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on July 14, 2012
I read Coming Home in one sitting--everyone was out for the day--so, obviously, it held my interest (although I REALLY got annoyed with the dramatic "cliff-hanger" phrases at the end of each chapter). I didn't have the problem that lots of others did with the recaps of the characters, because I'm in my mid-50's now and I don't remember things as well as I used to, and I read the first books of the Baxter series a long time ago. But those books comforted me as I was going through a really bad time in my life, and this one did nothing for me. They just aren't REAL anymore! The first Baxters books had real people in them with flaws. Now, everyone has money, and every book is the portrayal of perfect women with perfect husbands who are so tuned in to their every emotion and want to TALK about things all the time (can most of you ladies relate to THAT?). They have wonderful children who always do cute things and always ask if they can help with something--no dawdling or whining about being MADE to help.....it's all completely unrealistic and makes me feel like my family is far below the norm. People keep hearing God speaking to them in every crisis moment and there is always some immediate redeeming value in the terrible thing that has just happened. That isn't the way life always works! I got stuck in an awful situation about ten years ago. I prayed about it literally thousands of times and fasted. The thing I wanted from God didn't happen, I got no comforting messages about it, and when I look at the situation now, I STILL can't see why God let it end the way it did. It's taken a big toll on my faith and my husband's. These books with their hunky-dory endings don't speak to my pain at all.

Now to the BIG question--it hit me during the "letter reading scene". Elizabeth and John Baxter had Dayne when they were in their late teens (I am assuming, since her parents sent her away, that they still had control over her). If John is now 70, that means Dayne has to be, what, 52, in this book? And he has small children, and they are expecting another at the end? How old is Katy? All of the other Baxter kids have to be in their 40's but they are still portrayed as being youthful and energetic and passionate. Am I wrong in my calculations, or is this another dose of Kingsbury unreality?

I used to LOVE Karen's books, but now they're just fluff and fantasy with a little Bible quote thrown in here and there. I seem to be in a very small minority (although I might not be able to trust all those 5 star reviews as being genuine), but I know some people agree with me. Maybe I've just gotten sour, but the quality and depth I used to love isn't there anymore.
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on July 1, 2012
This book was terrible! I have read and thoroughly enjoyed all of Karen Kingsbury's books. I even tolerated the Bailey Flanigan series. Even when "Loving" was simply a retelling of the annoying Dayne/Katy love story with all of its ridiculous Hollywood angst, I remained a fan. But THIS? 10 chapters of retelling THE SAME BOOKS we have already read? THEN we have to deal with the letter-reading scene in the end where they rehash it all AGAIN? Don't keep repackaging the same story and calling it a new book. That's dishonest.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

And while the Baxters have always been a bit unrealistic... this book went too far. FIVE family members died simultaneously and a week later everybody was at a birthday party? Nobody got angry or fell apart or questioned God? They all just immediately accepted God's will and a year later were fine? Give me a break. REAL grief is ugly and messy and does not resolve itself so quickly. This could have been a good opportunity to deal with the issues and pain of tragedy (she did a good job when Ashley's baby died) and how faith can survive even the worst agony. But being fake and putting a happy face on suffering just cheapens real faith and perpetuates the myth that "real Christians" are always joyful.
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on July 1, 2012
spoilers... Don't read if you havent read the book.

After reading Loving, I intended not to read another Karen Kingsbury book, however I couldn't resist reading the last Baxter book. I found myself thinking..... again?! How many tragedies can one family go through? Murder, fatal pregnancy defects, cheating, breast cancer, 911, drug addiction, a drowning and the list goes on. I guess I was hoping for a happy ending.If she was going to pick one family for this to happen to, I guess she did pick the right one. There wasn't a book about Erin that I remember so i did feel a little less connected to her and her family... but still. Also, I felt a bit disconnected from the family's reaction to the tragedy. No one got angry at God. They all just accepted that they were in a better place. This just seems unrealistic to me. I also didn't like that she put Bailey and Brandon in this book. It did not fit in with the storyline at all and after all the hooplah with the last book, you would think she would stay far away from that topic. (and to add in that Cody and Andy were engaged????) Blegh! The parts of the book that I liked reminded me of "like dandelion dust". Overall, the book was ok. It wasn't what I hoped for but it was far better than the series on Bailey. It was a little more true to her older writing style. Anyways, I'm still not ready to swear her off for good, but I am glad that she is moving on to new characters, seperate from the Baxters and the Flannigans.
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on July 11, 2012
It is with a heavy heart that I write this review. This will be the final time I read a Karen Kingsbury book. While Coming Home was better than Loving, it still is not even comparable to Karen's earlier works such as A Time to Dance, A Time to Embrace, Even Now, Waiting for Morning, etc. Somewhere along the line, Karen's writing just slipped. The first half of Coming Home was simply a rehash of the original first 5 Baxter books. It made sense to kill off Erin because the Baxter books hardly ever talked about Erin and her family. I had no connection with Erin, so I was not emotional about her and her family members' deaths. It almost seems like Karen's books are just being completed too fast. I noticed that her next book is with a different publisher, and I have to wonder whether or not this new publisher is requiring even more books per year from Karen. I also noticed how her next book is not being released in paperback, just in hardback and ebook format. Perhaps that is a way to make a few more dollars from Karen's "reader friends." Personally, I don't believe that any of Karen's future books will even be hardback worthy because the quality of her writing has went downhill. I will not be purchasing anymore of her books, as I have already wasted too much of my hard earned money on her books.

Her books were much better without the commercials and without the Hollywood drama and soap opera. There are so many Christian authors who are much better than Karen Kingsbury, and I will become readers of those writers.

Perhaps I am the fool though because Karen has made millions off of people such as myself because she started off as a really great writer. She truly wrote "Life Changing Fiction," and I eagerly awaited her books. I know now though that her earlier material will probably end up being her best work because she was not writing 3 and 4 books a year.

For me, my season of being a fan of Karen Kingsbury is over. Karen will not make another dime off of me. I will spend my hard earned money on Christian writers who are truly writing "Life Changing Fiction"
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on June 26, 2012
After the brouhaha over Karen Kingsbury's last book, I was almost afraid to read Coming Home, but because of her overall track record, I gave it a go and was inspired.

Over the years, Kingsbury has built a Baxter dynasty, a family so authentic that readers have to remind themselves not to pray for the characters because they are not real. Unfortunately, because so many readers are invested in these fictional lives, emotions flare when the novels don't deliver. (Case in point: Loving, a Baxter family spin-off).

But I will plead to those disappointed Karen fans not to abandon the Kingsbury ship. She has more than redeemed herself with Coming Home.

John Baxter, patriarch of the clan, is turning 70, and the Baxter family is returning to the homestead for a surprise birthday party. Each sibling is writing a letter to their father to be read at the party, reminiscing about the role he played in their lives. But due to tragic circumstances, the celebration doesn't happen as planned, and the Baxters are swept into yet another emotional maelstrom where each of them seek the One who calms the seas.

I will not give away the main plot line. Just have your tissues ready.

Karen Kingsbury has written yet another poignant novel centering on the lives of everyday people who put their trust in Christ. As the Baxters struggle with tragedy, we, through them, experience God's faithfulness all over again.

Coming Home is a moving, bittersweet, beautifully written finale to the Baxter series. Having the Baxters together one last time was wonderful. You won't want to miss out on the reunion.

I received a complimentary kindle edition of Coming Home from Zondervan via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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on July 21, 2012
I'll address the Karen Kingsbury angle first.

Where on earth did the Life-Changing Fiction (TM) go and what is this in its place? I remember sitting down and reading Where Yesterday Lives, Waiting Until Morning, and others and just devouring the books, suggesting them to anyone I know. They were real people, with real problems, and issues, and struggling with their faith in God, their family and so on. Now, I read (or listen) to some of these books, and I wonder what's wrong? I'd rather have a book that are years apart. (Liz Curtis Higgs, Lynn Austin, Julie Lessman, Francine Rivers, Deeanne Gist), and have it be well thought out, than have a book that is rushed and re-treading on a lot of the same issues within the books as a whole. Even authors who can get out a trilogy within a year (Tracie Peterson, Beverly Lewis), have a tendency to touch on a theme but make each book (and series) different). I know it is a different book, and if I read book three, I feel like I have to read book one first.

the Firstborn Series, Bailey Flanningan Series and this book: all. retreads.

I hope that your newest series is better than this, well thought out and you take the time to write, not just "poof!" out a manuscript. Because it is starting to show and it is impacting a lot of people (in a negative sense).

With the Baxters?

Well - the Redemption series was the best series (life changing ;) one might say), I've read about a family. It made sense and dealt with every-day issues with every-day people. As someone who grew up in Christ and has a large extended family, it kind of mystified me that everyone had the same value system, and was super close, and so forth, but it's fiction and it worked for me. It was a great family and series and Karen left you wanting more. Which is a mark of any good writer.

And then it happened.

Sequels. Not EVERY thing needs a sequel. (Batman and Robin, Return of Jafar anyone?) But in my mind the story was done. But we were introduced to more things. Dane (oi. and also - should have had those threads introduced waaaaaaaaaaaaay back in Redemption). And while you could imagine you knew a family like the Baxters, - the arrival of Dane and HOLLYWOOD just... it made it past fiction for me. And with every book, the family that you could imagine being with, became a little too perfect. Too forgiving. A lot of things that these people went through, (a lot of these issues I know in my real life had gone through) would have, and should have been longer than a chapter of "Oh, well, I'm being tested. Oh God spoke to me, all is good, "Great is thy Faithfulness!" there were SEVENTEEN books after Reunion that touched on the Baxter family. In all seriousness, you couldn't have had more than Luke's rebellion in Return and glimpses of Ashley's in Remember to go through a season (and SEASONS)of not fully trusting in God, questioning him?

Which ties in with this Story:

And in those seventeen books: you barely. ever. rarely. hear about Erin Baxter Hogan. And her husband Sam. and her newly adopted daughters. Bailey FLANNINGAN gets her own series. (which, wasn't needed), focusing on Brandon and Cody (which wasn't needed), while the ONLY thing you know about Erin was what you knew about Erin seventeen books ago. She/Sam were infertile, they adopted four daughters, she was close to Elizabeth, she moved to Texas.

So imagine my surprise that the "great tragedy" focuses on someone you don't even know. The minute the set up happened which was clearly telegraphed. The magnitude of the tragedy was unexpected, but the reactions and developments, to me were trite. If that had happened to me - or affected me. I would be completely, utterly gutted. There would be some serious God-versations going on, and I dont think it would be all wrapped up as neatly as it was in the book. There was no struggle at all as there was in previous books when things like that happened. NONE. Just a prayer, and a good old round of "Great is thy Faithfulness."

(also. while my beliefs on heaven and what happens after death is different from Karen and a lot of mainstream Christian writers - a LOT of writers when whomever goes to heaven, the first thing they see is an angel, and/or Christ, God. Not here. It's a big family picnic with the Baxters in heaven. Wouldn't the first thing ANYONE would want to do is see the Lord?).

It would be nice for once, to pick up a Karen Kingsbury book and not see the ending so clearly telegraphed. (regarding the adoption angle, etc). In a Moment of Weakness, the adoption trial was brilliant with twists and turns and everything wasn't JUST about "being evil." No sir, not here. Adoptive Mom is clearly Evil, so the Baxters can Clearly Win. Because they are the Baxter Family after all. (a round of Great is thy Faithfulness anyone?)

The sum of this review is be very careful what you wish for. at the end of Reunion all I wanted was more of the Baxters. And then Karen delivered. And it was the biggest regret of my life.

This is a "borrow from the library" book, should you need to see what happens. (or I could save you the time. Just read re-read all your other books, and imagine a tragedy. it shouldn't be too difficult).
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on July 16, 2012
"The Baxters make plans to come together for a summer lakeside reunion, a celebration like they haven't had in years. But before the big day, the unthinkable happens. As the Baxter Family rallies together, memories come to light in the grief-stricken hours of waiting and praying, memories that bring healing and hope during a time when otherwise darkness might have the final word. In a season that changes all of them, the brilliance of family love overshadows even the valley of heartache as the Baxters draw closer to God and each other. "

Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury is supposed to be both a conclusion to the Baxter family and all of the series surrounding them (Redemption Series, Firstborn Series, Sunrise Series, Above the Line Series, and Bailey Flannigan Series) as well as serve as an introduction to new readers before they dive in to the above series. However, if I read this novel before I read any of the other series, I would not pick up a single one of those books. Coming Home simply rehashed EVERYTHING that happened in all of the other Baxter series. If I had read Coming Home first, there would have been no point in reading any of her other series because I would have already known about all of the twists, tragedies, and love stories that occurred. Any suspense would have been gone. As it was, half of Coming Home was a condensed version of every other novel concerning the Baxter family, and half was spent over a pointless tragedy. The tragedy made me cry, certainly, but the grief in the Baxter family was non-existent and what was there was extremely fake. The novel was simply too short to cover the subject properly.

If Coming Home was the first Baxter book that a reader read, the characters would have seemed fake, insincere, emotionally dry, and too ''Christian'' to be real. Even though I have read all of the other Baxter books, the connection to the characters in Coming Home was hard to establish. If any readers read Coming Home before picking up the other Baxter books, PLEASE do not think that the characters are like that in all of the other novels. For the most part, as is partially glimpsed in Coming Home, the Baxters are very realistic characters, having marital struggles, sexual temptations, struggles with grief and addiction, and runaway from God.

Overall, I was disappointed with this book as both a conclusion and beginning to the Baxter family. If you are new to the Baxter family, PLEASE start with the Redemption series instead. It is the first series, and is by far the best.

I received an eBook copy of this novel for free from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
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on September 10, 2012
Let me begin by saying, I'm not a new reader to Karen Kingsbury and I have never written a book review, but I had to this time. I have read every one of her books about the Baxter Family including this Coming Home one...10 years!!!...a total of 23 or 24 books (plus a few of her stand alone ones), spent over $350.00 of my hard-earned money purchasing them, and about 4 days per book reading them, which equals over 100 hours of my time. While I was enjoying and finding spiritual insight during the first 3 series, I agree totally with the last 3 reviews that said that the quality of her writing has changed, the spiritual content has been totally watered down, and unrealistic story lines have been introduced! Then getting to this last book...as an ending to a series as big and powerful as this has become, she decides to kill off 5 of 6 people of a family and then devotes numerous chapters of having to read details of the deaths of each one of them, one at a time, while they cling to life in the hospital after a car crash right in their hometown as they were "coming home" to see their father for his 70th birthday. Instead they "came home" to heaven, of course. Then 3 chapters later, after the funerals, everything is just back to the unrealistic Baxter family having a birthday party for their father. This angers and dissapoints me terribly. I could have written a better ending to this last book saga for sure. How could she even think that this was the way to end 10 years of writing this entire series of books? What a terrible disappointment and a waste of my money and time. I, too, like one of the other reviewers, will never read another one of her books again...never. And as I write this, all of my books are up for auction. I had plans to re-read the entire series in the future, but that thought is far from what is ever going to happen. I should have stopped reading her books a long time ago when I saw the quality of the content of her writing changed. Horrible....simply a horrible book and ending!
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on July 2, 2012
Ok, another bummer for Karen Kingsbury. I'm sorry, I don't know what's happening in Karen's life, but she's just not oldself when writing. The beginning of the Baxter series was so very good, and the most realistic. Even though they were a family with money, they didn't flaunt it, but boy did that ever change. And then everything just changed with her writing.

There is just too many good books, really good Christian fiction books written by really great and Godly writers, and more and more coming out every month. I really hope Karen finds her nitch again with her next series. I would really like to see the good author she was.

Just another story that I didn't care for at all. I would rather remember the ending to the Baxter family, before the Flannigans got into it, the way it ended years ago.
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on July 26, 2012
Ok, so after reading (and being thoroughly disappointed in) the Bailey Flannigan series, I was tempted to not even read this book, but I felt like I've been invested in the Baxter family for so long that I had to read the "last" novel. I say it that way, because I wouldn't be surprised if more came out later, despite claims that this is the last.

This book was much better than anything else I've read by Karen Kingsbury in a long time, but I can't bring myself to give it more than three stars for a few reasons: 1. We have all heard all of the Baxter's individual stories SO MANY TIMES they have been beat to death. I think it was important to touch on them, sure, but it was redundant. 2. Poor editing again- I don't know what's up with Karen's editor, they should be able to catch her mistakes (I'm not blaming her- it's hard to keep track of things when you're writing, but I don't know what the editor's excuse is). The book goes back and forth between calling Heidi Jo the youngest and Amy the youngest, the age inconsistencies are apparent once again (Cole is 15 the summer of the accident and 17 a year later- that's just bad math), and so on. It seems like there are some people who age and those who don't. Also "Johnny" was originally named "Jonathan" not "John." 3. I hated that Brandon and Bailey made an appearance- it seemed forced. I mean, who really goes out joy-riding on the lake with their buddies a week after they lose someone that close to them in such a traumatic way?! 4. I felt like John and Elaine are not even married. The way they are written into the story is stiff and unnatural. John is completely absorbed with Elizabeth the whole book and Elaine is just an afterthought who is viewed almost as an intrusion the whole book :/

I wish Karen would go back to writing books like Divine, Even Now, and the earlier Baxter books. That's what made me fall in love with her writing in the first place. I still think she has a gift for writing and a way with words, but I feel that it has been wasted the past few years. I would love to see her write something totally new- new characters, new setting, new plot- regular people who are not fabulously rich or terribly poor and in tons of debt. People with normal jobs who are good people. That's what I'd like to see!
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