Rachel Westing is a Cradle Christian. In other words, she has been a Christian her whole life. She’s active in her church and in the Young Women’s ministry. Her faith plays a part in everything she does, and she quotes Bible verses without blinking.
At 26, Rachel experiences her first “God let-down” when she finds out that her mother is divorcing her father, shattering the ideal marriage image that she has had of her parents since childhood. If that isn’t enough of a blow, a few days later, she discovers that her fiancé has been cheating on her --- with her roommate. When she turns to her Christian mentor, Barbara, for advice, she is shocked to learn that Barbara has become addicted to pain medication.
Rachel is devastated. But more than that, her faith is shattered. How could God have let this happen? Why has He turned his back on her when she’s been nothing but faithful in her Christian walk? What could she possibly have done to deserve this? These are the questions that Rachel finds herself asking. And, in fact, these questions are the driving force behind a downward spiral that soon finds her spinning out of control.
When Daphne, a childhood friend --- and very definitely a non-Christian --- invites Rachel to Las Vegas for the weekend, she figures it wouldn’t hurt to get away for a couple of days to forget about her problems. Then Daphne suggests that she quit her job and leave her life in California to move across the country to Chicago. And to everyone’s surprise, including her own, that’s exactly what Rachel does.
At first, Rachel’s new life is exhilarating. She lands a job at a local café and is making new friends, including a guy who does a wonderful job of taking her mind off her cheating ex-fiancé. Meanwhile, she has given up altogether on her relationship with God and even goes to great lengths to avoid a Christian co-worker.
It’s not long before Rachel starts compromising her moral convictions by testing the waters or, more specifically, alcohol. And lots of it. It’s also not long before she senses something strange going on with Daphne, as she has witnessed several instances of her friend’s mood swings and erratic behavior. Rachel ignores the warning signs until a major tragedy strikes, giving her the wake-up call she needs.
I couldn’t really relate to Rachel at first. It seemed unbelievable to me that at 26, she had never experienced disappointment or adversity before. Divorce is difficult and being cheated on is heart-wrenching, but would it really push someone this far over the edge and cause them not only to question the beliefs they had grown up with, but to dismiss God altogether?
Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, the story and the characters were intriguing enough to hold my interest. In fact, I haven’t read a book so quickly in a long time. I credit this to author Alison Strobel’s voice and easy-to-read style of storytelling. Even though the circumstances that took Rachel to this place in her life were questionable, I enjoyed REINVENTING RACHEL. I like that Strobel doesn’t shy away from real-life issues Christians face every day, such as alcohol consumption, drug addiction, premarital sex, compromise, and ignored witnessing opportunities, all of which are sometimes sugar-coated in Christian fiction. But Strobel shows the real-life consequences that come with making poor choices.
The novel also deals with tough questions we all ask from time to time, such as “Is there a God?”, “Where is God when I’m hurting?” and “Why does He allow bad things to happen to me?” More importantly, it addresses a bigger question: “Will I continue to believe in God’s faithfulness, even when bad things happen?” This is ultimately the question Rachel has to answer. And one that challenges the reader to consider as well.
Reviewed by Lynda Schab on September 1, 2010