In a Far-Off Land by Stephanie Landsem
After requesting several Catholic fiction novels to be purchased by my public library as part of the Stock the Shelves campaign sponsored by Chrism Press, I was surprised to get a message a few days later saying one of those books was already in. When I went to retrieve my book on hold, I found that it had been sent via inter-library loan. Apparently, In a Far-Off Land was already in our system. In fact, there are five copies already circulating in the public libraries in my system in the state of Georgia. Yay!
In a Far-Off Land is a story that keeps you reading. I finished it in about a week, the second half of it in about two days. There is just enough detail given to make you wonder what’s coming next and want to keep going. It is a redemption story – I’m partial to those myself – in which the reader meets likeable characters with flaws who sometimes learn their lessons the hard way. I think my favorite part about the writing style is that it switched between characters, with only the protagonist’s view in first person as she tells her story. We get Oscar’s story told in third person, as well as brief snippets of Mina’s father’s story. Towards the very end of the book, we get Max’s point of view told in first person too, which was unexpected, but it worked well.
My favorite character was Oscar. His loyalty to his family, his sense of duty and wanting to do the right thing, and his assuming of all responsibility for his brothers were appealing traits that drew me to him. I enjoyed seeing him wrestle with wanting to do what was right while not always knowing what that was, and also while struggling with the grudges he’d held. In spite of his grudge against Max and his anger at Mina for falling into his life and throwing everything into chaos (which she truly did), Oscar still made the right choices ultimately. An inability to forgive others was his biggest hurdle and brought mental anguish on himself, and he was able to gradually soften as it unfolded that he’d not always had all the facts of the story to begin with.
A great lost-and-found story, In a Far-Off Land’s prodigal son themes show us that fame and fortune aren’t all they are cracked up to be and that love is a gift rather than something earned or deserved.