For what good works did Christ create you? Are you completing them?
In December, I posted interviews with Linda Brooks Davis and Clarice G. James, the other two winners of the 2014 Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel contest. Today, I’m honored to review Davis’s award-winning story.
Set in Oklahoma in 1905, The Calling of Ella McFarland centers around a spunky young woman who aspires to become a teacher at the esteemed Worthington School for Girls. Ella believes this position will satisfy her longing to educate and help provide for her parents and three siblings.
However, the scandal of her sister Viola’s illegitimate child might cost Ella her dream job and her family, their sustenance. But who is the father of Viola’s son and why won’t she reveal his name? Could he be the same man who almost stole Ella’s innocence so many nights before?
Despite the romance that went wrong and her claim that she’s “wedded to teaching,” Ella finds herself drawn to the youngest member of the school board, a handsome former missionary named Andrew Evans.
When Ella intervenes to save a neighbor from her abusive father, God plants a new desire in her heart, one that could empower women desperately in need of hope. But then tragedy strikes, causing Ella to question everything she believes in. Is God’s grace really sufficient?
From the first chapter, I liked Ella McFarland, and my admiration only grew as she made sacrifices, encountered obstacles, and found her faith put to the test.
Like the Proverbs 31 woman, she “sets about her work vigorously,” “is clothed with strength and dignity,” and “reaches out her hands to the needy.” Yet, like all of us, she also struggles with sin. And, despite her determination, people and circumstances tempt her to abandon her calling and turn away from her Creator.
With surprising plot twists, a life-transforming mission, and a heroine worth rooting for, The Calling of Ella McFarland inspires believers to pursue God’s purpose for their lives. (Tweet that!)
The ending delighted me and left me anticipating a sequel about Adelaide, the auburn-haired heiress Ella grew up with: “Ella suspected there was a story behind her friend’s sudden return from Italy, but that could wait.”
The discussion questions would make a great Bible study for women and teens. Plus, Davis includes a recipe for Mama’s Egg Butter, aka Papa’s Nectar of Heaven. Why not make it together and enjoy it at your group?
I recommend this book to teachers, women of all ages, and fans of Christian fiction, historical fiction, and novels like Christy by Catherine Marshall.
Want to read about more Operation First Novel winners? Read my review of the second-place winner: “Double Header Novel Hits a Home Run!”