Book Review: Like A River from Its Course

15 Jul

41e1+XXAkIL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_An epic novel exposing the ugliness of war and the beauty of hope.

The city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler’s blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little—known history of Ukraine’s tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the “killing ditch.” He survives, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda is sixteen when German soldiers rape her. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned by her father, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust family and friends again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Hermann is sure in his knowledge that the Führer’s plans for domination are right and just. He is driven to succeed by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism. Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River from Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

kelli-stuart-sqKelli Stuart is a writer and a storyteller at heart. A graduate of Baylor University with a degree in English Professional Writing, and a minor in the Russian language, Kelli has honed her skills in the written word through editing, ghostwriting, blogging, and traveling the world. Kelli has a gift for languages that puts her at ease in other cultures, allowing her to view this creative life from the vantage point of mothers worldwide.

Kelli is a noted blogger and the writer behind the wildly popular blog Minivans Are She has traveled extensively, constantly honing her craft at weaving words into tales as she experiences life and the world. Kelli has written for, and represented, such brands as The Huffington Post, 5 Minutes for Mom,, Disney, American Girl, The MOB Society, Extraordinary Mommy, God Size Dreams, Short Fiction Break, and (in)courage. Kelli has also served as editor-in-chief for the St. Louis Bloggers Guild and as a board member for the St. Louis Women in Media.

In 2004, Kelli co-authored the book Dare 2B Wise: Ten Minute Devotions to Inspire Courageous Living (joint published between Focus on the Family and Simon and Schuster) with best selling author and well known speaker Dr. Joe White, director and owner of Kanakuk Kamps. In addition to editing numerous manuscripts, Kelli has worked steadily as a ghostwriter, helping others share their messages with the world.

In 2012, Kelli traveled to Tanzania with Compassion International as part of their blogging team to raise awareness on how the organization is benefiting children worldwide, and in 2014 she self-published the e-book 30 Days to Becoming a Writer, aivalable for free when you subscribe to her website.

In 2016, Kelli releases two books, both with Kregel Publications. The first, titled Like a River From Its Course, is a historical fiction novel set in World War II Soviet Ukraine, and the second, titled Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom, is a non-fiction book co-authored with Wendy Speake, and written to encourage and inspire creative mothers in their God-given gifts.

Kelli is a noted speaker, sharing her encouraging message to never give up on your dreams and passions with mothers who often feel lost in their mothering tasks. Kelli currently lives in Tampa, Florida with her perpetually patient husband and her four rambunctious children.


My Impressions:

Kelli Stuart has created a powerful novel that plunges the reader into the midst of war with all its terror and heartbreak. Like A River from Its Course details what was to me a little known aspect of WWII — the invasion and occupation of Ukraine by Nazi Germany. The first person accounts by four of its characters recall true stories told to the author during her research. While the book is dark, glimmers of courage, sacrifice, faith and hope shine to allow the triumph of good over evil. This one is a highly recommended read.

Four perspectives are shown in Like A River from Its Course — 2 female voices, 2 male, 3 Ukrainians, 1 German, 3 young people and one adult — making this novel a complete narrative of experiences during the years of Nazi occupation of Ukraine. There are good and bad actors on both sides of the conflict, blurring the lines of just who is an enemy. It is easy to blame institutional evil, but this novel puts a face on those who perpetrated cruelty and those who fought to retain their humanness. There is a recurring theme of father/child relationships and how they shape views of self and others. The contrasts are telling. Faith does not play a big role in the characters lives due to the nature of the Nazi and Soviet cultures of the time. But when the days of the war become desperate, seemingly without hope of any kind, some of the characters reach out to God to try to make sense of their worlds and to find a purpose for their pain. Other characters cling to the resolve to survive and others give in to the darkness that engulfs their worlds. I found the reactions of the characters very true to life.

Very well-written and extensively researched, Like A River from Its Course is literary fiction at its best. The unique first person, present tense perspective keeps the reader engaged and in the midst of the emotions, motives, and actions of the characters. Not necessarily an easy read due to the brutality exposed, it is, nevertheless, an important novel. Like A River from Its Course was a great introduction to a new to me author. I look forward to reading more from Kelli Stuart.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(Thanks to Kregel for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)


5 Responses to “Book Review: Like A River from Its Course”

  1. Carrie July 18, 2016 at 9:48 am #

    i love your thoughts on this – and the insights you picked out! How the range of ages/genders make this a complete narrative of experiences & the father/child relationships and contrasts.

    • rbclibrary July 18, 2016 at 10:16 am #

      This book was an eye opener in many ways. The many father/child relationships showed the important influence of father’s on their children’s lives. I kept thinking how Luda and Frederick’s lives may have been different if Alexi or Ivan had been their fathers. Thanks so much for commenting. Hope your dishwasher is fixed!

      • Carrie July 18, 2016 at 10:19 am #

        oh that’s so true… That didn’t even occur to me more than in passing while reading but you’re right. The book just gets better every time I think about it lol!

      • rbclibrary July 18, 2016 at 10:40 am #

        It keeps coming up in my thoughts and conversations too.


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