Book Review: Side by Side

6 May

Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. Hebrews 32:33

SidebySide300dpi-662x1024In the dusty, Islamic country of Sudan, Mia’s life collides with that of another young woman.
A young Christian American mother, Mia finds more than one dark secret on the streets of Khartoum. She finds Halimah, a young, upper-class Arab student with a bright future in her family’s business whose risky and secretive decision has put her life in danger. What happens when the path of a young mother intersects with that of a spunky Sudanese student? God transforms them both . . . forever.

Part of New Hope® Publishers’ contemporary missional fiction line, Side by Side opens the reader’s eyes to the life of Muslims in Sudan as well as some of the struggles that Christians face when living under Islamic law. The reader will be inspired to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith as well as pray for the salvation of those who persecute.


JKelley-299Jana Kelley is a Texan who hardly ever lives in Texas. Raised in Southeast Asia, Jana developed a love for cross-cultural living early in life. Her love for writing came soon after. Jana returned to Texas to attend college. She and her husband married a month after she graduated and by their second anniversary, they were living in a remote African town. Together with her husband and three boys, Jana enjoys travel and overseas living. After thirteen years in Africa and the Middle East, Jana and her family moved to Southeast Asia where they currently live.


My Impressions:

Mission-focused books can be some of the best reads. Inspired by real events and her experience on the mission field, Jana Kelley has created an insightful, moving and suspenseful novel that depicts the realities of life in an Islamic country. The reader gets it all in Side by Side — the sights and sounds of life in an exotic locale, the struggle to live as a foreigner in a country so alien from our own, and the spiritual oppression that hangs over the people. Main character Mia often wonders if Sudan is worth uprooting her family and living a life that is often lonely. At the end she and the reader know Sudan may not be worth it, but Jesus certainly is.

Mia and Michael have always dreamed of living in a foreign country to serve others and share the love of Christ. When they get their chance to move to Sudan, they are excited. But day to day life takes a toll on Mia. Her days are spent mostly in her home taking care of the kids, while Michael lives a life of excitement, making a difference. At least that is what she thinks. Halimah is a university student who attempts to be a good daughter in her Muslim family. But her life is transformed by the Injil, the New Testament, that she secretly reads. But becoming a Christian is not only illegal but could cost her life.

Side by Side has a great combination of setting, characters and plot. The dusty streets, crowded markets and the exotic scents became real as I read. I certainly identified with Mia as she fought feelings of loneliness, inadequacy and doubt. She gave me greater insight into what aid workers and missionaries experience when they leave their families and familiar surroundings behind. Halimah was truly inspiring as she gave up everything for her new found faith in Jesus. Their stories kept me turning the pages; the element of suspense making me hold my breath.

The novel is eye-opening on so many levels — the very real spiritual battle that Christians face, the oftentimes barbaric treatment of women in northern Africa and the Middle East, and the miraculous working of God. I highly recommend Side by Side.

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: older teens to adults. 

To purchase this book, click HERE

(Thanks to New Hope Publishers and LitFuse for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)