Able to be read either before or after Shattered Guilt, Kathleen Robison’s Revived Hope is the heartfelt prequel to her new Bay Town series. Releasing both within four months rounds out this debut and offers readers full insight into Melanie Thompson’s backstory. Although I initially thought that reading this series prologue as a follow-up to the first book seemed incongruous, it occurred to me that this is representative of how people are introduced to each other; they usually first meet in the present moment before relating their background stories. Furthermore, as the narrative progressed, I came to understand how this sequence highlights the working of God in the characters’ lives.
Taking readers to where Melanie and her daughter Lacey’s story begins in Southern California, Robison structures Revived Hope as a character-driven novella with a hint of the mystery element that comes to the forefront in Shattered Guilt. Although several of the characters do not continue on past this prequel, they all lay the groundwork for the ensuing themes and relationships. Melanie resonates with a wide audience because her challenges are universal in contemporary society: dealing with her ex-husband, raising her teenage daughter, confronting problems at work, and striving to prove herself. As is often the case with many of us, Melanie, in her endeavors to be self-sufficient, struggles to make her father proud, not realizing that doing so is unnecessary. Likewise, we can never earn our Heavenly Father’s love because He gives it freely; it is only up to us to accept it.
Robison does not shy away from difficult topics in the Bay Town series, but she handles them with sensitivity. In Revived Hope, there are mentions of past shame and current fear, as well as minor interpersonal conflict. The most prominent issue covered, however, is grief, and the author credibly portrays some of the complicated emotions associated with loss, including guilt. As Melanie comes to realize, “God’s grace humbled her. His grace showered her with…love, acceptance, and forgiveness.” In all of life’s heartaches and trials, God alone is able to shatter our guilt and revive our hope, if we are willing to trust Him.