How often do you fight with your siblings? Can you imagine, as an adult, having to move in with any of them? This is the choice that the main character, Alan Reynolds faces when his wife Jamie kicks him out of the house for no apparent reason. He moves in with his younger brother Chris and tries not to be too much of a bother. Chris and his wife, Rebecca are newly married and expecting their first child. At first, they are very sympathetic with Alan and let him stay for months. But with Rebecca’s morning sickness and impending delivery, how long will Chris be patient with Alan?
Come Back to Me is a sequel to Astfalk’s first book in this series, Stay With Me. You can read it as a stand-alone, but it does help to return to the characters from the first book, and it is fascinating to see their development. Chris and Rebecca met and faced hurdles, and got married in the first story. The sequel is about Alan and Jamie, and also a friend of theirs named Megan. Her life is intertwined as she is still holding a torch for Chris, and her brother Tim is friends with Alan. Megan and Alan’s struggles with rejection, life choices, and alcohol make this an easy novel to read. Astfalk’s dialogue is snappy and made me finish the whole thing in one day. It is the kind of book that is so realistic and dramatic that you can’t put it down.
This is real romance, with all the pain, struggles, miscommunication between sexes, and self-sacrifice required to make any relationship work. Each of the characters has to change and grow, and their relationships with God are just as important as with each other. Alan and Jamie must face the question of baby-making, and they both want a child but they don’t know how to communicate it. Their jealousy of Chris and Rebecca turns into awe and the seeds of faith as they get to hold the baby after Rebecca’s delivery. Megan’s battle with alcohol makes it hard for her to accept her brother’s newfound sobriety, and his new faith, AND his new girlfriend. Dark moments in a cemetery bring Megan to her knees, but thankfully there is light at the end of the tunnel. Astfalk does a wonderful job of bringing her characters through major struggles to moments of inner peace. Trigger warning: there are realistic scenes of childbirth in this novel, though not gory. I recommend age 16 and up, and must add that it is good for teens to know what childbirth is like. Fear of the unknown is sometimes worse than the actual delivery, says the mom who has been through it eight times. This is a good book to give our daughters (and sons!) a grasp of what is required in a marriage, and how to be encouraging in difficult times.