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Stay With Me Paperback – October 1, 2015
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About the Author
Carolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania. For ten years, she served as communications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC), the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops. The PCC advocates for religious liberty, prolife, pro-family, Catholic healthcare, and Catholic education issues before state government. Carolyn’s column on state and national news related to the PCC’s interests appeared regularly in Pennsylvania ‘s diocesan newspapers. She also appeared on the state-wide television program PCN Live and was a guest on then-Bishop Donald Wuerl’s television program, “The Teaching of Christ.” In 2005, she resigned from the PCC to be home full-time with her children. Carolyn is volunteer chairperson of Real Alternatives, Inc., a non-profit, charitable organization that administers alternative-to-abortion funding in Pennsylvania and Michigan. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, Pennwriters, and the Pennsylvania Public Relations Society. Her writing has appeared in New Covenant and Lay Witness magazines. Stay With Me is her debut novel.
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I loved Rebecca and Chris. They were from completely different religious backgrounds but fell in love anyway. Both were devoted Christians but Rebecca has some baggage due to her abusive father. Chris is a new Christian who loves the Lord and wants his family to know the love of Christ too but he doesn't push. Even though Chris and Rebecca love the Lord they are not immune to sin but they are repentent. I loved Father John. He was so wise and gave Chris godly advice.
I enjoyed this book even though I am a Christian Protestant and Chris is a Christian Catholic and would desire for his wife to share the same faith.
One thing that bothered me in this book was Rebecca's sister, Abby. Abby had no filter on her mouth and some of the things that came out of her mouth was just not appropriate. Not swear words or anything but just inappropriate comments. Another thing that may possibly bother some people is the use of alcohol.
Stay With Me stayed in my to-be-read pile for quite a while before I finally got around to reading it. I don't usually read straight romance or inspirational fiction. But I grew to admire Ms. Astfalk's online presence, both on her blog/website and through conversations in our online writing group, so I finally bit the bullet and started in on her debut novel.
I wish I hadn't put it off so long. This book has almost everything I'm looking for in a romance. Chris and Rebecca are well-rounded characters who have flaws but work past those flaws in order to love each other. What begins as a simple love story transpires into a complex tapestry about the human experience. Ms. Astfalk manages to tackle big topics like propriety, communication, theology, sex, love, family relations, marriage, and the nature of sin, all within the context of this deceptively light book. Surprisingly, thanks to the author's deft and talented hand, none of this comes across as heavy-handed or "preachy," which has largely been my experience in faith-based fiction.
The ways that Chris and Rebecca mess up might have some more ardent readers of this genre raising their eyebrows, but I loved it because it was relatable and real. She handles the subject of repentance and grace so, so much better than other well-known Christian authors does. I wish this book had been around when I was twenty, and I recommend it to all unmarried Christian couples who find themselves struggling with temptation.
The only thing I wish was present in this book was more details about Chris and Rebecca's courtship early in their story. While we are told they bond quickly over great conversation, the reader is left largely out of the loop when it comes to those conversations. I would have loved to have more insight into those long talks.
Other than that, this book was an absolute joy to read. Ms. Astfalk is supremely talented in her use of emotional language--I think I went through my entire range of feelings in this relatively short read, and I know you will too. Whenever I find myself in need of a good, healthy cry, I know this is the book I'll turn to.
As a busy mom of young children, I thought it might take me close to a month to finish the book. I was very wrong – I could not PUT IT DOWN! Thanks to Stay With Me, I lost a lot of sleep for a week. This is a very good read!
From the moment I met the main characters, Chris and Rebecca, I wanted to know more about them. The supporting characters were equally well written with intriguing personalities to balance out and contrast Chris and Rebecca. The plot moves quickly and with every new challenge, I couldn’t help rooting for both of them to find their way to each other.
Carolyn’s descriptions of central Pennsylvania and the Shenandoah Forest are absolutely wonderful. I hold many of these places dear to my heart and her descriptions bring back many memories of the few years I was fortunate to live in that amazing part of the country.
Bottom line: If you are looking for a good read, a real romance set in the real world, Stay With Me is your next book. Enjoy!
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