My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Three friends, Jo, Claire and Sierra, buy farm property just outside the town of Galena Landing (Idaho) to realize their dream of living off the land in an eco-ethical way. Even the mouse-infested trailer they have to move into (until they get around to building their straw-bale-walled, solar-powered house), is worth it… they are sure. Twenty-five-year-old Jo (never-been-kissed) Shaw is the one of the trio through whose eyes we see the beginnings of Green Acres Farm in Valerie Comer’s contemporary Christian novel, Raspberries and Vinegar.
Son of the neighbors Zach Nemesek is just finished vet school and champing at the bit to get a full-time position, preferably in the big city. He’s put out resumés all over. But at his last job he was let go when he broke up with the boss’s daughter. Now that former boss won’t even give him a reference. Plus his own dad has fallen ill with a mysterious neurological disease, is in hospital, and Mom desperately needs Zach to help with their own farming operation. So he’s stuck.
Of course the trio meets the hunk and soon it’s obvious there’s electricity between Zach and Jo. But could there possibly be a future for such a fast-food-loving city boy wannabe and this eco-evangelist?
This is a fun book that delves into serious issues, albeit with a light touch. There’s the whole green, organic reduced-carbon-footprint movement the girls represent, versus the townspeople who are used to the way things are—not to speak of having to make a living. This includes Zach’s own father who, before he got sick, worked at Leask’s feedlot—a smelly, suspiciously disease-laden place out of which cattle are shipped in droves to meat plants.
There’s the dating game / sex-before-marriage issue over which Zach has come to grief with his last girlfriend and which Jo brings to a head when at one point she lashes out:
“That’s another place we’re different Zach. I will never date a man I couldn’t see marrying. Why put myself through that? Why build up false hope” – p. 204 (Kindle edition).
Both of these young people struggle with the ideal of living their lives under God’s control versus calling the shots themselves. I love how Comer frames the issue as seen through Zach’s eyes:
“And what was God going to say, if Zach sincerely wanted an answer? Oh man. He didn’t even want to go there. Asking for God’s direction would get way more complicated. It wouldn’t end with which job he should take. It wouldn’t end with where he should live. It wouldn’t even end with Jo and her enviro-crazy ways. God was going to want to meddle in every facet of Zach’s life” – p. 128.
Comer’s writing style is brisk and savvy. Point-of-view doesn’t wander but stays firmly with either Jo or Zach. And the plot kept throwing surprises at me. As a result, the book’s 343 pages sped by. The book is a refreshing and chaste-but-fun modern romance that isn’t afraid to tackle some hot-button lifestyle issues.
Along with discussion questions on Raspberry and Vinegar, Chapter 1 of Book 2 in Comer’s Farm Fresh Romance Series (Wild Mint Tea) is included at the end of the book. I read it and am definitely going to look it up when it releases, sometime in the spring of 2014.