If I Were You: A Novel Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
From best-selling and eight-time Christy Award-winning author Lynn Austin comes a remarkable novel of sisterhood and self-discovery set against the backdrop of WWII.
1950. In the wake of the war, Audrey Clarkson leaves her manor house in England for a fresh start in America with her young son. As a widowed war bride, Audrey needs the support of her American in-laws, whom she has never met. But she arrives to find that her longtime friend Eve Dawson has been impersonating her for the past four years. Unraveling this deception will force Audrey and Eve’s secrets - and the complicated history of their friendship - to the surface.
1940. Eve and Audrey have been as different as two friends can be since the day they met at Wellingford Hall, where Eve’s mother served as a lady’s maid for Audrey’s mother. As young women, those differences become a polarizing force...until a greater threat - Nazi invasion - reunites them. With London facing relentless bombardment, Audrey and Eve join the fight as ambulance drivers, battling constant danger together. An American stationed in England brings dreams of a brighter future for Audrey, and the collapse of the class system gives Eve hope for a future with Audrey’s brother. But in the wake of devastating loss, both women must make life-altering decisions that will set in motion a web of lies and push them both to the breaking point long after the last bomb has fallen.
This sweeping story transports listeners to one of the most challenging eras of history to explore the deep, abiding power of faith and friendship to overcome more than we ever thought possible.
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 35 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||June 02, 2020|
|Publisher||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #9,544 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#12 in Christian Historical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#56 in World War II Historical Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#176 in Christian Historical Fiction (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on November 8, 2020
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Main characters Audrey and Eve are two of the best parts of If I Were You. Their friendship is a type I have seen before--the high-class society girl and the scullery maid (or sometimes, whatever the equivalent is). But Lynn made the friendship its own, by giving Audrey and Eve distinct personalities and ways to connect. For example, the braver Eve showing Audrey how to be courageous feels familiar. But the fact that she would do this by having Audrey hold dead beetles--objects used to bully her--is unique to them. The fact that Eve would comfort Audrey with strawberries is unique to them. So too, is the fact that Audrey would use her privilege and spoiled nature more often to Eve's advantage than her own.
I also loved how the friendship was asked, indeed required, to blossom or die in the course of World War II. The best and most enduring relationships don't get that way except through testing. But then again, how many of us can say we've sailed a boat across foreign, or at least unfamiliar, waters in wartime with our best friend? How many of us can say our friendship was tested because one of our mothers was killed in a bombing--because she wouldn't leave the other friend's totally self-absorbed mother? Scenes like that crop up often and are quite powerful. I enjoyed the way Eve and Audrey spent the book being pushed together, then pulled apart, over and over again. It could get a little wearing, but the fact that they remained steadfast always kept me interested.
World War II is clearly researched and done justice here, without being at all dry. The Blitz scenes in particular gave me a new respect for what the British people went through during those years. Audrey and Robert's relationship offered a fresh look at war brides (I particularly loved their hospital room wedding; if he marries you in a leg cast, during war, he obviously LOVES you. Swoon)! And, while Eve's actions weren't ideal--actually, sometimes Audrey's weren't either--they provided some good juxtaposition between the reality of human fragility, vs. the grace and mercy of God.
Finally, I liked how Lynn handled the issue of the haves and have nots without being preachy. That is, it's clear that Audrey is "victimized" in her privilege, but still has a lot to learn about real life. As another reviewer said, serving others because of a love for God is very different from treating people as "othered," which we shouldn't do. By the same token, Eve has every right to play the victim as the impoverished and disadvantaged half of the friends--and sometimes she does. But the lessons they learn about each other's lack or privilege come in organic ways, like when Audrey has to adjust to Army service or Eve realizes how love-starved Audrey is. These things are written in such a way that even 2020 readers can learn from them instead of saying, "Well, that's obvious, don't shove it down my throat."
So, with all that said, why only three stars? A big part of it is the length. Four hundred fifty-five pages to tell one, technically two, stories? I mean, I like long novels, but this one felt 150 pages too long. Especially during the last quarter, which I mostly skimmed, Lynn seemed to go over the same information and emotions again and again. Also, because I knew where and how Eve and Audrey would end up, sometimes the flashback scenes got boring.
I also feel that the switch between Eve and Audrey was unnecessary, or failing that, clumsily handled. Even knowing Eve was the pretender, I found myself getting confused as to who was supposed to be whom, when and where. The fact that the women named their sons Robbie and Bobby didn't help. It felt like they were trying to meld into one person or something, which just didn't work. Also, since so little time was spent in the 1950 arc, I felt like the story was "front-loaded" with the main conflict, an elephant nobody seemed to acknowledge the right way.
Finally, I felt the spiritual thread needed some work. There are some great moments, such as toward the end when all is forgiven...but that comes across as too neat, too tied up in a pretty bow. There are also moments where we're meant to understand Eve has a more solid faith than Audrey--but then she's the one expressing anger at God and having an affair. Again, it's realistic for what she's dealing with, but it also makes the story seem less about spirituality and redemption than survival on human terms. That is, neither woman seems too invested or interested in faith until the very end, so I felt cheated.
So again, if I were you, would I read this? Well, that's up to you. If you say yes, I can't say you'll regret it. I would, however, advise pacing yourself, and knowing what you will and will not get going in. There is a preview of Lynn's next book in the back, which sounds much better, though. So I haven't given up on her at all; this one just wasn't a favorite.
How we treat others matters more that we sometimes can ever know. Every day it is a choice we make to either love others or not. On this earth, some people are called to serve others while others are served, but NO ONE should EVER treat people as “others.” When we treat people like they are nothing more than commodities who serve our purposes, we go against God’s heart. In 2 Chronicles 21, Judah’s king is a man named Jehoram. In verse 20 it states, “Jehoram was thirty-two when he became king; he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. He died to no one’s regret.” Isn’t that awfully heartbreaking?! I know that when I die, I don’t want people to sigh a breath of relief and say, “Thank God!” Can you imagine no one caring when you die? King Jehoram must have really treated people awfully.
In If I Were You, there are two minor female characters. One is rich and one is poor. One treats others as if they were property. She is selfish towards them and she NEVER considers the welfare of others. This rich woman lives her life for herself alone. The poor woman happens to be this rich woman’s Lady’s Maid. She is warm, compassionate, long-suffering, and so wise. She is a very lovely woman and she cares a great deal for her boss. It actually confounds quite a few people that this lovely woman would love her boss. I’m not going to lie, there are a couple of moments in the novel where I questioned this lovely lady’s sentiment towards her wealthy, insufferable, hardhearted boss. What struck me so much about this pair is how others reacted after their deaths. The rich woman reminded me of King Jehoram. When she died very few shed a tear. But when the lovely Lady’s Maid died it really ripped everyone’s, including my own, heart out. It’s a devastating loss and people reacted accordingly. The lesson here is clear: no matter our station in life, we must treat ALL humans with dignity, kindness, and respect. Anything less makes us a Jehoram — a person whose leaving brings a sigh of relief to others. Is this the way you want others to feel when you leave a room, or God forbid, when you die? These two women definitely give the reader quite a bit of food for thought.
If I Were You by Lynn Austin is a marvelous story that I will not soon forget. This is a story that reaches into the reader’s heart and makes a lasting impression. I HIGHLY recommend this novel. You will not want to miss this beautiful story.
I received a copy of this novel in eBook form from Tyndale Fiction via NetGalley in order to review. I also received a paperback copy of this novel from Tyndale Fiction as well. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.