I feel like a time traveler who’s returned to the present day after a memorable visit to the late 1800’s. Without leaving the comfort of my home, Waves of Mercy brought me across the Atlantic ocean with Geesje De Jonge and her family. They are fleeing the Netherlands with their entire community in search of religious freedom in America. Every aspect of their journey was arduous, and the land that greeted them was untamed. When all manner of affliction assailed their small Dutch colony in western Michigan, they held fast to God — trusting.
1897 is the starting point for Anna Nicholson and Geesje’s stories. Readers gain insight into Anna’s life through her dreams as well as dialogue with other characters, like her mother and a hotel worker named Derk. On the other hand, Lynn Austin cleverly allows Geesje to write her life’s history (for us to read) at the request of her town’s Semi-Centennial Committee.
Waves of Mercy tossed my emotions about like a ship in a storm. In an overtly Christian novel where the people question their circumstance in relation to God’s goodness, His will, and their willingness/unwillingness to obey; the characters were relatable, yet not always admirable. At times I felt the story was about to be capsized by sadness, but my lasting takeaway was how all the trials produced perseverance and maturity of faith. Awash in history, complex characters, and highly emotive writing, Austin’s latest is not to be missed!
I received this book free of charge from the publisher. The opinions expressed are my own.
Q & A With Lynn Austin
What inspired you to write this particular story?
I grew up in the area of New York State that was originally owned and settled by the Dutch, and I visited Holland, MI for the first time when I attended Hope College. I was immediately impressed by how proud the community was of their faith and their Dutch heritage. My husband grew up in Holland, so when we decided to move back here two years ago, I began researching Holland’s history to see if it would make a good novel. It intrigued me to learn that the first Dutch settlers came here in 1846 for religious freedom after suffering persecution in the Netherlands. Since that’s true of so many other immigrant peoples over the years, I knew the story would resonate with many readers. I was very surprised to learn how much hardship these early settlers suffered in the process of founding this community. If nothing else, their story taught me not to take our religious freedom or the American Dream for granted.
Are the characters based on actual people?
The only “real” person in the story is Reverend (Dominie) Van Raalte, who led the Dutch immigrants to America in 1846. When researching the book, I read a collection of memoirs written by the first settlers, so I combined a lot of their stories when creating my characters. My main characters—Maarten, Geesje, and her family—are products of my imagination. No one by those names immigrated with the original settlers.
What is your favorite quote from the book?
It’s actually a promise from Jesus that the characters often refer to: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them . . . I give them eternal life . . . and no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
What do you hope readers will come away with after finishing Waves?
I hope they see what a close relationship with God is really like, and will learn to trust Him through the hard times and praise Him in all circumstances.
Which character from Waves is most like you and why? Which character most inspired you and why? And which was your polar opposite?
I suppose Geesje is somewhat like me because she dares to get angry with God and question why He allows pain and suffering. Geesje and I both know that a real relationship is an honest one—and besides, God knows that we’re angry, so we can’t really hide anything from Him! I was most inspired by Geesje’s parents—who didn’t question God, and were willing to do His will, even if that meant suffering. They also lived out their faith in their daily lives, no matter what. I’m probably least like Maarten, who never seemed to have doubts and lived a solid, consistent, Christian life, sacrificing for others.
Is it possible to get a small clue, say, the year of the setting on your current work in progress?
It’s about two wealthy sisters who live in Chicago in the late 1800s. They love to travel the world and seek adventure.