It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream—reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. But while Sam treks into the Himalayas for weeks at a time, finding passion and purpose in his work among the needy, Lauren and Ryan stay behind, their daily reality more taxing than inspiring. For them, what started as a calling begins to feel like the family’s undoing. At the peak of her isolation and disillusion, a friend from Lauren’s past enters her life again. But as her communication with Aidan intensifies, so does the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past. It’s thirteen-year-old Ryan who most keenly bears the brunt of her distraction. Intimate and bold, Of Stillness and Storm weaves profound dilemmas into a tale of troubled love and honorable intentions gone awry.
Lauren and her husband, Sam, are living in Nepal with their thirteen year old son, Ryan, for the purpose of doing missionary work. This project is a labor of love for Sam, who has a sort of frenetic excitement for each day's work, while Lauren and Ryan, though supportive, struggle with their daily grind.
As Sam is away in the villages of Nepal for days at a time, Lauren is left isolated with only her mostly silent, moody teenage son and her own inner thoughts for company. It is through these inner thoughts that the reader gets to know the story of Lauren & Sam and how the idea of the Nepal project came to be. We also get insight into the tiny fractures within this once solid marriage and why Lauren starts to question where her very life purpose truly lies.
"A heart unrisked is a heart unshared and yours is too good to waste."
All those years ago, Sam & Lauren met as college kids experiencing a semester abroad in Austria. She was drawn to his intelligence and flattered by his honest interest in who she was at her core. Fast forward to the current moment and Lauren is living a life she flatly describes as "sufficient", which is pretty much aka BLAND. She finds herself bored, lonely and maybe just a bit bitter over the sense that she is doing a lot of the grunt work in this relationship while Sam reaps the rewards of her devotion to him. Even the burden of finding the means to fund Sam's dreams tends to fall on Lauren to answer. But all that is about to be challenged.
It only takes one instance, one moment of weakness. Lauren receives an online private message (through FB, I believe, or something similar) from Aidan, an old friend of Lauren's from 20 years ago. The private messages continue and the friendship is gradually rekindled. As you can imagine, this can be tricky territory to manuever for a bored, lonely housewife desperate for attention.
From there, this novel essentially becomes a character study of people and what drives them, their desires, what's worth sacrificing / what's truly important, etc. When it comes to Sam, he seems like a decent, considerate guy with a strong moral code but BORING. The semantics-filled conversations bantered between him and Lauren nearly did my head in at times! There's just not much warmth to the guy, too serious and analytical to be very enticing to readers... to the point where you can almost understand the appeal in the dangerous territory that is Aidan.
Lauren's not the obvious winner either, though. She struck me as having very little backbone, but the kind of person that has to work to just barely contain their whistling teapot of emotions brewing inside. She holds things in until it eats away at her and then when there is a release it's in the form of anger, taken out on others. That said though, one of the aspects of the novel I was most touched by was Lauren's struggle to stay connected to her son and her frustration at not knowing how to stop the disconnect growing between them.
The setting for this novel is what first peaked my curiosity, as I don't often see fictional stories set in Nepal, a place I'd like to see for myself one day. While I do enjoy Phoenix's work with building the atmosphere, the plot itself didn't do much for me. As I mentioned, the conversations between Sam & Lauren were often a chore to push through and I didn't find either of them especially compelling. I did feel for Lauren when it came to her and her son and the emotional distance but that was about the only plot point that my interest stayed fully committed to to the very end.
FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.