Through Waters Deep is the first in the the Waves of Freedom series by Sarah Sundin. All of Sarah’s books so far have been set in the WWII era, and this one is no exception. I love how she weaves historical detail into the story.
It’s the time when Europe is involved heavily in combat but America has yet to join the fray. Strong feelings among the isolationists, who don’t want the US to get involved, and the interventionists, who do, run high and cause conflicts, especially at the Navy shipyard in Boston where Mary Stirling is a secretary. Minor problems increase until some people begin to suspect that they are deliberate acts of sabotage, but is it an isolationist or an interventionist, or one trying to frame the other in order to get sympathy for his side? Mary’s work takes her all over the premises and into various offices, and she hears a lot of talk. She decides to make notes in shorthand (which no one would suspect) in case she overhears anything useful. But when she shows her notes to the FBI, they dismiss them as gossip and hearsay.
At a ship’s christening, Mary runs into an old high school friend, Jim Avery, now an ensign in the Navy. They are both changed from what they remember: they had been the quiet ones of their group and Jim had pined away for someone who was in love with someone else, so they had not really known each other well, but as Mary shows him around Boston, they each realize there is more to the other than they thought. When a definite and dangerous act of sabotage is found aboard Jim’s ship, tensions and suspicions escalate.
One underlying issue Mary has to deal with is that she has a strong aversion to being the object of attention. She wants to avoid being prideful and self-promoting, but it is more than humility. As the story unfolds we find the reason for her reluctance and panic, and she wrestles with what it means to “let your light shine” yet not put yourself forward, along with not missing opportunities God would have her take due to her wanting to stay in the background. I found this aspect of her character fascinating because I have wrestled with some of the same issues, and I have never seen this addressed anywhere except just a bit in C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.
Jim describes himself as a “floater.” His two brothers who went into the Navy before him have ambitions to move up the ladder. Jim does not have that goal and just wants to float where the current of life takes him. He’s a hard worker and a caring person, yet has to realize his tendency to “float” looks like laziness and a lack of initiative. A good captain sees his potential and helps draw out his good points. That and the potential of missing opportunities in his relationship with Mary help him see that sometimes he needs to direct his steps, under God’s leadership and direction, rather than “floating.”
I’m not usually interested in romances just for the sake of romance, and Sarah’s books always go beyond just the romance to the deeper character issues as well as fleshing out what it might have been like to live in the setting. I love what Jim and Mary both had to learn and go through on their journey as well as the underlying mystery of the saboteur. Sarah does a great job conveying the feel of the times in the conversations and interactions of the various characters.
I loved this book, and I am looking forward to the next one in the series!
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)