Author of the captivating novel “Side by Side,” Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend East Texas Baptist University. She and her husband married a month after she graduated, and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. After 13 years living in Africa and the Middle East, Jana, her husband, and their three boys moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live.
Michael and Mia Weston live in Sudan, Africa with their three children. Michael works as a project coordinator for the Kellar Hope Foundation. They had befriended a young woman named Halimah (her story is in the previous books) and led her to Christ Jesus. She and her sister are left with how to live out their belief in Jesus while living in an Islamic culture. Michael, Mia, and their children have become adjusted to the way of life in Sudan. However, the Sudan political climate has become intolerant to westerners.
The front cover nor the beginning pages explain Mercy Triumphs is the third book in a series. The back cover clued me in. It could be the publishers believe Mercy Triumphs, can be read as a stand alone and does not need the previous books to help tell the full story? Most books in a series state its place on the front cover giving the series number of the book. And, the series usually has its own title. I feel a bit lost not having read the first two books. I feel it would have helped the strength of the characters plight and circumstances, as well as the triumph at the conclusion.
The strength of the story is the setting or environment. The dire and complicated circumstances of the cultures of Sudan, and Islam, have a strong impact on the three female characters. Mia as an American woman has lived in Sudan for a while and has become accustomed to wearing appropriate clothing. She has also become accustomed to dealing with no electricity, the sand storms, limited shopping choices, not having secure medical care, and not having central air conditioning. She has adapted to the culture and standards of an Islamic Sudan. It is difficult for Mia to re-adjust to the American way of life. I feel this is a strong aspect of the story. It contrasts sharply with her American friends who take western life for granted. The two sisters are Halimah and Rania. They are faced with a decision about their new beliefs in Jesus Christ. Will they be able to worship Jesus or will they be forced to hide their Christian beliefs out of fear of death?
Mia has limited encounters with a few women in Sudan. What brings them together is their basic commonality: their role as mothers. I enjoyed this aspect of the story. Women, no matter where they live, if they are mothers, they have a strong link. Caring for their dearly loved children brings an instant connection.
Mia wants to share the gospel with the women she meets, but the Islamic culture and the women’s place in society prevents conversion.
The back cover of the book states, “Faced with harrowing circumstances.” I counted three times when the story began to feel tense with anxiety about a situation. However, the story does not stay at that point long. I feel the intention is to give closure to the trilogy. Mercy Triumphs is a Christian fiction book. Christian fiction backs off from causing too much tension and fear.