Abigail Durham is the owner of Doo Drop-In Hair Salon in the Midwest town of Rawston. When she meets a good-looking cowboy in a pub when attending a bachelorette party, she doesn't realise she's soon going to be seeing a lot more of Justin... and not in the best of circumstances.
The suspense builds steadily through the first section of the book, and it had that page-turning quality that keeps people up late at night. We suspect a tornado is coming because of the radio weather warnings at the beginning of each chapter (and the acknowledgements section, thanking people for their tornado experiences, was also a big clue). So, in part, this is the story of a disaster, but it's also the story of a community.
The author does an excellent job of introducing a wide range of characters, from the elderly quilt shop owner to the teenage mother stuck in a loveless marriage, without it seeming like information overload. Each of the characters has their own story, but their lives are intertwined both before the tornado strikes, and after, as each of the characters is reminded that God is with us even in the midst of our troubles:
"Each of us is the center of our own quilt. Our lives are made up of bits and pieces, some good, some bad. And isn't it amazing, how God, in all His infinite wisdom, can use even our mistakes and what we might consider chaos, to His glory?"
Beyond the Storm wasn't perfect. One of the characters had a major change of heart towards the end, and I think this could have been better (although the fact that I was speed-reading to find out what happened could mean I missed something important there, which goes back to my comment about the suspense). The ending was a little weak (in my view, it would have been better without the last short scene). And my romantic side would have liked a little more of the romance subplot...
This is first book I have read by Carolyn Zane, and I have to say that I was impressed. Her characters were real, the storytelling was excellent, I liked the way she integrated the Christian faith into the plot... but what really impressed me was the way she described the tornado and its aftermath. I've seen the movie Twister, but the post-tornado scenes in Beyond the Storm are even more dramatic even though they are written. That was outstanding, and Beyond the Storm is worth reading for those chapters alone.
Thanks to Abingdon and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.