This is the story of triumphs and challenges of a family traversing the 1930s and beyond, a tale of survival and determination, hope and forgiveness. The Dekkers are a Dutch family transplanted from the Netherlands into the maturing culture of the Dutch East Indies, and the country transforms them — as they help influence the country.
Pieter Dekker is a man of courage and influence in his career of Chief Commissioner of Police for Batavia (later, Jakarta), the headquarters of all 17,000 islands in the verdant Dutch-ruled nation.
His eldest daughter, Diny Dekker, a tenacious, optimistic girl, matures during a revolutionary time. Her coming-of-age blossoms during the Second World War while in the Netherlands. The War shatters the Dekker family, separating them, but their hearts and spirits remain united. Diny faces uncertainty and the death of loved ones, yet places her trust in God.
Her story weaves the narrative of a life no longer at peace, and she must decide whether or not to return to the Indies. Can Diny find the paradise she once experienced? As much as the social atmosphere of the Dutch East Indies swirls and changes in Diny’s lifetime, so too do her own personal attitudes about life and love.
As she traverses three continents, Diny’s faith, forgiveness, and desire for redemption will have the reader cheering for her each step of the way.
A native of Southern California, Caroline Mertens moved to Colorado as a teen. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from Colorado Christian University in Denver. Her grandmother’s immigration tales of adventure, love, pain, and redemption provided ample amounts of hope, grace, and literary inspiration for her debut, In Those Other Lands.
After a season of work in the Netherlands, England, and France, Caroline returned to Colorado. Over the years, she has worked as a magazine editor, a professional writer, and an assistant to a Young Life director. However, her most fulfilling career is teaching high school English and Creative Writing. She strives to encourage teenagers to read what they love, and inspires her students to engage in purposeful creative writing. Caroline is passionate about traveling, cooking Indonesian food, and exploring Colorado with her family.
Based on her grandmother’s own story, Caroline Mertens has woven a complex story of grace and excitement that follows Diny from her childhood in Dutch Indonesia, where her father was the Chief Commissioner of Police for Batavia, to the Netherlands, where Diny remains throughout World War II. Full of adventure, Diny’s story is also one of uncertainty because of the uncertain times in which she lives; her childhood is idyllic until her family suffers a deep loss that changes each of them permanently and marks them with the pain of grief. But that is just the beginning—as the story unfolds, Diny and her family are confronted with different dilemmas that force them to face their own hearts and motivations; they must determine who they are and whom they will follow, and whether they will follow God and His calling on their hearts.
Diny is a young woman in the midst of a horrible war. We see her coming into womanhood, desiring love and marriage and children, idealizing life as young girls do. But those dreams are shattered when she and her family are separated from her father during the war and it is up to her to care for her ailing mother and provide basic needs to help them all simply survive. Diny wrestles with her faith in small, beautiful ways—will she trust God in the midst of the horrors she is now exposed to regularly? Will she choose to believe that God is still good and that His grace will still meet them while atrocities occur all around? And as they suffer more loss and life doesn’t turn out quite as expected and as Diny works to rebuild after the war, what will remain of her faith? Can it endure the changes of time, the struggles of reality, the disappointments and joys that await?
A work of grace and beauty, In Those Other Lands will encourage, challenge, and touch your heart deeply. Mertens communicates what it looks like to wrestle with faith in hard times as well as mundane times through Diny’s story, showing us the ordinariness of that struggle as well as the quiet glory of God’s pursuit of us. Mertens’ understanding of God’s love for His children, especially His daughters, pours forth from the pages in the form of God’s hand on Diny throughout her life, whatever her circumstances. Never overstated yet always clear, Mertens effectively shares the gospel message of God’s overflowing grace for His children. Her grandmother’s story is a rich, lovely illustration of a journey of faith, and Mertens surely does her grandmother proud by exemplifying God’s grace in her precious legacy.
The descriptions of Dutch Indonesia will transport you back to another time and another place, enchanting you with its warmth and smells and sights. You will feel like you are on the lawn in your white dress, anticipating nap time or tea time, an escape from the heat. And the descriptions of the Netherlands do the same—you will be convinced you have visited during the 1930s, ice skating and feeling the crisp air in winter, the brightly colored tulips blooming in spring, taking over winter’s gray. Mertens has a gift for vividly depicting places and people (and food!), mesmerizing her readers with her perfect, careful words that craft the most delightful scenes. I could close my eyes and picture the images perfectly as though I had seen photographs—I was lost in the pages of this eloquently described world that Mertens has made come alive through her extraordinary talent! And I utterly fell in love with Diny, immediately connecting with her sweetness and tenacity, her spunk and strength. Knowing this is a true story is the icing on the cake for me—Diny isn’t just some fun, fictional character; she is an actual person who lived this tough, impossible, redemptive story. God’s faithfulness to her is inspiring and humbling. And Diny’s faith is incredible—you won’t be the same after encountering this woman and her grace-filled story.
Mertens does not disappoint; she encourages, weaves redemption, and inspires through her uncommonly lovely gift of writing.