NEVER WITHOUT HOPE by Michelle Sutton is anything but the typical Christian romance. This is the story of one woman’s decent into an illicit love affair, despite the fact that she loves her husband and is a professing Christian. Hope is a passionate woman, and when her husband begins to pull away from her sexually and emotionally, she finds herself being drawn into a relationship with another man, against her better judgment.
Sutton does not pull any punches with this novel. Although not erotic, per se, her descriptions of Hope’s encounters with her lover are quite explicit. Written in first person, we get a glimpse into the deep emotional turmoil that she has put herself in. There were times when I felt extreme frustration – even anger - with the main character. She seemed to be on a continuous merry-go-round, going from dissatisfaction and unhappiness, to uncontrollable desire, to remorse, back to dissatisfaction again. Sometimes it almost seemed like the story wasn’t moving forward, but was trapped in this swirling vortex of conflicting emotion.
I suspect this sense of being trapped in a vicious cycle was exactly what author Michelle Sutton wanted, however. When Hope finally breaks the cycle by telling her husband about the affair, the book makes a major shift. In my view, the story actually peaks somewhere in the middle, with the climax or turning point coming with Hope’s decision to terminate her affair once and for all. However, even though this might seem like a long resolution by modern standards, I actually found this to be the most satisfying part of the read. In fact, the plot structure reminded me of a Shakespearean play – not a shabby comparison by any means.
This is not a book for the faint of heart. Readers who may be alarmed by sexual frankness will not enjoy this book. Similarly, if you want your Christian heroine to be above reproach, then this one is not for you. If you want an honest portrayal, however, with a superbly satisfying finale that oozes with the restorative power of God, then read NEVER WITHOUT HOPE. In my view, this is Michelle Sutton’s best work yet. It is full of depth and emotion, and the message of hope and redemption come across loud and clear.