B. J. Hoff, Author . W Publishing $12.99 (282p) ISBN 978-0-8499-4389-8

In the first of three planned books in the American Anthem series, Hoff offers this lightweight evangelical Christian historical novel, chronicling the lives of Irish immigrants in the late 19th century. Susanna Fallon has left Ireland to become a companion to her young niece, the daughter of accomplished musician Michael Emmanuel and Susanna's late sister, Deirdre. She fears living under a roof with the man her sister despised, but with her parents dead and the dairy farm sold to pay the debts, Susanna is desperate. On the boat, she meets Dr. Andrew Carmichael, a character whose life will later intersect with her own. An ocean away in Ireland, Conn MacGovern; his wife, Vangie; and their five children purchase passage to America, but one child is left behind and an unlikely street urchin comes along for the ride. The many characters are only lightly sketched and presumably will be more deeply developed in subsequent novels. Historical figures appear in implausible cameo roles, including evangelist D.L. Moody and hymn writer Fanny Crosby. The sometimes formal language is geared to an evangelical audience ("To have the privilege of spending time with these esteemed spiritual leaders and their families had not only made the voyage less harrowing..."). An abrupt ending leaves most of the loose ends dangling, to be picked up in the next installment, Cadence, of which a snippet is included. This is passable Christian fiction, but it does not engage sufficiently to work well as a stand-alone title. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/07/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
Hardcover - 329 pages - 978-1-4104-0077-2
Hardcover - 398 pages - 978-0-7862-5009-7
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