Title: Over the Divide
Author: Catherine Farnes
Target Audience: Young Adult
Jacy Craig, 15-year-old female narrator; as the story begins, she's wondering whether God is real and if so, what he might do to draw her to Him
Dakota Craig, Jacy's brother
Hayden Craig, their father
The Sullivan family (Mom, Dad, and teenage daughters Sophie, and Candice)
The Adams (Pastor Bruce and teenage son Ezra)
Neil--famous tennis player, 18 years old, planned to come on trip without letting dad know
Mr. D'Ary--Neil's overbearing father who comes along when he learned what Neil's doing, condescending toward the Craig family
The two men from Germany
Cara Benoit--an injured hiker found along the trail
The Craig family has lived in Montana and ran Back Trails Unlimited: Guided Hunts and Hikes since shortly after Mrs. Craig died of the flu eight years ago. Hayden is still struggling with the loss of his wife, and has avoided talking about her to the point that Jacy barely remembers her mother. They take several six-day hikes each summer, but this hike will still be surprising. The customers include a couple of spoiled teenage girls who spend as much time complaining about sleeping on the ground and missing e-mails as they do fawning over the famous Neil D'Ary. Neil came to get away from tennis and his overbearing father, but isn't able to get away so easily. When dad finds out where Neil is, he decides to come along, since he won't be able to talk Neil out of it. Also along are Pastor Adams and his son Ezra. Pastor Adams' friendship with her dad confuses Jacy, since Hayden doesn't usually let anyone get close to him, and more so since this man is a pastor and Hayden has been angry "at God or fate or whatever" (p. 3) since her mom's death. (She later learns that it is due in part to Mrs. Adams having died in a skiing accident shortly before meeting her father.) Rounding out the group are two men from Germany and a pair of newlyweds.
The first half of the trip is hard for Hayden--conversations with Pastor Adams about his wife (which always give him a headache), two missed night's sleep dealing with hiker troubles, getting caught in a heavy rainstorm in cold weather, and hiking more than thirteen miles in one day trying to find help for an injured hiker (Cara Benoit) they had come across all happen on the first half of their trip. Hayden realizes he's too sick to continue and decides to go down with Cara and her rescuers. Jacy and Dakota, with Pastor Adams' help, will lead the group the rest of the way.
The rest of the hike is easier, although Jacy spends much of the time worrying about her dad. When they come out of the woods at the end of the trail and he's not waiting by their van, she is even more worried. The group is driven back to Back Pack Unlimited Headquarters and everyone but Pastor and Ezra Adams leave. There is a phone message from Cara saying that Hayden is doing better, but still in the hospital with severe pneumonia. They decide to unpack and shower before eating dinner and heading into Billings to see Hayden in the morning.
While keeping watch over Hayden in the hospital, Cara has read and discussed Bible passages with him and even got him to promise to go to church with her. He is released from the hospital Tuesday morning, but stays in Billings with the Adams family for a few days. Cara has decided to follow her original plans to leave, so she is also in town. Jacy needs a dress for church, so Cara and Jacy go shopping. While out, Cara and Jacy discuss God. Although Jacy has questions about her mom ("not knowing [where her mom is] is way less scary than thinking about her being in hell" p. 134), Cara tells Jacy that they can't know that her mom didn't make a decision for God. Also, Jacy is responsible for what she knows now--that there is a God who wants her to follow Him. Later, while driving with her father, Jacy informs him that she has become a Christian.
As the story ends, Dakota is frustrated with the openness to God that Jacy and Hayden are demonstrating, Jacy is provided with study helps for new believers, Hayden is being more open about his feelings and about Jacy's mom, and plans are made to visit Cara Benoit's family in Florida. Finally, Jacy likens her salvation decision to crossing the Continental Divide on their hiking trips. A one-time event that was also the beginning of a new trail.
The book focuses on a teenager with questions who comes to realize that, not only is God real, but He wants her. A teenage boy frankly discusses his faith in God, even without his pastor father present, and points out that his being the son of a pastor doesn't make him a Christian any more than being the child of a trail guide makes Jacy and Dakota trail guides. It's not real until they do it on their own. Scriptures are used to support Biblical truths, but it is still left to the hearer to make the decision to believe. As in real life, not everyone in the group accepts the Christian teachings, and not everything goes perfect for the believers--Mrs. Adams dies and Cara breaks her ankle. There is even an angry response from Dakota, who considers God a crutch or "a primitive salve for . . . desperate people." (p. 142)
Over the Divide presents the Christian faith well and tackles some tough questions: But I'm okay, because my parents are Christians, right? If God loves me, why did this have to happen? Can another person be "the constant in my universe"?
I believe this is a great book. I have read it more than once previously, and will likely read it again.
4 stars--Out to eat.
Pretty good. The writing is good. Any objectionable elements are treated very well. No problems. I would read this author again. I'll probably keep the book to re-read.
Curled up with a good book,