In late 1800s Kansas, redemption, compassion, love, and trust challenge characters in Kim Vogel Sawyer’s Through the Deep Waters to meet God in unprecedented ways as they discover who they are truly meant to be and how they are to live in their lives.
Veteran historical-fiction author Sawyer, a native of Kansas, brings readers to the Clifton Hotel in her latest novel. Through the Deep Waters begins in Chicago, as seventeen-year-old Dinah Hubley struggles to break free of the bonds of being born-and-raised in the brothel that employed her mother for Dinah’s entire life. Shortly before her mother’s death, Dinah is forced to make a decision that ultimately impacts her future both positively and negatively. Believing that making a new life for herself as Harvey girl—a celebrated waitress for a wealthy businessman that operates hotels and restaurants along major train lines—she relocates to Kansas to build a new life. In her search to find the respectability she lacked growing up at the brothel, Dinah realizes over time that the acceptance and compassion she so longs for can only come through God’s loving grace and redemption.
Amos Ackerman’s life is forever changed with Dinah Hubley’s arrival in Florence Kansas. A hard-working chicken farmer dedicated to making a successful life for himself, Amos and Dinah form an unlikely friendship through a mutual understanding that compassion and kindness are often the only offerings needed to be given to make a connection with another person. Amos’ greatest desire—to support and grow a loving family—is heightened by Dinah’s arrival because he believes that God’s plan for him involves Amos’ taking Dinah for a wife. However, as his plans frustratingly become more and more sidetracked, Amos has to consider that his wants and desires may not be what God has in mind for him.
Through the Deep Waters is an excellent novel for many reasons, but Sawyer excels most in her inspirational teachings of compassion, redemption, mercy, and God’s plans for His children. From the blunt yet gentle reminder of prostitution’s harsh realities to God’s simple and unfailing love for each person who gives their lives to Him, Sawyer could not make it any plainer in Through the Deep Waters that people do not need to be good to deserve God’s love. Dinah and Amos experience devastating circumstances and do not come to peaceful lives easily. Yet through their painful situations and subsequent lessons learned, readers find gentle Scriptural teachings that show not just the verses that explain God’s love but how to go about asking and receiving His mercy and redemption. Minor characters who offer unlimited support of friendship and Christian teachings make the lessons and questions believable as they share God’s Word with Dinah and Amos. Sawyer’s two main characters are wholly real because they constantly question, become frustrated and angry and passionate, and question what is going on in their lives as they thought they had situations—and God—figured out.
Amos, Dinah, and minor character Ruthie—who, although minor, actually plays a rather significant role in the novel—are loveable and challenging characters whom readers will instantly connect with in Through the Deep Waters because all of them are flawed but good people. Readers will hurt with Dinah for her painful past but hope for her to overcome the negative emotions to succeed as a potential Harvey girl. Dinah’s emotions are valid, but her refusal to connect with others becomes grating at later points in the novel. At some point it becomes wearisome to wonder whether Dinah will always hold onto her past…but the questioning is worth it come the ending of the novel. Amos is the quintessential hero who does not know how valuable he is as a friend and potential beau. A prince among men, readers will cheer for Amos as he tirelessly works to build up his chicken farm in preparation to take a wife and support a family. His frustration with romantic adventures will make readers cringe in disappointment as Amos struggles to find his way between who God wants him to love and the girl is actually the one for him. Dinah’s roommate and friend, Ruthie, is the friend that everyone has in their lifetime: the one who comforts, who supports, and who shares their family unconditionally…but who also becomes jealous at times and becomes frustrated when it seems that the other friend has all the blessings. Dinah and Ruthie’s friendship is one that all readers are blessed to share with another and with the characters of the novel.
Through the Deep Waters is an inspirational story of love, mercy, and redemption whose lessons will stay with readers long after the novel is finished being read. Sawyer’s writing is flawless—full sentences are used through the book, which doesn’t always happen in Christian fiction and is much appreciated by readers who prefer well-written prose over simplicity. The Christian lessons and Scripture verses are incorporated seamlessly into the plot and are easy to both understand within the content of the story and within personal lives. Sawyer’s choice of a setting—the Harvey girls’ hotel stories—is commendable because the history is not well-known. If readers are not previously known to Sawyer’s stories, Through the Deep Waters will have them hooked and wanting to read the author’s other novels.