Sequels are a tricky business. They can enhance their predecessor or they can weaken it, especially if the first book was strong. Ideally, they demonstrate an improvement from prior books and offer more details about the characters and themes, depending on how the series is connected. This is one reason why I enjoy being able to begin a series at its inception and keep up with it as it grows. “The Inn at Hidden Run” opened the Tree of Life series and introduced readers to small-town Canyon Mines, Colorado, where Jillian and her father Nolan combine their professional talents to assimilate past and present.
Olivia Newport’s “In the Cradle Lies” intensifies some of the elements from the first book in the series, making this a commendable sequel. Even so, this book could be read as a stand-alone, although I would recommend reading the series in order to better understand the characters’ backgrounds. In spite of the cozy milieu, “In the Cradle Lies” reads much like a suspense novel, and I found it difficult to put down. The mystery is more ominous in this book, and the winter setting augments this. Jillian and Nolan remain the main protagonists, but I was glad to meet different secondary characters this time around in Jillian’s best friend, Kris, and the mysterious vacationer, Tucker. For quite a while I was not sure what to make of Tucker, who is tight-lipped about his life and who is obviously hiding something, yet is incredibly generous, his savoir-faire attitude blending with his strange reserve. As he learns, you can’t outrun your past. However, for those who have accepted Christ, the past is just that—the past—and we can trust in the One who knows us, loves us, and breaks the chains that enslave us. “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Intertwining the past and the present with her dual-timeline narrative, Newport demonstrates once again the substantial impact that our histories can have even decades later. Titling this series Tree of Life echoes with layers of meaning, particularly in this sequel. Aside from the obvious genealogical connection, I’m reminded of the eponymous tree in the Garden of Eden and how Adam and Eve’s disobedience led to their being denied its fruit yet also paved the way for the Savior. Also, cross-pollination serves as a metaphor in the narrative, alluding to the combination of the past and the present to form a stronger future and also to the subject of black-market baby snatching, taking a child from its original parents and transplanting them into another family. Although the faith element is very light, reconciliation is a solid subject, along with the realization that you cannot outrun either your past or God. Nolan observes that “[h]e couldn’t go back and change what he thought was right at a different point in time. But he could choose differently now.” The same is true for all of us, and because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection, no matter where we are in life’s journey or where we’ve come from, when we accept Jesus as Lord, He makes us new!
Recommended for those interested in genealogy, skiing, small-town life, father-daughter duos, and the criminal exploits of Georgia Tann, as well as fans of Liz Tolsma’s “The Pink Bonnet.”
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and CelebrateLit and was under no obligation to post a review. All opinions are my own.