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Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite
Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine tells the story of Simon Hagan, a tale that invites readers to rethink their relationship with themselves, their sense of responsibility when it comes to their destiny and the place they allow God to play in their life. It is the journey of a troubled man who refuses to face the reality of his misery, shifting the blame onto God and others. The story of a man who decides to live recklessly in the false belief that he can excuse his shortcomings on the impotence of God, but a man who eventually experiences the catharsis and sense of forgiveness that sets him on a completely new path. Simon has suffered some losses, including Celeste, his child, his mother, a good friend, and has felt diminished. His pain has set him on a path where family and God and values of friendship don’t matter much. This book tells his story and captures a moment of the miracle in a way that is so compelling the reader stops and thinks, hard and deep.
There is a lot to enjoy in this book and I loved particularly how the author explores the restlessness and the anguish in the heart of the protagonist. Simon is a broken man, one that readers quickly learn to care about because there is a fragment of each of us in him. The narrative is done in the first-person and it is compelling. I enjoyed the witty and intelligent conversations, some of which echo the deepest thoughts of the protagonist. Some are very insightful. Here is one that caught my full attention and I had to write it down: “There aren’t always answers to the question of why God does what he does. We trust his sovereignty. But we hurt. What else can I say? Anger isn’t the answer though. Forgiveness is. Yourself first.” Annette Valentine looks into the human heart and asks hard and difficult questions. In Eastbound from Flagstaff, the answers are closer to our common experience than anyone thinks and God heals us in our pain when we choose to embrace our brokenness.