When Summer Finley receives the news that her biopsy is “abnormal,” her first instinct is to run to the person who has always been there for her, even though they’ve never met. Summer books a flight to the Netherlands to spend a week “in denial” with her pen pal, Noelle Van Zandt. The two share the sights, sounds and tastes of Holland as their friendship evolves to a deeper level. Getting to know one another in person, they develop insights into each other that transcend their years of letters and emails.
The week begins with the sites for which Holland is most famous: fields of brilliantly colored spring tulips and a windmill to complete the scene.
“Such vivid colors! The sunlight highlighted the blooms so all the colors were sharply focused. For one heart-tugging, breath-taking moment, I closed my eyes. It seemed impossible to take in so much glory all at once.”
Summer and Noelle laugh, talk and photograph everything as they kick off their week. The following day, Noelle takes Summer on an early morning trip to a surprise destination. After a breakfast of apricot pastries fresh from the bakery, they take a train to a rural area of Holland where they visit a farm run by Noelle’s sister-in-law. But this is no ordinary farm. It is what Noelle describes as a “spiritual community” for Christian women, many of whom arrived from other countries after having been persecuted or abused in some way. Summer is amazed by the peace she finds at the farm and the unabashed way in which the women worship straight from their hearts.
At Summer’s request, Day Three brings a visit to the hiding place of Corrie Ten Boom in Haarlem, Holland. Summer explains to Noelle that the Ten Booms were Christians who risked their lives to provide a refuge for people hiding from the Nazis during World War II. The friends marvel at the hiding area behind a secret wall, but even more so, they are amazed by the faith and courage of this family.
Each day’s outing leads Noelle to face challenges, often reluctantly, and brings her face to face with others who have sought strength from God to rise above thorny circumstances. Through various adventures and heart-to-hearts with Noelle, Summer comes to realize she can trust God with anything…even the unknown outcome of her upcoming medical tests.
There is something fun and breezy about the Sisterchicks books. Mixing friendship, faith and travel just works, especially when you are guaranteed a happy ending. Robin Jones Gunn always produces believable characters, plots and subplots to which women can relate. And if you like traveling or just learning about other countries, her novels are a great way to experience distant lands. Read SISTERCHICKS IN WOODEN SHOES! and you’ll want to book a trip to the Netherlands immediately after turning the last page.
The Sisterchicks series always involves a couple of friends heading out for an international adventure (except for SISTERCHICKS DO THE HULA!, in which they head to Hawaii). It is not always the same friends, however, which gives each book a distinct personality and setting. Join “the chicks” in Mexico, Australia, France, Italy and Britain for a good read and great travel ideas.
Reviewed by Susan Miura on May 5, 2009