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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review and Interview: NOURISH AND STRENGTHEN by Maria Hoagland (Sisters Ink, 2011)

Check out the interview with Maria below my review!

From Maria Hoagland's BlogAfter losing forty pounds, Chloe Taylor is finally happy with her body. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s not the one in control.

When Chloe is called as the Primary president, she discovers that managing the highs and lows of a chronic illness may be easier than the ups and downs associated with family, friends, and church callings. Consumed by her own challenges, Chloe fails to recognize the issues her friends are facing and is in danger of losing their friendship.

As Chloe strives to develop Christ-like love for herself and those around her, she learns that outer appearances are far less important than inner peace and spiritual strength. But is she strong enough to face her most difficult trial yet?

Audience: Adult (Clean)
Genre: Women's Fiction, LDS
Length: 259 pgs

Rating: ***+ (Really liked it)

Review: Great things about this book? Chloe's marriage to Nate. It was a shining star among most women's fiction books where marriages are struggling. Despite their trials together, they leaned on each other, and I really liked that! (Maria talks more about that in the interview below!) The book has a memoir style to it, events that build and change and wreak havoc on Chloe's life dropped in like real life. It took me some getting used to at the beginning of the book, but by the end it really worked. It was a little difficult for me to connect to Chloe at first. **Spoiler** And the reason is totally a "me" thing. One of Chloe's friends makes a comment about her kids being in sports (and to Chloe's credit, the friend is sort brash about it) and Chloe's internal is a little bratty about kids who are in sports...and my kids play lots of sports (among doing lots of other sorts of activities too), so it struck a nerve, I guess. And, **another spoiler** a big part of Chloe's character arc is learning not to make judgments without knowing the whole story, so she grows and I forgave her by the end. ;)

Content: Rated 1-5; 1 being minor instances, 5 being saturated
Sex - 1 ("Bedtime" routines between Chloe and Nate are mentioned in a couple instances. Very tactful & not explicit at all.)
Language - 0
Violence - 2 (Chloe and her husband both have Type 1 Diabetes, and there is a lot of discussion of the shots. Maybe I have a weak stomach, but I did get a little light-headed during the description of Chloe putting in her insulin pump the first time!)

Source: I received a review copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.

Like LDS Women's fiction? Try BAND OF SISTERS by Annette Lyon. 

Interview with author Maria Hoagland

Me: You, your husband, and two of your three kids have Type 1 diabetes, correct? How much of NOURISH & STRENGTHEN comes from personal experiences? Just the mechanics and feelings, or the events too?

Maria: Yes, it's kind of crazy, but four out of five in my immediate family have type 1 diabetes and the diagnoses happened pretty much just as they did in the book. Almost all of the diabetes-related events in Nourish & Strengthen are based on our real-life experiences. Then a bit of trivia something not in the novel--less than one hour after I completed my final revisions before sending it off to my editor, my youngest came home from school and said he thought he might be diabetic too. We checked, and he was right. What ten-year-old diagnoses himself? As for the other parts of Nourish & Strengthen...well, it is fiction after all.

Me: What draws you to writing LDS women's fiction?

Maria: I love women's fiction--experiencing what other women go through, being uplifted by their tenacity in overcoming trials, and feeling strengthened by their faith. Being LDS is part of who I am, and so far, it has been a germane aspect of my characters are as well. I try to bring in LDS culture--less as a commentary on what we should or should not do, but more as a way to appreciate who we are, even though we're not perfect, and perhaps elicit a chuckle or two in the process.

Me: What made you decide to write this story? What is unique about NOURISH & STRENGTHEN among women's fiction books and why would a reader like it?

Maria: I decided to write Nourish & Strengthen because it's just the type of book I like to read. I like to read about women like me but who have circumstances different than my own. I like learning from them, as well as gaining some understanding of what other people might be going through. It's definitely a better way than having to experience it all, right?

One of the aspects of Nourish & Strengthen many readers have connected with is the loving, solid relationship between Chloe and her husband Nathan. Their banter is fun and playful, and a nice relief to the trials Chloe is going through in other aspects of her life.

Even though outwardly her life is pretty great, Chloe's challenges are difficult for her. And I think that's another thing that makes Nourish & Strengthen a little different than other women's fiction--the trials are not life-threatening, there's no abuse or divorce, and yet she's struggling--as we all do from time to time--and she grows through the difficulties.

Another unique aspect of my women's fiction--you might notice that I have a bit of a fascination with medical issues (despite a proneness for becoming queasy at the sight of lots of blood--good thing it's not needles, right?).

Me: I usually ask what an author's favorite ice cream is, ;) but instead I'll ask what dessert you splurge on, no questions asked?

Maria Ice cream is a good one! My favorite by far is rocky road--but only if it's with the mini marshmallows and almonds. The best ones I've found are at the BYU Creamery and Braum's.

Me: Who is your biggest writing cheerleader?

Maria It's hard to pick one cheerleader since my family has been so supportive. My husband helps with titles and a lot of encouragement. My two oldest children are fabulous writers (better than I am, I must admit) and the elder has written two novels of his own. That makes me feel like I've been a good example, which is motivating as well. My youngest asks a lot of questions, seems genuinely interested, and encourages me to keep going even when it's tough. The fact that they don't complain about dinner, or the lack thereof, helps immensely!

Thanks, Maria, for stopping by the blog and giving me the chance to read NOURISH & STRENGTHEN!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for the review, Ranee! I'm glad you liked the book. I always think it's interesting to hear what people think of Chloe, and no one's pointed out the part about her bias against kids and sports before this. I think it's a fun peek into her personality--her defense against feeling judged for not having athletic kids. It's funny because I've grown up around sports and so have my kids. My youngest would go crazy if he didn't have his sports all year long to keep him occupied, but I don't think Chloe understands that. So I like that you pointed out that facet of her personality. And, of course, I love that you pointed out my favorite part of the book too--Nate & Chloe's relationship. Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts!


About Me!

I've been writing since I was old enough to grasp a crayon--my grandma even has an early copy of a "book" I made her. I have a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Wyoming and will (hopefully) soon be starting a graduate program in English. When I'm not breaking up impromptu UFC fights in the living room or losing miserably to my boys at Uno, I'm ... well, writing or editing, of course! I'm married to my best friend, and we have three rambunctious but simply amazing little boys.


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