Through Rushing Water by Catherine Richmond and published by Thomas Nelson (2012) is categorized as an adult Christian romance, but reads like historical fiction. In 1876, Sophia Makinoff, who is publicly embarrassed by her suitor when he chooses another, decides to flee to the mission field of China. But God has other plans for her and sends her as a missionary teacher to the Ponca (pronounced “pong-kah”) Indian Agency in the Dakota territory. Her new home includes such people as hard-working Nettie; Henry, Nettie’s legalistic preacher son; James, the Indian agent; and Will, a humble and self- sacrificing carpenter.

As Sophia tries to help the Ponca Indians, she faces numerous obstacles. Will encourages her to “ignore the rushing water. Ignore everything that tries to pull you under or knock your feet out, or obscures your view. Plant your feet on the rock.” Her beliefs continue to be tested when she sees the Ponca endure poverty, starvation and death.

Sophia feels like she has failed the Ponca when the government forces the tribe to move hundreds of miles away from their home in winter with little or no provisions. Her only option is to pray and trust God for her friends’ survival. In the end, Sophia and Will meet their friends again, but the main story is only partially resolved since it moves from fiction to fact. Nevertheless, the story is satisfying because it demonstrates there is reason for faith and hope when we trust in God.

Even though this book is fictional, the social and spiritual struggles of the characters were realistic and thought-provoking. It is a story which is entertaining and yet full of learning. The romance between Sophia and Will is secondary. The story focuses more on their friendships with the Ponca and God’s work.

For the parents of teens, this book provides an opportunity to talk with them about numerous social, political, and spiritual issues which we face today. Some of these are racism, government involvement/interference, mercy vs. legalism, and many others. (I haven’t listed them all here.) Another subject to explore is how the different characters, most of them Christians, deal with and respond to the Ponca’s desperate plight. A reader guide is also included.

I am recommending Through Rushing Water for older teens because there is some content that I believe is adult in nature. Parents need to know that there  are two attempted assaults and there is an instance of  polygamy among the Indians.

J. D.  Rempel is a graduate of Simpson College. She is endeavoring to pen a preteen science fiction novel and an adult fantasy series. She loves to read and started a library at her church. She enjoys working with her husband in youth ministry and has two dwarf hamsters, Lucy and Suzy

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