HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: When Calls the Heart: Canadian West #1
Author: Janette Oke
Cover Illustrator: Dan Thornberg
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers, republished 2005
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 12 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Oke, Janette. When Calls the Heart: Canadian West #1 (published in 1983 by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Bethany Fellowship Inc., 6820 Auto Club Rd., Minneapolis, MN 55438). It is 1910, and Elizabeth Marie Thatcher, nineteen, is a third grade schoolteacher who lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with her cultured family, made up of father Ephraim who is a wealthy merchant, mother Elizabeth, younger sister Julie, and younger brother Matthew. Her older half brother Jonathan has gone west to Calgary, Alberta, made his fortune in lumber, and started his family. Her older sisters Margaret and Ruthie have also married and left home. Elizabeth receives a letter from Jonathan inviting her west because of a need for schoolteachers. When she decides to go, Julie teases her about going west to find a rugged Mountie for a husband. Elizabeth firmly replies that her goal is to teach and not to get married.
However, when she sees a friend of her brother’s, Wynn Delaney, she is taken with him. Then, after settling in her position at Pine Springs out of Lacombe away from Calgary, she finds that Wynn lives there too. At first, she assumes that he is married and the father of one of her students, Phillip Delaney, but eventually learns that Wynn is Phillip’s unmarried uncle who is working on the family farm while Phillip’s father is in the hospital. Then Elizabeth really falls for him. But he is a Mountie who feels that his work is completely incompatible with marriage. Can Wynn’s mind be changed? And what will Elizabeth do? Will she stay in Pine Springs or return home to Toronto? Janette Oke’s books are always clean. The romance is pure and chaste, and imbedded in the story is an underlying faith in God with references to Bible reading, prayer, and churchgoing.
When Calls the Heart has a very sweet and satisfying conclusion, but the door is wide open for further action. I assume that the five additional books in the “Canadian West” series, When Comes the Spring (#2), When Breaks the Dawn (#3), When Hope Springs New (#4), Beyond the Gathering Storm (#5), and When Tomorrow Comes (#6), all continue the chronicle of Elizabeth, Wynn, and their families. We recently watched a Hallmark movie entitled When Calls the Heart which is loosely based on this book. Actually, the film is about Elizabeth’s niece, also named Elizabeth Thatcher, who reads her aunt’s diary and decides to follow her out west. Scenes from the aunt’s experiences are interwoven with those of the niece’s. This appears to be the basis for a second set of books, “Return to the Canadian West” by Janette Oke and her daughter Laurel Oke Logan, about the life of the younger Elizabeth, beginning with Where Courage Calls.