I met Jeanette Windle in the spring of 2008, at a Heart of America Christian Writer’s Network mentoring retreat outside Kansas City. Though I’m not a member of HOACWN, a writer friend wanted to go to the retreat and invited me to join her.
I was working on The Story in the Stars and thought some knowledgeable, one-on-one input might be a worth the investment. Jeanette Windle was to be the mentor for aspiring novelists. We each provided her with a synopsis and sample chapters ahead of time so she’d be ready to give us personalized input.
I’d never heard of Jeanette before, perhaps in part because I usually avoided Christian fiction. So to help prepare for our meeting, I decided to read some of her work. I checked out her first novel, CrossFire, from the library. I also read what at that time was her most recent release, Betrayed.
Both of these were well-plotted, fast-moving stories. They demonstrated that Jeanette has knowledge of and insight into the realities of life in South America. But I must be honest; despite these books’ notable strengths, both of them disappointed me on a couple of levels. Most notably, they seemed to shrug off what, to my way of thinking, is a key function of Christian fiction: pointing the reader to Jesus Christ.
Mark Littleton met me at the airport. Along with a couple others, Angela was already in the van when I got in, and we had time to chat and get acquainted with one another while we drove in circles, waiting for Jeanette to join us. We finally found her, and while Mark loaded her luggage, she opened the passenger door and climbed into the van as I was running my mouth. I have no recollection what I was talking about; I was just babbling, as usual.
Jeanette gave me a glance as she took her seat. “You’re Yvonne.”
“And you’re Jeanette,” I said. “But how do you know who I am?”
She shrugged. “I read your manuscript. I recognize your voice.”
I decided right then, she must be brilliant. How could a person recognize another’s speaking voice, when all she’d ever known in the past was the speaker’s writing? And she’d only heard me talking for a matter of seconds. I still can’t answer that question, and the event remains in my memory as a “wow” moment.
But nowhere near as big or significant as the wow I experienced while reading the novel that was, at the time I met her, her current work in progress: Veiled Freedom, released by Tyndale in 2009.
When I met Jeanette, she’d recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan and still frothed over the things she’d seen and learned there. Seeing her passion for the subject, I wanted to read her book even though I hadn’t been wild about the two I’d already read. And eventually, after the release of her second in the series, Freedom’s Stand, I made it a point to check out the first of her Afghanistan stories.
I can’t begin to tell you how much better this book is than the other two of hers I read. Well, okay: where beauty of language and writing style is concerned, it’s only a little better. But the content? Breathtaking. The breadth and depth and power of the story not only exceeds that of the author’s other works, but is far superior to anything I’ve read by anyone recently. The issues that bothered me most in her other titles are resoundingly absent here.
But don’t take my word for it; I’m a know-nothing. Chuck Holton (former U.S. Army Black Beret, now a multi-published author), is in a better position to judge in a case like this. Here’s his assessment (this and all three of the following quotes are taken from the book’s endorsements): “If you’ve never been to Afghanistan, Veiled Freedom will put you there vividly. But be prepared: this novel pulls no punches—your comfortable sense of American cultural logic will be stripped away as Windle exposes the thorny issues that plague this ancient land. The result is a brutal but fascinating portrayal of life as it really is in this crossroads between east and west… It’s fiction, but just barely.”
Abdu Murray says: “Windle’s storytelling… is so vivid that I could practically feel the dust from Kabul’s streets on my skin…. This book is for the casual reader and the deep thinker alike.”
And Joe DeCree, retired Army Special Forces major and private security contractor, declares: “The technical aspects of the book are spot-on. Jeanette has the gift of making the complex cultural, political, and personal issues understandable and believable. She really understands how the multitude of subplots that are the central Asian states make life hard for both the citizenry and those trying to help.”
But what impresses me the most is the sensitive way she compares the tenets of Islam to the foundational truths of biblical Christianity. This story deals with critical issues that we cannot afford to ignore, and does so with amazing grace. Its sweet sound is just what this wretched world needs to hear.
Listen closely: This. Is. A. Good. Book. Read it. You’ll be better for it.