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As the Heavens Are Higher Review by Lisa Tanner

Courtenay Burden
Sheep Among Wolves Publishing

Some books you rush through while reading. But there are others that you read slowly and savor the story as you enjoy the plot and character development. For me, As the Heavens Are Higher fit into the latter category. It was a sweet story of faith, and it read almost like a vintage novel of old, without sounding old-fashioned.

This $14.99 paperback features 342 pages. There are 32 chapters, plus a preface and an epilogue. It is a bit larger in size than many paperbacks, but it is not so large that it is bulky or hard to hold while you are reading. I read through the book and would have no hesitation handing it to my pre-teen to read. It would also be appropriate to use as a family read-aloud. It is an inspirational historical fiction novel that many ages would enjoy.

The story follows Elizabeth Adelaide Westall, who goes by her middle name, Adelaide. She genuinely believes that God's ways are higher, and the theme of Isaiah 55:9 weaves throughout the pages. No matter what happens, even when it does not make sense, Adelaide trusts the Lord. And though the book shares scriptures and a growing faith, the words are not preachy or heavy-handed. Instead, it was woven gently through the entire novel in a natural way.

Courtney Burden, the author, has a talent for bringing characters to life. Her words made it easy to get a mental picture of the beautiful countryside where the novel is set and imagine all the characters interacting there.

And though the setting is picturesque, the characters do not live in an idyllic world without problems. There are real-life struggles and darkness, but through it all, Adelaide continues to trust God and let His light shine throughout her life.

The book opens with Adelaide at Chathill Station, waiting for her aunt's train to come in. There, she meets a young orphan boy named Richard Stone with a pet squirrel. The squirrel causes all sorts of trouble for the boy, and he asks if Adelaide would be able to take it home and keep it. She reluctantly agrees though she has no idea at the time how much this encounter would change her life.

Adelaide learns that Richard lives in the village with his two siblings. They share the small room they call home with another family of nine orphans, the Camerons. Altogether, a dozen people share a tiny space, with the older ones working hard to scrape in a few coins so they can survive. They have had a hard life since they joined forces and have had to move from place to place, searching for work.

The orphans' lives are painted in stark contrast to another featured character, the noble Lady Bradstock. She is dealing with grief and has shut herself up from the world in many ways, staying hidden away behind the grand gates of Highbank Castle, where she lives.

Throughout the story, the lives of these three families are intertwined in unexpected ways. Adelaide desires to do all she can to help the orphans, and as she does, you will be encouraged to see how her trust in God grows, and she learns that His ways really are higher and can bring light from darkness.

If you are looking for a sweet story of inspiration, I highly recommend As the Heavens Are Higher.

-Product review by Lisa Tanner, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2021