Grace A. Johnson
Review: The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin
So...I don't read WWII fiction religiously. To be honest, I wouldn't say I read it at all. Of course, I've picked up several WWII romances along and along--I finished Amanda Barratt's My Dearest Dietrich not too long ago--and have found that anything by Bodie and Brock Thoene is definitely a must-read after enjoying the first three books in their Zion Covenant series. But I haven't sat down and made lists of all my favorite WWII novels and authors or filled my Amazon cart with all the latest release or--obviously--written blog post after blog post about how much I adore this time period.
Don't get me wrong--I do. I love medieval, Wild West, WWI, Civil War, colonial America, the Golden Ages of Piracy and Hollywood, Regency (for sure), WWII, Victorian, Georgian, Edwardian, fantasy, time-travel, Depression-era, even some contemporary. The list goes on.
I love Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby and Clarke Gable and Jimmy Stewart and the jitterbug and chocolate malts and victory gardens and reckless flyboys and the crackling of records and the putter of old engines and the uniting of nations across the world to defeat a common enemy.
But I'm not a WWII fanatic.
I say all this to say that, for all my bluster, I still CANNOT resist a Sarah Sundin novel. I picked up her Waves of Freedom series sometime in 2018 and devoured it. Then I bought the first two books in her latest series, Sunrise at Normandy, as soon as I could and have long awaited the moment I could finally read The Land Beneath Us.
Sarah Sundin is a master at what she does--telling stories of love and forgiveness during the hardest time in the history of the world with a large dose of military knowledge, heartwarming romance, and tender spiritual truths.
Here's my review of The Land Beneath Us:
Sarah Sundin does it again! With her latest and last in the Sunrise at Normandy series, she crafts an expert story of love, forgiveness, and hope, finally bringing about the long-awaited reunion of the three Paxton brothers--Wyatt, Adler, and Clay.
Of course, one can always expect quality writing, amazing research, and superb plot/character development from Sundin--not to mention a happy ending. And although The Land Beneath Us was perhaps not my most favorite of the series (I think I simply liked Wyatt and Adler's characters better), it was still all that I'd hoped for.
I will say this, the manner in which the author managed to write a romance between two people who were married for convenience and were on page together for only, like, four chapters is astounding. I was growing closer to both Leah and Clay whilst they were growing both farther apart in distance and closer together in heart. Definitely well-done on that point, since I've grown tired of half-tailed marriages of conveniences and all those strange moments of "Wait--how is that guy showing up here again? This is just too coincidental..." You know the kind.
However, as a few other reviewers have also mentioned, there is a lack of expounding upon certain issues (as in, traumatic/dramatic moments of realistic weakness). In a way, I appreciate how Sundin gave Leah a peaceful, glad outlook and skirted the bleak darkness of the typical "oh, woe is me!" stuff--but in another way, I kind of missed the moments of despair that should have followed. And maybe that was because Leah was just too much like Pollyanna in general or because the author chose to focus more on different aspects of the story.
Still, a lot more could have been said and done concerning more than just the attack (read it and you'll understand), so the story did move very quickly, breezing right through months of importance straight to D-Day. Either that, or I read it faster than usual. *shrugs shoulders* I think, because of that, this book's predecessors, The Sea Before Us and The Sky Above Us, topped The Land Beneath Us because they both had the signature Sundin mystery subplot; the break-up moment between the two main characters just as their relationship starts to blossom (you know, when Dan said Tessa was beautiful in When Tides Turn, when Dorothy spotted her mother in The Sea Before Us, when Lillian told Archer she was a gold-digger in Anchor in the Storm, when Violet found out about Timmy when The Sky Above Us, etc, etc); and other emotional challenges to counteract the physical ones of war.
In the end, I got what I wanted--a family reunion, a happy ending, and the demise of the wolf. Tell me I'm not the only one who was looking forward to that more so than the mushy-gushy forgiveness and reconciliation part?
Needless to say, I'm certainly looking forward to Sarah Sundin's upcoming release, When Twilight Breaks!
Oh, and isn't this just the most beautiful cover? You can't tell from here, but there's a letter behind the stars. Ah...so gorgeous! 😍