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If I Had You    by Deborah Bedford order for
If I Had You
by Deborah Bedford
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Nora and Ben Crabtree have had their hearts broken by their wayward daughter, Tess, many times. Rebelling against her strict and critical upbringing, Tess turned to drugs and a life on the run. Now Tess returns home, pregnant and seeking money for an abortion. Nora's belief in God is the only thing that stops her from encouraging the abortion, because in her heart she knows Tess will not be a reliable mother.

Now, pregnant with a baby that the child's father does not want, Tess is torn between the safety and comfort of her parents' home and the love she feels for her boyfriend. She manages to stay with her parents through the pregnancy, intending to give the baby up for adoption, but never quite gets around to choosing adoptive parents. After Tansy is born and the boyfriend shows up shortly afterwards, Tess decides to leave the baby with her parents and return to the love of her life. Will Tansy and Tess ever be reunited? Can the past that Nora has tried so hard to forget ever be laid to rest?

The novel paints a beautiful picture of God's love and forgiveness in situations that some consider beyond redemption. Nora, Ben, and Tess are realistically written characters who reflect the good and bad in any family. Nora's struggle with the past comes out in the way she acts in the present and is dealt with in a gentle, yet straightforward manner. The conflicts between Nora and Tess will hit close to home for many readers, even those who have good relationships with their parents.

The ending is a bit abrupt, but shows how God can bring good out of a bad situation. The main characters become familiar friends throughout this story, and the themes are relevant to the society we live in today. This is Christian fiction, but it does not sugarcoat reality. Abortion, drug use, gangs, and serious family discord are all discussed, yet placed within the cover of God's love. Deborah Bedford, author of many moving books, has written another gem that goes deep beneath the surface to provide authenticity and grace.

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