Allie starts life with her aunt and uncle in the middle of the woods, and after years of tumult, finally begins to find joy, friendship, and maybe love when she opens her heart to God and her enormous potential as an artist.
Allison Cooper lives with her Aunt Harriet and Uncle Deb in the woods. Uncle Deb is an extremely conservative veteran who suffers from PTSD. He loves Allie but is also harsh and domineering. When Allie is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, her school recommends a less isolated life—advice Deb ignores, leaving Allie to spend hours alone in the forest developing a natural artistic talent by painting woodland creatures. Bullied at school, she makes one friend, George, and wins a prestigious art contest that leads to a scholarship. Before she leaves, her uncle dies, so she and Harriet move to Chicago to live with mean, miserly Trag, Harriet’s stepfather. Allie is relieved to leave for a Denver art school and get a fresh start, but God has a few more surprises. The school is a huge disappointment, but she is taken in by a friendly family who owns a gallery and thinks she may be falling in love with their son, David. Meanwhile her art gets noticed in other places, especially thanks to her childhood friend, George, who makes her question what true love looks like and if, perhaps, it’s George, not David, who deserves her heart. Author Wittlif presents an interesting and compelling character in Allie and weaves a message of God’s love and protection into a story full of angst and roller-coaster highs and lows. Unfortunately, though, the simplistic writing style and naïve worldview blunt the drama of the narrative. (Does anyone in this world ask questions or do research? Do gallery owners just walk out and leave someone they barely know alone in their shop? etc.) Huge things happen, but Allie barely reacts before she’s dealing with the next windfall or tragedy, and the continuous references to God as caretaker make that concept feel somewhat derivative and oversimplified, too.
Allie’s journey will charm Christian audiences looking for a sweet, faith-bolstering romance, if they can forgive some amateurish flaws in the writing and storytelling.