One of my favorite allegories is John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, a picture of the Christian’s spiritual journey. (With a protagonist named Christian, too!) At the surface, it’s an adventure tale, but made more meaningful when we grasp the symbolism.
Another favorite is George Orwell’s Animal Farm, mirroring Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, and the Russian Revolution as animals rebel and take over the farm. Trying to develop a better society, the pigs rise to power and create their Seven Commandments. It goes downhill from there. It’s an entertaining though jarring fairy tale in and of itself—but the double meaning heightens the effect.
Each story alone functions well enough, but the allegory enriches them. Such is the case with Hosea’s Heart by Linda Wood Rondeau, based on the Biblical book of Hosea. In fact, it’s vital to view it through the lens of the prophet Hosea’s life.
Hosea’s entire life is an object lesson to show God’s rebellious people how He would both judge and redeem them. Despite their idolatry and despising His righteous ways, He would eventually restore them to Himself.
Therefore, God instructed his prophet to marry Gomer, a prostitute, a symbol of Israel’s unfaithfulness. He told Hosea to give their children names that spoke of judgment: Jezebel, meaning God Scatters, a daughter named No Mercy, and a son called Not My People.
Yet God still pursued them. He is a Covenant-keeping God, after all. And the name Hosea means Salvation.
Nowadays, we advise people to escape an abusive marriage. Perhaps rightly so in many cases. A marriage covenant has already been broken by the spouse who perpetrates abuse or gets lost in addictions. This is another reason to grasp the importance of allegory in Hosea’s Heart. The tale goes above and beyond what we see at face value. It points to a deeper truth, to the heart of God. And the reason why he chose the institution of marriage to symbolize Christ’s relationship to the church.
Millions of people have read Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love, including me. Her allegory is set in 1850 California, during the Gold Rush. Linda Wood Rondeau’s setting is contemporary, primarily in Washington, D.C.
Aside from the setting, I wondered how Linda’s version of Hosea’s plight would be different. I was surprised by a story with merit in its own right. Even if you think you don’t need another Hosea allegory, this is worth your time.
Back Cover Blurb
How much should a wronged husband forgive?
Aubrey Beaumont has spent the last fifteen years in search of his runaway, drug-addicted wife. Now a respected Silver Spring pastor and chaplain, ready to give up and move on, his life takes unexpected turns when she suddenly contacts him. Terminally ill and having found faith, she begs Aubrey’s forgiveness. How can he overlook her past prostitution and liaison with one of Washington’s most vicious drug lords?
Grateful for a chance at reconciliation, Joanna Beaumont prays that her seemingly wasted life might serve some purpose in her final days. Perhaps her testimony against her former lover’s cartel will bring her the peace she craves.
Joanna and Aubrey’s paths will crisscross the Capital District’s underworld where they discover how God weaves threads of failure into tapestries of hope.
Pastor Aubrey Beaumont’s three kids are all grown up now, and doing quite well, no thanks to his wife Joanna who left with her heroin addiction fifteen years ago and fell into prostitution.
After years of searching and not knowing whether his wife was alive or dead, Aubrey never expects to see Joanna again. So he’s shocked to discover she has requested a visit from him in the hospital. Turns out she’s dying from cancer, and also in a witness protection program, preparing to testify against a dangerous war lord in the Washington D.C. area. A man she’d been romantically involved with. But the most shocking thing is that she repented and found salvation. She finally wants to make her life count for something. And she craves reconciliation with Aubrey.
Aubrey wants to help her, but doing so could jeopardize his inner city ministry and his kids’ safety. There are other complicating factors, such as Cynthia, a woman he is attracted to; her father Percy and his memory lapses; and Aubrey’s best friend Gregg Fischer, a private detective.
This book is fast-paced, full of action and the emotions of complex characters with serious issues. Even though I knew the Biblical Hosea’s story, this tale was gripping, with unexpected twists and turns. The author’s wit abounds. No wonder her blog is called Snark & Sensibility. Additionally, everything wasn’t wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end, which I appreciated.
But best of all, this short novel effectively conveys the message of a relentless God, One who loves the unloveable. The shepherd who goes after one lost sheep, leaving behind the ninety-nine. The father who hears his child cry out for Him in the darkness, no matter how far away she is. Ultimately, this book conveys hope through the God of redemption and second chances.
Check out the book trailer for Hosea’s Heart here.
Join me for some Q & A with Linda Rondeau.
Questions about Hosea’s Heart
What inspired you to write a contemporary story patterned after the Old Testament prophet Hosea? Had you read Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love ? If so, how does yours compare?
Linda: As a social worker, I understood the power of addiction.
I was inspired to write a book showing the human side of drug addiction. I wanted to paint a character who wanted so much more for her life but could not rise above her addiction, not even a husband’s love for her, until she found God. I also wanted to show that no life is worthless. Through Joanna’s struggles, God led Aubrey to start a ministry to help those under the power of darkness to find freedom.
I had not read Francine River’s book, but I did see the movie based on her novel. Hosea’s Heart was written long before I saw the movie.
Considering all the different places and time periods you could have chosen to retell Hosea’s story, how and why did you select your particular setting and situation?
Linda: The setting is between Brattleboro, Vermont and Washington, D.C. Having lived in Northern New York, I was familiar with Vermont. In doing my research, I learned that due to its strategic nearness to Boston and New York City, Brattleboro became an artsy community and has a very different residency than rural Vermont.
My son lived near Eastern Blvd, near Washington, D.C. I surveyed the area and was touched by the poverty and drug infestation of the area. As a social worker, I learned that wrap around services, agencies working in tandem, have a much higher success rate in turning lives around than working independently. What if a minister, gifted as a counselor, developed this type of social work approach combined with restoration of the soul?
Where do your story ideas usually originate from—character, plot, setting, theme, or a combination? Share a couple of examples of how one of your stories grew from an initial idea.
Linda: My social work career is a huge factor in my story development. My theme is: With God’s intervention, our worst past becomes our best future. Many of the situations in my books are inspired through actual social work or life experiences. My Selah Award-nominated book, Miracle on Maple Street, was inspired through my relationship with a cousin.
As children, we were very close … like sisters. However, after leaving home for college, our worlds drifted apart. We reignited our close relationship about twenty-five years ago. Unlike my heroines, Sharon and I didn’t have an argument. But I grieved those lost years. I asked myself what circumstances might drive a wedge between cousins who as children dearly loved each other. In this instance, it was deep secrets. As a social worker I knew the damage family secrets can do.
This story employs multiple points of view. How did you select your main characters and whose perspectives to use?
Linda: I chose the various points of view from the characters most in conflict. I also wanted to use Joanna’s point of view to demonstrate her warring emotions from long-term drug addiction and the desire to find meaning and purpose for her life though struggling with terminal illness.
Aubrey’s point of view was chosen because he is the most changed through Joanna’s struggles. I chose Gregg’s point of view to show his prejudice against drug addicts and how his prejudice caused conflicts in his friendship with Aubrey. I chose Cynthia’s point of view to show that love can be found in unexpected places.
Did the plot stick to a pre-determined plan or did it evolve?
Linda: This book, as in most of my books, followed a basic plot outline, but I always leave room within my plot development for character growth. I have a skeleton, but the body formation evolves as the work progresses.
Questions about writing
What books have been most influential for you as a writer? Was there a book that sparked or confirmed your desire to be a novelist?
Linda: Though I write mostly issue-based contemporary fiction, I have written some speculative fiction and nonfiction books. I think perhaps the author who inspired me most is C.S. Lewis—particularly, The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity.
Other books that have haunted me are Fahrenheit 451, God is an Englishman, Centennial, The Grapes of Wrath, Old Yeller, The Yearling, Winter of Our Discontent, and the classics. I enjoy reading any genre that is well written from Space Opera to Biblical Fiction. I think this why I like to write in different genres.
Are you an outliner or a pantser? Share a little about your novel writing process, and the length of time it takes to complete a book.
Linda: I prefer to allow my stories to develop as I write. That said, I always know my basic plot points … those highlights that shape my characters’ development.
Please share something about a current project or the direction you want to go as an author.
Linda: My next release will be in the fall, a devotional book, Lessons Along the Way. Three volumes are planned. These are based on the many articles I wrote in my hometown newspaper religion page over a ten-year period. I expect to release a middle-grade sci-fi in early 2023. In addition, I have several novellas in the works.
I am retiring as a managing editor for Elk Lake Publishing, though I will continue to edit from time to time. I am changing my writing focus to more nonfiction and shorter works. I have enjoyed doing some freelance article writing and hope to do more of that in the future.
Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?
Linda: Don’t be in a hurry to publish. Take the time to learn not only about the craft but publishing opportunities. Start small with blog posts, either your own blog or guest appearances. Write for periodicals and hone your craft through writing every day in some form or another.
Join a critique group, go to writing conferences, and join online writing communities to help you understand the nature of the industry. Do not write for current market trends. Chances are the trends will change before you finish your manuscript. Write the story God gives you, and trust his timing.
Back to Laura . . . On a similar note . . .
If you enjoy Biblical fiction, you might enjoy my novel, Rain in the Wilderness. I’m seeking a publisher for it. Here’s the blurb:
One night in Bethlehem, Rebekah’s son is wrenched from her and killed in a massacre of infants ordered by Herod the Great. Thirty years later, as a widow with three grown children, she is still a victim of treachery as the Jews writhe under the oppressive Roman Empire. Her son Jonathan serves a Roman centurion in far off Galilee. Another son, Kaleb, awaits a warrior Messiah and loathes all things Roman, including his brother the traitor. Her kind son-in-law Malchus serves the unscrupulous high priest Caiaphas.
Who will free Israel from Rome’s heavy yoke? Where is the promised Messiah? At the center of controversy, Jesus of Nazareth seems an unlikely prospect. Ruthless debates unite his enemies while dividing Rebekah’s family. And why did Jesus survive the Bethlehem massacre while her own baby was killed?
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Linda Rondeau Bio
Award-winning author, Linda Wood Rondeau writes stories that grip the heart, inspired by her nearly thirty years of social work. When not writing or speaking, she enjoys the occasional round of golf, visiting museums, and taking walks with her best friend in life, her husband of forty-five years. The couple resides in Hagerstown, Maryland where both are active in their local church. She has won a Selah Award and has been a Carol Award finalist. She’s also a speaker and writing consultant, and blogs at Snark and Sensibility. Learn more on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Join me next time for a visit with Heidi Chiavaroli.
Meanwhile, have you read Hosea’s Heart? Do you enjoy reading allegories? Answer in the comments below.