Nov 2, 2018

Characters Who Need God's Strength (Review of Soldier On and Author Giveaway)

Review by Rachel Kovaciny

Soldier On
By Vanessa Rasanen
Crab Apple Books (October 2, 2018)

This book is intense.  

Neither I nor my husband have ever been in the military, but I have several friends and relatives in various branches.  Because we live not that far from Washington, DC, and there are Marine, Air Force, and Army bases close by, a sizable percentage of the people who attend our church are either current or former military personnel.  So I can identify really well with this book in a second-hand way.

Meg Winters thinks she'll survive her husband Charlie's deployment to the Middle East just fine. She's been through deployments before. She's got good friends nearby, a warm and loving church family to help her, and besides, this is the modern day.  She can chat with her husband online, face to face, quite regularly.  It'll be a milk run.

Charlie Winters is a little disappointed that his main mission overseas is to drive convoy trucks back and forth.  He's been deployed before, and he has a lot of combat training and some combat experience.  He feels like he's being wasted on these boring truck routes.

That could all be a recipe for a cozy, sweet, cheerful look at how living through a deployment isn't so bad.  Or it could be the perfect ingredients for a story about the dangers of leaning on your own strength instead of God's and being careful what you wish for.  Rasanen chooses the later path, and Soldier On dives deep and dark fairly quickly.

As Meg slides into depression over past sins and present heartaches, Charlie feels haunted by his own past struggles and present boredom.  Throughout the story, both seek comfort and guidance from the Bible and their pastor, but both struggle mightily nonetheless.  Rasanen avoids trite, easy answers like, "Pray more and you'll feel better" and acknowledges that sometimes God's "peace that passes all understanding" is not something we'll physically feel or mentally understand in this life, but something we know waits for us in heaven.  She delves into serious problems like depression, guilt, and lying.

This story is haunting in its bare-knuckled honesty.  I had to set it aside while my husband was away on a business trip because, even though he was just attending a conference a few states away, the book was impacting me so much, it felt like I was trying to survive a deployment myself.  That is powerful, stirring writing. 

Throughout the book, the issue of vocation surfaces again and again.  Being a husband, wife, friend, soldier, mother, and neighbor are all touched out, and the characters work to fulfill their God-given roles in realistic ways.  And all of them are approached from a solidly Lutheran standpoint, which I greatly appreciated.

Don't let all my talk about realism and serious problems dissuade you from reading this book!  It ends happily, I promise.  It's the first book in a planned series, and I look forward to seeing what Rasanen writes next.

I received a complimentary advance copy from the author, and in no way did I agree to provide a glowing review in exchange.  These are my honest opinions.



Vanessa is holding a giveaway to celebrate the release of her new book. Enter below for your chance to win a cozy set of coffee, tea, mugs, and more.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can also find additional interviews, reviews, and blog posts on the list below.

Blog tour schedule:

October 30 - Review - Mary J Moerbe
October 31 - Review - Grit & Grace
November 1 - Review - Cammo Style Love
November 2 - Review - Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife 
and First Line Friday - Faithfully Bookish
November 3 - Interview - The Naptime Author
November 5 - Guest Post - Christian Shelf Esteem
November 6 - Review - Pure Joy Creative
November 7 - Review - Lights in a Dark World


Rachel Kovaciny was homeschooled K-12, graduated from Bethany Lutheran College with a BA in Liberal Arts, and promptly married her first and only boyfriend. She now lives in Virginia with her husband and their three homeschooled children. Rachel writes a monthly history column for the newspaper Prairie Times and bi-monthly articles for the online magazine Femnista.  She also blogs about books at The Edge of the Precipice and about movies, writing, and life at Hamlette's Soliloquy.  She won the 2016 Rooglewood Press contest with her Old West retelling of Sleeping Beauty, "The Man on the Buckskin Horse," which appears in the collection Five Magic Spindles.  Her 2017 book, Cloaked, was a finalist for the Peacemaker Award for Best YA/Children's Western Fiction, and her follow-up, Dancing and Doughnuts, is now available in paperback and e-book.  To learn more about Rachel and her writing, and to download a free short story, visit


  1. Thanks for the opportunity to review this, Vanessa Rasanen! I'm adding a paperback copy to my church's library as well as one to my own. Stunning debut <3 Congrats!

  2. You are right, Vanessa could have definitely taken the book another direction, but I love the raw honesty she used to touch on real and difficult subjects!

    1. I love that too! It's something we need more of in Christian fiction, I think.

  3. I’m glad I found you! I’m a Lutheran pastor’s wife.
    Thanks for the review.

    1. You're welcome, Paula! Hope you enjoy the posts you find here.

  4. "Pray more and you'll feel better." OH MY WORD THE ACCURACY THO

    *heavy sigh*

    I'm soooooooooooooooooo glad to know there's Christian fiction out there that treats depression seriously and doesn't pretend that prayer can "fix" it. Or that prayer is supposed to "fix" it. I will have to read this book, for sure.

    1. Jessica, yeah. I know. I mean, I've never struggled with major depression, just some pre-partum depression that went undiagnosed at the time, but there's definitely this idea out there that "if your faith is strong enough, you won't be depressed." Um, what? Do these people also think, "If your faith is strong enough, your cancer will leave?" "If your faith is strong enough, your alzheimers will go away?" Having an illness, be it mental or physical, has nothing to do with whether or not you have "enough" faith. Or any faith. It's a byproduct of sin's presence in our fallen world. God promises to be with you when you have hard times... which is kind of a guarantee that there will be hard times.

      I think you will love this book.

    2. I believe many people just don't want to admit it's a real illness. They think we can somehow 'control' it. News flash: WE CAN'T.

      I think I will, too! <3 I'm very excited.

  5. Love your review!!! I can’t wait to read this! ��
    Nicole H

    1. Thanks, Nicole! Hope you get as much out of this book as I did.

  6. This book sounds interesting and thought-provoking!

  7. Looks like such a great book! I'm going to have to check it out sometime soon!

    1. Gina, hope you get your hands on a copy soon. It's so good!


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