Together for Good, the first fiction project from Melanie Dobson, is a novel that never tries to follow the formula for romance, reconciliation, or coming-of-age stories, but succeeds in incorporating elements of these genres into a solid, uniquely diverse book. Dobson’s heroine must confront twenty years’ worth of pain and anger at God concerning a long-ago teen pregnancy and adoption. Along the way, God’s perpetual hand on the characters involved is revealed in sometimes astonishing, always faith-affirming ways.
In Together for Good, Dobson initially engages the reader’s attention with a few well-chosen, dramatic elements that she develops into a driven, believable storyline holding solidly to the end of the book. Dobson subtly and naturally sets the story up for several surprises that challenge the reader’s initial guesses about the direction in which the story is heading. Secondary characters are well-developed and interact realistically with one another, with special commendation to Dobson for avoiding in her younger characters the clichés of speech and attitude that often plague teenage and young adult characters in fiction.
Readers follow the story of Abby Wagner, successful advertising executive and widowed mother of a college-age daughter. When Abby is recruited to work on a promotional campaign for the adoption agency that separated her from her son twenty years earlier, her life begins to fall apart as twenty years’ of pent-up grief and unanswered questions trigger problems in her relationships at work, with her daughter, and with God. Abby eventually is compelled to confront the loss of her son and to seek healing for the effects of that loss on her faith and her family.
The characters of Together for Good are refreshingly human. Though the four central characters are all Christians, none is portrayed as the “perfect” Christian. All struggle with keeping their work, relationships, and attitudes pleasing to Christ, and readers likely will find some of their own trouble areas mirrored in the situation of one of the characters. Abby’s internal struggles and her redemption process are very closely narrated throughout the book, which is helpful in following her personal growth from beginning to end, but which also has the effect of undermining the credibility of the climax of the book--the relatively quick resolution of the issue that has utterly absorbed the main character for almost three hundred pages feels a bit too easy when the reader has witnessed as much anguish and uncertainty and brokenness as Abby has displayed.
Together for Good is one of those satisfying novels that end neatly with the future happiness and well-being of each of the main characters assured, not because the author forced it to, but because she skillfully steered the story to the point where such an ending is welcome and believable. The quality of the book I found myself most appreciative of is that it never succumbs to any of the formulaic conventions that fiction, especially Christian fiction, often seems to be dictated by. A unique, edifying story following characters of varying ages that never limits itself to fit into a conventional romance or redemption category, Together for Good recommends itself to readers looking for a novel about people like themselves, learning to give God control of every area of their lives, and learning how to trust in His sovereignty when we suffer disappointment or loss. – Erin Buterbaugh, Christian Book Previews.com
When Scott and Abby Wagner welcomed home their baby boy, they envisioned their son's future—his first date, his high school graduation, going off to college. They never dreamed that Hunter would be ripped from their hearts four months later when his birthmother wanted him back. Now, twenty years later, Abby's past still haunts her. To find some peace of mind, she returns to her family's cottage on Orcas Island only to discover a miracle in the most unexpected place.