Reviews of "Heaven Sent"
is not only a tender, beautiful love story. It is an astute analysis
of the behind the stage workings of a church community that is less than
harmonious. You will find out what happens when the younger generation’s
tastes in church services are superimposed on the tastes of the Old Guard.
You will see what happens when distrust and jealously poison the congregation
to such an extent that the new pastor is wrongly accused of immoral and
illegal conduct. You will also see what happens when a surprise Will
is read that seriously jeopardizes the future survival of the church community.
"This story has the depth of emotion and satisfying resolution of internal conflicts to make you care about the characters, plus enough intrigue, crises and surprise twists to keep the reading light on well past bedtime."
-Anne Lofting, freelance writer, Calgary, (seen in MacLean's magazine) --
-- A Review
Heaven Sent is a real page-turner of a novel. It was hard to put down as I became engrossed with the authentic-seeming characters and situations. Setting the novel in Kitchener, Ontario, with descriptions of local places and realistic weather descriptions, works well for those of us who live here but also gives some insight to armchair travellers. Cliffside Chapel is the fictional church central to the story. To those who know it - it may look like Carmel Church in Kitchener from the cover art, but that is as far as it goes. This book holds a world richly imagined.
The story follows the ups and downs of a young widow, Susan Rennie: her turmoil as she comes to understand what was missing in her first marriage and her growing attraction to the new assistant minister in her congregation. Jonathan Haley, the new minister, struggles with issues from his past and his adjustment to a new congregation that is not always supportive. An authentic cast of family and friends touches the lives of the two central characters. Life at Cliffside Chapel is as happy, sad, complex and mundane as are most lives.
How these personal stories play out in the context of a congregation dealing with its own difficulties make this story suspenseful as well as tender. Longstaff’s thoughtful analysis of congregation and community dynamics makes the underlying themes - the difficulty of reaching a common vision even when there is a common belief system and the orderly transfer of vision from one generation to the next - very believable.
It is the sensitive portrayal of both individuals and group dynamics, along with the vividly described setting, that make Heaven Sent a great first novel and one which I highly recommend. The author promises that there will be more books about Cliffside Chapel to come. I can hardly wait.
Liz Waters Heinrichs, Editor of ISI News, Kitchener, Ont., March 2002
The great novelist Joseph Conrad once wrote, “My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is before all, to make you see. That--and no more, and it is everything.” In Heaven Sent Alison Longstaff does just that. She makes us hear; she makes us feel; and above all she makes us see. She makes us see the tormented heart of a young widow who cannot allow herself to fall in love again, because she believes she is still married to her husband in heaven; she makes us see the wounded heart of a young pastor who must overcome a family tragedy in order to learn how to forgive; she makes us see the struggling heart of a small church community, shattered by differences of opinion on how to conduct worship. But most of all, she makes us see ourselves, in each of these characters—empathizing with their weaknesses, admiring them for their strengths, and loving them for their humanity. Her characters are real; they live before our eyes; and they speak to our hearts. As the story ends we feel moved, edified, and inspired. The colors that surround us take on deeper, richer hues; and our feeling of solidarity with others with whom we share this planet is enlarged. Heaven Sent is a great book not only because it opens our eyes so that we may see more clearly, but also because it opens our hearts so that we may love more deeply.
If you are planning an extended trip, try bringing along the audio book version of Heaven Sent. You will be enthralled by the magnificent speaking voice of professional actor Jason Carter; you will love the eight delightful musical selections that are seamlessly woven into the text; and you may find yourself getting to your destination a lot quicker than you had ever imagined!
Ray Silverman, Ph.D., Co-author of "Rise Above It" and Co-founder of Touchstone Seminars, Bryn Athyn College, May 2005