Gentle suspense. Tortured heroes. Mischievous heroines.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jackie Dickerson says: "Loved the book!!!"

Shaken Blessings (Innocent Faith) [Kindle Edition]

Celeste Charlene

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Sandra Calbrin flies to Africa after a military coups to check on the orphans she sponsors and to collect shea nuts for beauty creams in her health spa. Urged by the pastor, she agrees to vaccinate infants.
Shocked by the often dangerous practices that parents in the region engage in, she struggles to prevent them from harming their children. To prove she can care for a child, Sandy takes in an abandoned baby and names her Blessing, hoping to break the child’s curse.

Unfamiliar with obscure customs, Sandy breaks local taboos, is accused of prostitution, and of having an illegitimate child. Blessing’s father demands money in exchange for his daughter. Selling children is illegal but returning Blessing to her father almost guarantees the infant’s death.

Military officers harass Sandy and refuse to renew her visa unless she consents to their unscrupulous ultimatums. Blessing’s relatives and the police officers pursue her with threats and immoral demands. They come after her like a pack of lions preying on a wildebeest.

When rebel soldiers take up arms and gunfire erupts in the village, Sandy and her baby Blessing are in danger. Since military officials and immigration authorities continue to terrorize her, who can help her and will she keep her Blessing?


Copyright 2013 © Celeste Charlene
Sandra Calbrin slid out of the bush taxi and rotated her neck to ease her nervousness. Her gaze wandered to the black and white sheep that peppered the pasture. Seeing fields of corn stalks swaying in the breeze, she relaxed. She grabbed the medical basket and her backpack. Squaring her shoulders, she took a few hesitant steps to the mud-brick church. Nursing in Africa appeared simpler than it had been in the States.
A small man with tribal scars came toward her. Dressed in filthy, torn pants, he carried an upside-down wooden table on his head and extended his dark, calloused hand. “Welcome to Koala. I am Pastor Paul. The measles epidemic started in the villages a hundred miles northwest of us. Many children died.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“My brothers live in that area and lost some of their children.”
“I hope no more little ones will pass away from the epidemic.” She fought down her fluttering stomach. “I brought enough vaccinations for all the children in this region.”
Pastor Paul raised his arms and grabbed the edges of the table. He took it off his head and turned it over as he set it down. “You can put the medicines on this. I am happy you came to help.”
She opened the basket and began setting bottles on the shaky table. Sandy raised her hand to shade her eyes from the sun. “I’ll record the vaccinations on the health cards, plot the weights on the graphs, and give a malaria prophylaxis during this visit. I agreed to establish the Under Five’s Clinics to treat the ill children as well as inoculate them.”
“We do not have cards. Did you bring them?”
“Yes, they’re in my basket.” A trickle of sweat slid down her spine. “But I’m not the best person for this job. I offered to hire another nurse, who spoke the local dialect, to vaccinate the infants, but she couldn’t come.”
“You are the right one for the job.”
Sandy had to be the only one for the huge task ahead of her. She couldn’t decline. No decent person would refuse to save children’s lives. Her mouth and eyes opened wider at the groups of mothers and infants who were coming from every direction. Could she treat patients again after the incidents in the hospital in the States? Her skin tingled, and she shuddered.
A large woman with black tattoos on her cheeks walked toward them. She took a bucket of water off her head and set it on the ground. The pastor bent down, picked up a large stone, and positioned it under the shortest table leg. He stood and adjusted the table to get it level. “This is my wife. She has given me four children in our five years of marriage.”
Most likely the pastor meant it as a compliment, but Sandy’s heart ached for the barefoot wife, who must work from sunup to sundown. Reproduction had to be her primary function.
“You must be a busy woman.” Sandy put out her hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
The wife nodded. She kept her mouth closed almost as if she couldn’t respond.
“Everyone in the village is a farmer.” Pastor Paul lifted his chin and beamed. “My wife works hard and goes with me to the fields every day. And she sings like a dove.”
The corners of Sandy’s lips twitched. She tilted her head away from the woman and toward the young men who carried wooden benches out of the church. Mothers with babies sat down. Sandy took the scale and tied it to a sturdy branch of the mango tree at eye level. A large pair of cotton pants, that could accommodate children from the size of a newborn to that of a three-year-old child, dangled from the swinging balance.
Picking up a treatment card, she squinted at the unique combination of letters. Opening and closing her mouth several times, she tried to form the words.
The pastor looked over her shoulder and shouted, “Salubatu Hemouwa.”
A mother came forward with her infant. Sandy’s gaze drifted over everyone’s soiled clothes. It looked as if the children hadn’t been bathed in weeks. She fixed her eyes on the bucket of water the pastor’s wife brought her to wash her hands between patients. Dust and maggots floated on top of it. No one could keep clean in such an environment.
“Pastor, where do people get their drinking water?”
“We get our water from the river. It’s closer to our homes than the well.”
“Do you boil your drinking water?”
“No one can waste firewood to boil water for drinking. We heat it to cook and bathe.”
What was the point of vaccinating babies if they could die from diarrhea, worms, and dysentery? She ran her fingers through her hair and flattened it behind her ears. Her chest tightened, but she’d do the best she could.

Celeste was a medical missionary for almost thirty years in West Africa. She has been a public speaker at missions conferences and in churches sharing her experiences. Shaken Blessings is her debut novel.
Visit her on the web at

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Plot June 5, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
Sandra Calbrin arrives in Africa after a military coup - with her designer jeans and high heeled shoes - to check on the five orphan girls she's sponsored and collect shea nuts for her line of beauty products. The trip would only last a few weeks, but little did she know she'd be there almost a year and escape with only a carry-on bag and her life.
Sandy had left nursing behind a decade ago to build her multi-million dollar health spa business, but a pastor convinces her to vaccinate the African children in the wake of an epidemic. She is shocked by the practices used to feed and bathe the babies and she fears the parents will only bring them harm. While at a hospital, she meets a baby girl whose mother had died. The child has been abandoned since and the villagers are sure the child is cursed.
The hospital official lets Sandy take the child who she names Blessing. Sandy wants to show the local parents how to care for their children using Blessing as an example. Sandy breaks local taboos and is confused by their unusual customs and is accused of prostitution then Blessing's father demands money from Sandy for his child.
The military officers continually harass Sandy telling her she is under investigation. They make her wait hours to receive the proper stamps to allow her passage among the villages where she treats the babies and the locals. When rebels try to take over the country, Sandy and Blessing are in grave danger.
Sandy realizes through her ordeals that she is strengthened in the Lord and must obey his will to survive, even if it means giving up everything that was once so precious to her.
Celeste Charlene writes a powerful story of growth and redemption. The situations in Africa are frighteningly real and found the main character in one dilemma after another, but rescued through God's saving grace.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A blessing to read August 28, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
The book is fiction, Christian fiction, but I suspect that a lot of it is from the experience of the author, who has been a missionary in the African bush. The parts that probably are from such experience -- they ring true -- are the culture of the African rural people, including their ignorance of hygiene, and their generosity; living far from civilization; and putting up with petty bureaucrats and police. The book doesn't put down Africans, or glorify them. It makes it clear that North American culture isn't perfect, either. We put way too much stock in our possessions.

No main character falls in love, not even close, so if that's what you want, this isn't for you. No one becomes a believer, except the protagonist, who either becomes one, or is restored, depending on how you look at it. In a sense, that's the plot of the book -- idealistic nurse goes to Africa to help others, and is helped herself. She finds a vital relationship with God, and that helps her out of all sorts of situations. God definitely guides her several times.

The book is well done technically. I found exactly one usage error, namely "reigns," which should have been "reins." There were a few too many episodes that were too much like each other, but they served to reinforce the difficulty of trying to help provide health in a primitive culture.

A fine first novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book January 1, 2014
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase
This was an excellent book because it truly tells the story of how life is in the country of Africa. This book is essential to any person who is interested in the life of Africa. If you are considering traveling to Africa either on vacation or as a Missionary then this book is of paramount importance in understanding their culture and ways. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book and bought two books so far.
This book is truly a diamond in the rough and should be cherished as such.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Read it! December 16, 2013
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This book is fascinating! The heroine is someone that is very relatable. Her "normal" life disappears and new one takes over. I love a good adventure story and this is it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Africa Through New Eyes December 8, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
This novel has its roots in the author’s experiences as a medical missionary and contains lots of details about life in an under-developed region in western Africa. Sandra Calbrin, a well-to-do owner of a health spa, travels there to check on orphans she helps support as well as gather supplies for beauty creams. A Christian who will have her faith tested over and over, she initially decides to stay to provide vaccinations to children. Over the course of her weeks in residence, not only does her charge expand to include additional health care and training but also an infant that she “adopts” and loves, named “Blessing.” The uncertain political climate, rife with physical danger and threats from the military, ultimately force her to make disturbing decisions, but not before she bolsters her beliefs and explores her own strength. This debut novel’s lure is its portrayal of rural communities in west Africa, its diversity of personalities, and the sharp differences between it and the U.S. culture. It could have been improved by filling out the back stories to some situations and smoothing out transitions, but anyone looking for a new perspective on contemporary west Africa will want to consider this novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the book!!! October 9, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
VERY GOOD BOOK!!!!! Her dedication to God is amazing. VERY interesting to read about the cultural differences and how she survived. Couldn't put it down because I had to find out what would happen next.

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