I’m a little conflicted about today’s review of Until I Knew Myself by Tammy L. Gray. It’s honestly one of the best books I’ve read in a while, but I was so disappointed about what didn’t happen that it soured it a little for me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my review whether or not you’ve read this book!
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About the Book
Title: Until I Knew Myself
Author: Tammy L. Gray
Series: Bentwood Series, Book 1
Publication Date: March 8, 2018
Print Length: 260 pages
Summary from the author: RITA Award-winning author Tammy L. Gray delivers an unforgettable new series following five struggling friends in search of the true meaning of family through secrets, betrayal and the unexpected influence of an outsider…
Tyler Mitchell grew up an orphan, taken in by his best friend’s family when he was only sixteen. Even though ten years have passed, and he’s been given everything he should ever want—a loving home, an adoring girlfriend, a successful career, and lifelong friendships—Tyler has always felt a foreigner in his own life.
When a surprising phone call reveals the death of his biological grandfather, Tyler’s seemingly perfect life starts to unravel. The people he loves most in the world have kept from him the greatest secret of all—knowledge of his father’s family.
Now hunting for more information about his past, Tyler discovers nothing is quite as it seems. And the definition of family is far more complicated than choosing between blood and loyalty.
I’m really struggling with how to rate and review this book that I received as a complimentary ARC from the author. For starters, the writing is fabulous. Really amazing. I’ve never read this author before, and I was totally impressed! The characters are so carefully fleshed out, complex, and easy to relate to even when they are driving you crazy with their decision-making! The thing that amazed me the most was that Mrs. Gray somehow managed to create this group of five characters with a whole lot of history together, and by the fourth or fifth chapter, I not only felt like I knew them and cared about their lives, but I felt like I had all the history with them. I seriously felt like I was in the fourth or fifth book of a series and had read every single one of them. I was so very invested in the characters, and I have no idea how she did that. For that, I want to give this book five stars! Or maybe six!
Another thing this author did really well was the way she carefully crafted the brokenness of her characters. As the reader, I felt their pain and emptiness acutely, and having read that Mrs. Gray was a Christian author, I grew more and more excited as I read because I could just feel that she was setting things up so beautifully for both of the main characters to meet Jesus and find the wholeness and healing they were so desperately seeking. She even brought in a new character, someone outside of this group who had grown up together, who seemed to have gone through her own trials and found her answer in the Lord. The hints were subtle like when one of the main characters helped her unpack her picture frames and noticed that many of them were framed Bible verses. I just knew where the story was going, and I was so excited about it because the writing was so beautiful and poignant, and I just knew it was going to be amazing. That it might become one of my favorite books ever.
But it never went there. And I was a little bit crushed. In a scene that should have been so beautiful with the newbie introducing one of the group to Jesus, the newbie shares that hearing the phrase, “If we are sons and daughters of a mighty God, why do we live our life as orphans?” changed her life. But she leaves it there. She doesn’t explain to him how to become a son of the mighty God. And he doesn’t ask. Or seem to care. He somehow takes that phrase and interprets it to mean that since he’s been taken in by such an amazing family and group of friends, he’s no longer an orphan, and that solves his identity issues. And the other main character never even gets this close to being introduced to Jesus; she just finds her strength within herself. I was so disappointed. When I finished the book, I just wanted to cry. Because even though they had worked out their issues and gotten back together, my real life experience tells me that strength from within yourself runs out and family and friends can fail you. And I cared about these characters so much, I just wanted them to know Jesus.
And that made me start thinking about real people in my life who are looking for their strength and their identity in the wrong places and sometimes even finding temporary fixes there. And it made me wonder how often I, like the newbie in the story, begin to speak about what I have found in the Lord but leave too much unsaid and don’t really introduce people to Jesus. And I was seriously convicted. And so, this extremely well-written, beautifully crafted book is going to get four stars from me. Because it really is so well-written (six stars). But I was so disappointed (two stars). But in the end, it may prove to be life-changing for me. So we’ll meet in the middle and go with four stars for now. And if, as I’m desperately hoping, the newbie gets more bold in book two or even three and manages to really share her faith and lead all five of the group to Jesus, I’ll come back and change this to five stars. Because that would be amazing and would let this book become all it could have been.
About the Author
Tammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas, even the erratic weather patterns. She writes modern Christian romance with true-to-life characters and culturally-relevant plot lines. She believes hope and healing can be found through high quality fiction that inspires and provokes change.
Her characters are real, relatable and deep, earning her a 2017 RITA award in the Romance with Religious and Spiritual Elements category.
When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.
Tammy L. Gray has lots of projects going on. For all the latest info, visit her website at http://tammylgray.com