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Lake Surrender

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Winner of 2016 Illumination Award Medal for Inspirational/Romance Fiction

Quicker than you can say "downsized, unemployed, and divorced," Ally Cervantes finds herself with the Pacific Ocean in her rearview mirror as she and her two children head to Lake Surrender in rural Northern Michigan to live with her aunt. The dry hills of California are a metaphor for her empty soul, but she can't afford to wallow in self-pity with an autistic son who can't make eye contact and a precocious twelve-year-old daughter counting on her to get it together.

With no other available jobs, Ally steps through the only open door for employment, working as head cook at a dilapidated Christian camp. Problem is, she doesn't cook and doesn't like religious fanatics.

But despite everything, she finds herself strangely hopeful as she learns her journey ends where the lake begins.

280 pages, Paperback

First published September 21, 2014

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About the author

Carol Grace Stratton

4 books21 followers
I have been a freelance writer of articles for years before I got my first break with my devotional, Changing Zip Codes.

My debut novel, Lake Surrender came from experiences I had in an autistic classroom as I learned to step into these children's world. I have a soft spot for single parents and parents of special needs children.

I also love camp and have had some significant life events happen at a camp. It seemed the perfect setting.

Although I've moved many times, my husband and I are currently in North Carolina, enjoying the mountains and learning to like livermush.

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5 stars
174 (55%)
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90 (28%)
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38 (12%)
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2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 52 reviews
Profile Image for Ashley Swindle.
1 review4 followers
April 25, 2019
I couldn’t put it down. Mrs. Stratton has a gift and I’m thrilled that she is sharing it with the world.
Profile Image for Victoria Scott.
203 reviews10 followers
July 19, 2016
I really enjoyed this book, despite it being a bit predictable. When Ally meets a man in a religious camp, I feel like you can see where it’s going. It’s a love story we’ve read a hundred times. But the camp setting, the divorce, and her son with autism all made this story unique.

Benjie was probably my most favourite aspect of the story. He’s a kid with autism, and a lot of Ally’s story centres around him. I volunteer with similar kids at school, and it’s really interesting to see how a kid like him is portrayed in a book. I think they did a pretty good job, and I really appreciate that! Yes, maybe his ending was a bit sugar coated, but the rest of his story was real and painful, and I think that’s important. He wasn’t a major part of the story, but he was there, so yay! Benjie was the reason Ally got her job at camp, and part of the reason she was divorced in the first place, so he was important to starting her whole story off. He was also adorable, which is a plus.

The religion thing was very well done too. It wasn’t shoved in our faces, I didn’t feel, but it was clear it was important to Ally and the rest of the people at camp. Yes, it helped her in the end to forgive etc, but it wasn’t vital to her story. She made a lot of choices on her own, and found happiness on her own or with other people, without putting everything down to Lake Surrender 1 (3)God. I like a religious story that isn’t condemning me for not being religious, and they’re all too rare, so I appreciated that.

The thing that kind of let it down for me was the romance. It was predictable, like I said before. I saw it coming from the beginning. However, I didn’t expect it to happen in the exact way it did, and it was a very long time coming. The ending had me awwwwing so much! Will was a sweetheart, and him and Ally really needed each other. It was done a little slowly for my taste, and it was definitely something I saw coming from the beginning. It was sweet, I just wish it had been done a little better. A faster romance might have kept me more hooked on the story too, instead of me finding my attention wandering a bit during the book.

I also wish the camp aspect had been explored a little more. It was there, and her job was important to her, but it could have been talked about in a bit more depth. I like a good camp story, and this could have made the book even better. Or, it could have been less important to making her become the person she was by the end. The religion that happened at camp was more important, and while that isn’t a bad thing, I feel like a book that talks about camp so much should have more camp stories. And maybe the drama could have had me more worried – although it did keep the story interesting!

Overall, I’m really happy with this book! It was sweet, and it was different.
7 reviews
August 4, 2015
I love everything about summer camp, so when I found out this story would partially take place at one, I was very excited to read it. It actually wasn’t quite as much “camp” as I’d expected or hoped for, and what followed was simple and predictable, romantic suspense story.
The story does start out strong, where you find the main character Ally just getting caught between a rock and a hard place. I won’t go into plot details, because you can read that elsewhere, but I can tell you that you are immediately drawn in to her predicament and the emotions that go with it.
As a parent of an autistic child myself, I found the author’s descriptions of autistic behaviors to be quite accurate and she captured the joys and exhaustion of parenting a disabled very child well. This is one area the author really shined and gave a realism that is often lacking when there is a disabled child in the story line.
However, the book was not without its problems. There were places where the author’s descriptions were a bit awkward or overdone. There were several times where I couldn’t quite picture the color the author intended, which actually bothered me more than if she had listed no color at all. There were many moments when the dialogue was not quite natural and felt a bit “canned”. There were also times when pieces of the story didn’t quite seem to line up – such as saying campers were swimming when just a page or two later it said campers weren’t coming until next week. There was also a time it mentioned Ally making grilled cheese for a camp lunch, but when the electricity went out that day, there was no bread for sandwiches (but there had been for grilled cheese?). These and several other mistakes really did interrupt the flow of my reading and enjoyment of the story. I am surprised that these sorts of errors made it past the beta-readers or an editor.
Overall, this book had a lot of promise and I think it could’ve delivered far better with one more pass through the office of a good editor.
A copy of this book was given to me in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Nancee.
650 reviews
December 28, 2015
Ally's losses continue to mount, a divorce, her home, and to top that off, her job. A single mom with no job, no home, and two children to raise, makes a life-changing decision. With her almost teen daughter and an autistic young son, she makes a big move toward healing and a new start in life. They leave San Francisco behind and move to Michigan to stay with Ally's aunt on Lake Surrender.

This is a debut novel for this author, and had I not known that fact I would have been amazed! This author's creative writing skills are remarkable. She has obviously done a lot of research regarding the topics that are broached in this touching story of this uprooted family. Her descriptions of an autistic young child are authentic and stirring. The challenges that are met in this heart wrenching story are poignant and realistic.

I could hardly wait for my reading time each day as I looked forward to what might happen next in this unpredictable novel. I look forward to more writing from Carol Grace Stratton, as I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Family is pivotal to this story, and the relationships within this family are emotional yet heartwarming.

I highly recommend this new author's touching novel. An emotional journey through the lives of a family stricken by hardship after hardship will open your mind and heart to the realities of life through the eyes of this talented author.
Profile Image for Teena Stewart.
Author 6 books10 followers
October 28, 2014
Ally Cervantes’ life is in the toilet. Her husband has bailed on their marriage partially due to the fact that he can’t handle being dad to an autistic son and partly because the passion has died. Ally has to sell her home in California at a loss and simultaneously loses her job as an editor for a book publisher. Not sure how else to make it, she takes her Aunt Nettie up on her offer to come stay with her in Michigan on Lake Surrender. Even then Ally can’t get a job in the publishing industry and she takes the only job available, that of camp cook.
As Ally tries to cope with her young son’s autism and difficult financial circumstances she draws closer to God and begins to have feelings for the camp director. Stratton doesn’t wave a magic wand and promise that struggles will go away, but she does give us courage to stay the course and believe that ultimately good will win out.
Profile Image for Janet Grunst.
Author 6 books41 followers
June 27, 2017
I enjoyed Lake Surrender on so many different levels. I lived in the area of California where part of the story takes place and am familiar with Michigan and Michiganders. I can attest the author got the nuances of both locations as well as the colloquialisms exactly right.
Everyone experiences trials and Ally Cervantes is in the midst of many hitting at the same time: divorce, single parenting, the challenges of an autistic child, job loss, losing her home, financial ruin and moving across the country. Sounds depressing but Lake Surrender is anything but that. It’s a story of reality, resilience, renewal, and redemption. Carol Stratton has created a tender story that doesn’t ever disappoint. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.
8 reviews
December 30, 2015
I really liked this book. It was a light quick read and kept me interested till the end. I enjoy happy endings and light romance and this book did not disappoint. I really didn't realize this was of Christian genre until well into the last half of the book. I loved the characters and how they interacted with each other. This reminded me of a Hallmark movie. I found it very interesting that it was set in Michigan near Traverse City and old mission peninsula since I have been to both places. It brought me back to the time that I was there.
Profile Image for Frankie Tipton.
15 reviews2 followers
December 6, 2021
I liked this book a lot about a newly single woman and her autistic child. Her budding teenage daughter didn't help the situation. This is Carol Stratton's first novel and it is a study into the problems of stress and anxiety after losing her high profile editor position, the sale of her San Francisco home, moving to Michigan and of resolution and redemption. This Christian novel is a wonderful book and would be good for a book club.
Profile Image for Ane Mulligan.
Author 13 books189 followers
October 19, 2015
I liked it, even if it was a bit suspenseful! lol I'm Queen of the Big Honkin' Chicken Club, but our book club read it, so I persevered, albeit trembling. If you're a mystery/suspense reader, you'll love it!!
Profile Image for Barbara.
741 reviews
August 1, 2017
This is a story that will stay with you long after you've read it. Do you feel like your life is spinning out of control? Do you not know where your next pay check is coming from? This story demonstrates how God answers prayers in surprising ways. If you think you like the life you now live, God may just have another idea for you. Embrace it. The rewards can be astonishing. The story is well told with well developed characters. It's easy to place yourself at the serene Lake Surrender.
763 reviews2 followers
May 21, 2021

I did not intend to like this book. I didn't like the selfish characters. I didnt like Bryan, I didnt like Ally, I didnt like her parents. All selfish! But when Ally, her kids, and at the end Bryan had all been transformed by the renewal of their minds (Rom. 12:1-2), I found myself liking them very much. The book takes the reader on a faith journey, and it is good. I recommend this book highly.
Profile Image for Lillie.
Author 22 books39 followers
May 14, 2018
A beautiful story of resilience, faith, love, and forgiveness. I loved the characters--they were flawed but amazing. The relationship between Ally and Will developed so naturally that they didn't even realize what was happening, and their care and love for both Benji and Bryan was touching--all this as Ally discovers and grows in faith. Aunt Nettie and Kylie are wonderful and believable as well.
May 2, 2020
I loved it! A great story of healing, romance and real life, of finding Jesus. I am passionate about camp ministry and loved the setting. Carol paints beautiful pictures with her descriptions, I felt like I experienced some time in Michigan. Beautiful read, I laughed and cried. Recommend!
488 reviews2 followers
May 14, 2017
So good I hated to see it end.

I definitely recommend this book. I enjoyed Ally's journey - both the physical and the spiritual. Will was a good match for her. I loved the children.
Profile Image for vicki.
10 reviews
July 16, 2017
Worthwhile Read!

Loved the characters. Since I'm originally from MI. I especially liked the locale. Uplifting story and shows it is never to late to turn your life over to God.
31 reviews
February 22, 2018
Lake suurrender

Quick u pick read Christian love Nd commitment. Family, trust, and realization of new Nd old values pop up, limericks in the spring. Overwritten.
Profile Image for Kimberly Poisso.
17 reviews1 follower
May 1, 2018
I loved this!

I loved this book! As a mom, it is relatable. As a human, it is relatable. All the struggles, and grace.......oh, just read it already!!!!
45 reviews
October 16, 2020
Definitely worth reading.

Nice relationship building storyline. ‘Didn’t see that coming’ a few times through kept you engaged throughout the book. Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Caprice.
276 reviews5 followers
February 25, 2017
A Beautiful Story of forgiveness and starting over

Lake Surrender by Carol Grace Stratton tells the story of Ally. She is recently divorced and caring for a twelve year old daughter and a six year old autistic son. At the beginning of the book, she feels like the world is crashing down on her. Not only has her marriage ended, but she has to sell the house because she can't afford it on her own. Then she gets devastating news - she is losing her job as an editor because the company is merging with a larger publishing company, and she is being downsized. After that blow, there is no way she can afford to live in the San Francisco Bay area. Her aunt, who lives in upper Michigan, offers to let Ally and her children live with her on beautiful Lake Surrender. After the move, the only job Ally can find is as the head cook for a summer camp located across the lake. There, she reconnects with a childhood playmate, Will. She also learns about God and his forgiveness. But will she ever be able to forgive the people who have hurt her?

I truly enjoyed reading this book. The characters are very well developed, as is the storyline. It isn't preachy like some Christian books I have read. Instead, it gradually introduces the concept of belief in God and Jesus. I also liked the book because of the information and compassionate understanding of autism. It showed the effect autism has on a family, in that one of the reasons for Ally's divorce was because her husband Bryan couldn't deal with having a special needs child. It also showed many of the typical responses people have towards autism, including kids making fun of Benji but also avoiding him because they are afraid they might catch it by association. One of the other responses was that Ally's mother thinks Benji should be institutionalized because she believes Ally can't handle the stress and responsibility.

One thing I didn't like about the book was that while it talked about beginning or building a relationship with God, it never really told how to begin that relationship, by believe, receive, and confess Jesus. It also didn't talk about being under conviction, which is where you can feel that God is calling you to repentance.

I would definitely recommend this book for women who enjoy Christian women's fiction. I would love to read more by this author.
Profile Image for Lisa Johnson.
2,598 reviews36 followers
May 11, 2015
Title: Lake Surrender
Author: Carol Grace Stratton
Website: http://www.amazon.com/Carol-Stratton/...
Pages: 280
Year: 2014
Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
My rating is 5+ stars out of 5
In the story, we are introduced to a woman who is losing her job, has two children with one being autistic and a looming divorce. The woman’s name is Ally and on top of all these changes, she must move as she is unable to keep her home with her diminishing income. A single aunt invites Ally to come to Michigan until she can figure out where life is going.
As I read this fictional story, I could easily imagine the stress of being a single parent on top of having a special needs child. Ally’s daughter, Kylie, loves her brother and feels the responsibility to help with him, losing out on some of her own activities at the young age of 12. I found it interesting that the family had no spiritual life whatsoever and didn’t at first even feel the need for God. Only when they all come to certain points in their journey through the maze of job searching, starting over, finding a place to settle and more were their hearts open to even hear about Jesus. I thought this is pretty much reflected in the lives we witness in our sphere of doing life.
The further I read, the more the tale developed and a mystery began to emerge around the camp grounds in Michigan where Ally resided. The straight forward manner in which Ally speaks to others brings some high praise from people and conflict with others. When the camp in Michigan needs a cook, Ally takes the job without any former experience. It was intriguing how her character handled the inner thoughts and feelings about her new level of employment.
Towards the end the climax rises as Ally must decide if she is going to live out her faith or instead hold on to unforgiveness in her heart. Sometimes in real life children have a way to help us choose what is right whether by challenging questions they ask or an action they take. The theme of selfless service, forgiveness and owning one’s own shortcomings is enlightening and rarely seen in some novels I have read. The book was enjoyable to sit and read and at times caused me to reflect on growing up with one of my siblings who is a special needs person. God used my sister to touch my heart and life in a way no other person can and that too is a truth reflected in the tale. Thanks Carol for writing a heart-gripping novel with compassion and care in showing how families may or may not stay together when raising a person who has special care needed their whole lives. Also for showing us that we cannot do anything without leaning completely on our Lord!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspo.... Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson...
Profile Image for Nadine Keels.
Author 40 books172 followers
July 28, 2016
After a brief look over the blurb, I expected author Carol Grace Stratton’s debut novel, Lake Surrender, would be a nice enough story, and for much of the book, I did indeed think the story was nice—divorced, laid-off, single mother Ally trying to get her life together during a relocation to Michigan—but somewhere around the last third of the book or so, it started getting amazing to me.

Not only is the novel’s romance and suspense well-paced but so are the gradual changes in Ally’s outlook and desires. Oh, how I empathized with Ally’s urge to slap her preteen daughter Kylie during a stormy argument, and it would’ve been easy for the author to make the girl nothing more than an adolescent brat, but instead, Kylie’s heart and wits play some key roles in the novel’s plot and message of forgiveness.

Also, given that Ally’s six-year-old son Benjie is autistic, again, it would’ve been easy to make a reader pity him for his struggles and excuse all of his outbursts, perhaps a little harder to touch on a reader’s compassion for him, but to make Benjie an admirable character, someone to really root for, is something else. Benjie got me so pumped, I had to step away from the book for a few minutes and box with the air like Rocky Balboa. And what’s more, the way Stratton takes the novel’s theme of forgiveness further than pat or surface answers is challenging and beautiful.

I don’t usually praise the publisher in my reviews, but having read three novels to date from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (including Chasing the Butterfly and Under the Silk Hibiscus) and finding something not-so-run-of-the-mill about them, I’ll understate my thoughts by saying that somebody at that publishing house knows what they’re doing.
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lori Wasson.
144 reviews
September 27, 2015
This book was about a single mom dealing with so much in her life....job loss, divorce, money issues, losing her home, raising a child with autism...when she ends up moving from California to Michigan to live with her aunt. She finds a job as a cook at a camp and gets so much more than she bargained for.

First, I really enjoyed the camp setting for the book. Camp has meant a lot to me off and on throughout my life and really liked that backdrop in the book. I also thought that the characters were portrayed realistically. Ally's struggles and emotions were portrayed in a very realistic manner...raising a child with autism on her home and her frustrations that her husband could not cope with the disability, issues that arose at her camp job, her job loss in California and subsequent concerns about money and finding a decent place to live. I loved how she stood up to her parents in the book when it came to her autistic child. I also loved reading about Will's testimony and how he came to know the Lord. I thought that the economy in Michigan was also portrayed very realistically, as well as Ally trying to get a job in Michigan in her field similar to the one she lost in California.

I also thought the book had something in it for everybody...romance, suspense, and going through life's difficulties and how the characters got through these tough times. I loved the themes of forgiveness and seeing Ally's struggle with forgiving her ex-husband throughout the book. The ending was pretty satisfying...with one unexpected turn towards the end of the book.

Overall, the book was well written and flowed nicely. It was easy to read and there weren't too many characters or sub-plots to keep track of. I would definitely read another book by this particular author.

I received this book for free from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Cindy Huff.
Author 7 books43 followers
October 4, 2014
Lake Surrender is a Soul Searching Read
Carol Grace Stratton’s debut Novel is full of aha moments and realistic challenges. The Cervantes family have many struggles to overcome. As newly divorced, Ally Cervantes finds life even harder. Her high-powered career as an Acquisition Editor for a children’s publisher is downsized out of existence, making it impossible to continue to live in her upscale home in Los Angeles. Transplanting her two children, autistic six year old Benjie and feisty 12 year old Kylie, to Northern Michigan is quite a culture shock.
It is the kind of shock the family needs. Faith, family struggles, along with mysteries and sabotage are sprinkled into the story line. Autism myths are smashed subtly as we watch Benjie interact with his new world.
Ally takes the only job available as cook at a Christian Camp. A humbling change for the independent heroine. Will, the camp director has a strong Christian faith but doesn’t always get things right. Together Ally and Will discover deep things about themselves, faith, and one another.
Once Ally realizes she can’t do things on her own, aha moments abound. Will’s misguided detours give a very human quality to his faith walk. Healing comes to the Cervantes family when Christ becomes their strength. I found the responses of the characters to each new revelation very relatable. Nothing preachy here. Believable scenarios and emotions. The final scenes tie all the details together seamlessly.
Lovely setting, believable characters, and a wonderful plot make Lake Surrender a must-have addition to your reading list. I look forward to more novels from Carol Grace Stratton.
326 reviews41 followers
December 12, 2014
As Carol Grace Stratton’s debut novel, this was one powerful story. Ally Cervantes, a children’s publisher for a high-powered Los Angelus publisher, has been divorced by her husband, left to sell her house, left to raise two children alone (one with autism), and down-sized from her job. With finances tight, she takes up her Aunt Nettie’s offer to stay in her cabin on Lake Surrender, MI, until she can find another publishing job.

Carol has laced her story with plots and subplots that keep the story popping from page one. The characters are realistic yet with flaws, just like the real world. Not finding a job in her field, Ally becomes a cook for a summer camp. This is where the story takes off flying. Suspense, romance, child-raising issues, and camp living becomes a never-ending host of surprises. Carol has pulled off a great novel. An author to be looking for in the near future.

Only one thing bothered me in the book. The cohesiveness from specific time lapses were a bit abrupt. A smoother tie-in would have made the book perfect for me.

This book was provided free from the author in exchange for my honest review. No monetary compensation was received for my review.
Profile Image for Norma.
Author 2 books232 followers
February 12, 2017
Lake Surrender is a million wonderful things wrapped into one amazing story. Carol Stratton portrays a a strong woman who faces loss with courage and loves with grace. Woven into her life are an almost-teen who needs reassurance and firmness, and an autistic son she showers with affection and tenderness. The story is filled with love, laughter, faith, struggle, and tears. You will surrender your heart to this touching story. I can't wait for more!
Profile Image for Elaine Cooper.
Author 12 books160 followers
February 10, 2016
"Lake Surrender" by Carol Stratton is a story that grabs you and pulls you from one chapter to the next as you root for the protagonist who is plagued by one heartache after another. Ally Cervantes is a California divorcee with an autistic child, a job loss due to the economy and few options left in her troubled life. She grabs the only lifeline she can: An offer by her aunt to bring her two children and live with her in the cottage on Lake Surrender, Michigan. Things go from bad to worse as Ally struggles to survive and provide for her family.

The realistic emotions that the author portrays in Ally and the metamorphosis and growth in the characters ring true. The precious character of the autistic child and the pressure felt by the older daughter to be "the second Mom" will resonate for many a parent of a special needs child. Not everything in life goes as wished for or planned. Yet God often uses these difficulties to draw us to Him and bring healing.

"Lake Surrender" is a read that is well written and well worth your time.
Profile Image for Beth Ann.
467 reviews26 followers
October 24, 2014
This book was recommended to me by a friend and I snagged it in a Kindle sale so was happy to add it to my collection. It was a quick read and while it is a Christian book it is not one of those in your face Christian books that gets obnoxious.
The story centers around a family with newly divorced parents who have two children--one autistic which adds another dimension to the story. The eventual relocation of the mom and children from California to Michigan because of downsizing in both the family and in the workplace puts all of the members in a bit of a tailspin for awhile but as the book unfolds the choices that are made along the way are clearly on the right path.
I enjoyed reading this book and think it is a good one for anyone who wants a bit of a lift in their reading material.
Profile Image for Fire.
421 reviews2 followers
March 28, 2015
Ally is a single mother of two. Her teenage daughter is growing up too fast and her son has autism. Trials with her son drove her and her husband apart. Ally works as an editor for a publisher until one day she is laid off due to downsizing at her company. With two kids she was already stretched thin and has to sell her home for a loss and move into her aunt's cabin at Lake Surrender.

Ally finds temporary work at a Christian summer camp as a cook. As the summer passes she learns a lot about who she is and what she wants in life. Strange things start happen at the camp and the cause is unclear. Will the camp have to be shut down? Will she lose another job?

I really enjoyed Lake Surrender and I can't wait to see what Stratton comes up with next. 5 Stars!
Profile Image for Beth.
91 reviews3 followers
July 25, 2016
I was blown away by this book. Usually it takes a good mystery/thriller to make it hard for me to put down. This book was so good, I read late into the night(er, morning) and read more before getting out of bed when I should have been up and going. Ally's life has been torn upside down with a divorce, job loss and moving herself and two children from all they new in California to Lake Surrender, Michigan.Her daughter, twelve-year-old Kylie, does not like leaving her friends. Six-year-old Banjie is a challenge because he is autistic. I enjoyed how the story wove around the interactions of the characters and the progress made with Benjie. Not having worked with autistic children, I don't know how believable the progress was, but I know that with God all things are possible.
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