The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck / by Bethany Turner. 5.20.2019

Revell ISBN 9780800727666

Adult Rating: 5

Sarah Hollenbeck processes her divorce from her philandering high school sweetheart by writing an extremely provocative book in The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck. She never meant to share her book, but when it spills out of her handbag at a writer’s group the ladies help pick up the pages, reading them as they do so. One lady has a connection to a publisher and helps push Sarah to publication. Following three best-selling, explicit books, Sarah’s friend leads her into a relationship with Jesus. Her first day at church as a brand new believer, Sarah literally runs into the new pastor, Ben, and they are instantly attracted to each other. However, controversy and shame threaten to overwhelm Sarah and ruin her hope for the future.

Bethany Turner’s witty and engaging writing reads like a visit with a new best friend or sneaking a peek at a journal. Sarah’s remarkable conversion includes turning from writing shockingly explicit books to a shockingly committed relationship with the Lord. She does have struggles, such as with shame over what she has written, how to move forward with her book contract without defying her conscience, and how to keep a God-honoring physical relationship with her pastor-boyfriend. Her best friend is an excellent mentor, and Ben also helps Sarah through her struggles. The refreshing way Sarah and Ben communicate their desires and seek to honor God and each other by waiting until marriage for sex, as well as the way they establish boundaries for their physical relationship, could serve as guidelines for daters. Through a couple of passionate kisses and their verbal communication, it is clear that they plan to enjoy sex once they are married. The plot, which takes a backseat to the characters up to this point, moves quickly as a congregant threatens to ruin Sarah and Ben. The very valuable lesson that Sarah has to learn is voiced well by her friend Piper. “So when your crazy insecurities start to rise to the top, you rest in the peace and glory of our Lord, and you trust in the love Ben has for you…God has big plans for you – that much is clear.” (p. 227)

Kristina Wolcott, CLJ