I was terrified. I was newly grieving. I didn't know why this was the story God gave me to write, but I did know that it was the one I was supposed to write.
Not everyone "got" it. Some people that love me and whom I greatly respect didn't understand why this story had to be this way.
But I had my prayer warriors. And I prayed, a LOT.
Several times, God confirmed his command that I should write this book. He confirmed that I was doing the right thing. He told me that he was going to reach people through this book. People would be healed. Lives would be changed.
And God, in his graciousness, has already fulfilled that promise to me.
I have already received so many personal messages, emails, and tear-jerking reviews from my advanced readers that I no longer have an ounce of terror about the way this book will be received. Many of the most powerful messages are too personal to share publicly, but I treasure them, honoured that their senders would share their stories with me.
However, the public reviews have still been amazing.
Here are some of my favourites from folks who posted advance reviews on Goodreads:
Started out a bit slow but once it pulled you in it kept tugging until you couldn't break free! Discussed topics that people NEED to know about while having you fall in love with the kindness, trials, and heartbreaks of each character.
Kristin Dyck, the book's editor, says:
One of the most beautifully written books I have read. The author had me laughing aloud and openly crying along with the main character. There's a message of hope and love weaved intricately into the book that kept me wanting to read more. I sometimes find long books a challenge to get through, but this one I couldn't put down. Ultimately, this is a book that is capable of making readers feel, which is what makes it so special.
Mae Stewart says:
This novel was so well written! I was on the edge of my seat - unable to put it down. It brought out so many emotions in me - tears of sorrow, tears of joy, a longing to have a Steve in my life. I love how Talena illustrated God's overarching love for us; how He calls us, how He heals us. Finding Heaven showed us how many everyday miracles we miss because we are so caught up in our busy lives. Thank you for writing this book and for sharing it with me!
My sister, Katrin, says:
The tears are how you know it's good!
I say that because there are wonderfully written parts of this book that I still can't get through without sobbing, and they are some of my favourite scenes. The author definitely isn't afraid to put these characters through the proverbial wringer -- but you can't fix what isn't broken, and Finding Heaven is ultimately about fixing people. It even made me stop and deal with things in my own past in a way I never had before, as the characters experience their traumas and remembered traumas and deal with them.
Melissa Keaster says:
A riveting, true-to-life tale of love's power to heal and redeem.
In her latest novel, Finding Heaven, Talena Winters doesn't pull any punches. Despite being a romance, parts of the story are as gritty as real life. Sarah Daniels' journey represents many of our own. Underneath the pretty, pulled-together packaging of a fairytale is a soul in ruins believing the lies we know too well. When Sarah meets Steve McGuire—a regular guy whose life's work is to help the vulnerable, abused, and oppressed—she feels trapped in her unhappy existence, but Steve inspires her to make a change. One change leads to another. Helped along by the unconditional love of friends, Sarah embraces an uncertain future and discovers an inner strength she didn't know she had. Her story brings the reader through shocking reality and hellish lows, but these make the victory of finding heaven all the sweeter.
Though I haven't experienced the depth of Sarah's suffering, I know it in part. Reading her thoughts were like reading my own. We believed the same lies; even after much time and healing, I continued to believe some of them. As Steve was for Sarah, God used this story as an agent of change and healing in my life, for which I'm unspeakably grateful.
But this next review is one of my favourite publicly-shared reviews. This is only an excerpt of the full review. I do not know Corrie-Ann personally (though we have a mutual connection, as it turns out). This review brought me to tears, because reviews like this are exactly why I kept writing, and kept believing in my book when others didn't.
*** TRIGGER WARNING! This book contains topics such as; sexual abuse, rape, and domestic violence. This also includes a couple of fairly graphic scenes of such nature. ***
Speaking as someone who is a survivor of all the above tragedies, Talena had me snot crying throughout most of the book. Sarah is almost literally the book form of me, my experiences, my Spirit.
The doubts, the insecurities, the mistrust Sarah has, and is trying to grapple, throughout the book is very real, and very raw. Making the excuses for the ill-behaviour of her husband, and even of family from her childhood past, is quite normal, and common amongst those who've been violated in ways they should have never been violated. The strength, and attitudes of Steve, is exactly what Sarah needs to finally make the positive changes in her life. Even with all her own doubts and insecurities still consuming her. She thinks highly of Steve, but, even Steve has a past he's not so proud of, and his own doubts and insecurities. Be he relies on his faith, and the love of his family, and true friends, to get him through it.
Faith. Particularly, Faith in God. I loved the way in which Talena handled this topic in the book as well. It was soft, it was gentle, compassionate, and not pushy. It wasn't about power, but something that was truly accepting. It was love. And faith, and devotion.
As someone who is not of the Christo-Judaic faith, but a very Spiritual and Faithful person in my own right, I can completely appreciate the tender attentiveness Talena captures in God, and also allowing someone to heal, and reconcile themselves in their Faith, or lack thereof.
As harrowing as the topic matter is, I do fully, recommend this book to anyone.
It's about unearthing the real you after being under the mudslide for so long.
It still tugs at my heartstrings.
Today's the day, friend. Go grab your copy of Finding Heaven (buy links on the book's page.)
May you be blessed.
P.S. While you're on the page, scroll to the bottom for a "soundtrack" playlist of encouraging songs that complement the book. :-)