Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers, like all her books, is a finely crafted story which makes matters of faith an integral part of a compelling story. I've found no other Christian author who can create characters who so quickly draw me into a story and make me want to see them turn their lives around. Abra's tale is a female version of the Prodigal son set in 1950s California with a powerful twist. Abra did not leave home, demanding her birthright and forsaking her father. Instead the young teenager left a town and a family she felt was not truly hers. Within minutes of her birth beneath a lonely bridge, Abra was abandoned to the cold by a desperate mother who planned to take her own life. As the morning light first touches the town, Pastor Zeke Freeman on his morning walk feels the need to walk to the park by the bridge. There he hears the tiny mews of what he believes to be a kitten needing rescuing, but soon finds it is a newborn girl. Zeke and his wife, parents of one boy, have been told not to have more children because Marianne has a weak heart.
His wife immediately sees Abra as the second child that they cannot have. Fearing that Marianne is not strong enough to handle two children, Zeke wants the baby to go to another family in the town, but in the end gives in to his wife's wishes. The young family thrives, but Marianne's heart does not and she dies a few years later. Deep in mourning, Zeke makes the tough decision to place Abra with another family who formally adopts her. As Abra grows into her teens, she is blinded to the truth that she has a family that truly loves her, that Pastor Zeke and his son continue to love her, and in fact, the whole town cares for the little girl from the bridge. Instead she hears and believes her own internal story-- that she is so unworthy that she has been abandoned not once, but twice. Teenage angst and conflicts with her adopted sister thrust Abra into the arms of a handsome, but secretively abusive stranger who comes to town. Before anyone can realize how desperate Abra is, she has run away with the man.
Abra's years away from the family are not spent in a farmer's field, eating pig food. Some would say she becomes a Hollywood Cinderella, but readers know otherwise. We see behind the scenes and witness the cruelty her boyfriend bestows on her. When she is turned over to an agent, we get a taste of old 50s Hollywood when an agent and a film company are all controlling. Gone is every aspect of Abra, replaced by the Hollywood creation called Lena Scott. I liked this book as well as I liked the Marta Legacy series ( Her Mother's Hope and Her Daugther's Dream). I read so many books, and while I enjoy most while I read them, the majority soon leave my memory. Not Francine Rivers' books. The stories, the characters, and the lessons remain, long after I've closed the cover. And finishing one of her books is always met with mixed emotions, satisfied with the ending, but wishing there was more to read.