Lttle Charity, age six, has never known her father. That’s because her unmarried mother, Lizzie Engel, left the tiny little Mennonite community of Kingdom, Kansas, shortly after her birth. Settling in Kansas City, Lizzie first took a job as a waitress before joining the staff of Harbor House, a shelter for abused woman. But when the director, Sylvia, suffered a heart attack, she was replaced by Reba. It seems that Reba, jealous about her boyfriend’s perceived interest in Lizzie, has altered the books to make it appear that Lizzie embezzled money from the organization, forcing her to leave her employment in shame.
Worse, a strange man driving a beat-up car and wearing a baseball cap has been stalking Lizzie. Coincidentally — or
Broke and fearful for her own safety, as well as Charity’s, Lizzie has decided that she has no choice but to pack up and return to Kingdom in hopes that her abusive father, Matthew, one of the church elders, will allow her to move back into her parents’ home. But when she arrives back in Kingdom for the first time in five years, she is shocked by the changes she observes. Many of the buildings have been painted — some with the same bright colors some of the women have donned in place of their traditional long black dresses and prayer coverings! There are more vehicles in town than she ever saw there before, as well as a cozy little cafe.
Her mother is overjoyed to see her now twenty-three-year-old daughter and Charity, but will her father feel the same way? Will he allow her and Charity to remain or will she be forced to find other housing? If so, where will she go and how will she earn enough money to care for herself and Charity? More importantly, wherever they end up, will they be safe or will her mysterious stalker again find her? Who is he and what does he want from her? Is he responsible for the threats? And back in Kansas City, is Lizzie wanted for a crime she didn’t commit? If so, how will she ever clear her name and restore her reputation?
Author Nancy Mehl immediately sets the stage for the tense tale she is about to tell. At the outset, Lizzie Engel is forced to leave Harbor House in disgrace, already fearful for her safety and that of Charity. Mehl instantly draws readers into Lizzie’s plight, in part because her daughter, Charity, is quite intelligent, precocious, and utterly charming. It is quickly apparent that the self-conscience and insecure Lizzie is equally endearing. Without the unconditional love of her father, she fell into the arms of the first boy who showered her with romantic attention, became pregnant, and felt she had to leave Kingdom when her strict and boorish father labeled her as sinner who had shamed him. Worse, Charity’s father, Clay Troyer, abandoned her and his parents offered her money in exchange for aborting her unborn child. Although Lizzie’s mother loved her, she was an obedient wife who would not challenge her husband or his stalwart views.
Back in Kingdom, Lizzie quickly realizes how much she has learned in the intervening years. Most importantly, she has become a devoted, unflappable mother who is determined to provide a safe, happy life for her child. Gradually and realistically, she continues to mature and grow both in her faith and strength as she meets numerous challenges head-on and sees the myriad ways in which she previously misjudged both Kingdom and its residents, most of whom warmly embrace and welcome her home.
Noah, Lizzie’s childhood friend, is happiest to see her. Lizzie never knew, in part because he was too shy all those years ago to declare this feelings, how deeply he cared for her, believing that they were simply platonic pals. But she is suddenly clumsy and tongue-tied around him. Still, she cannot believe that he would want “damaged goods,” even though Charity is convinced that he is the personification of Sleeping Beauty’s Prince Philip. Lizzie is further confused by Clay’s sudden reappearance, and insistence that he regrets his behavior and is ready to be a father and provider.
Overshadowing every aspect of Lizzie’s new life in Kingdom, however, are the unresolved matters of the stalker, threats, and potential criminal charges. As she and Charity are befriended by Cora, the widowed owner of the diner, and she resumes her lifelong friendship with Hope, who runs her family’s local quit shop, Lizzie still does not know if she and Charity are safe from harm. Mehl cleverly keeps readers guessing as obvious solutions to Lizzie’s problems prove to be red herrings and the list of suspects seems to grow exponentially. Moreover, there is strife among the local Mennonite parishioners and Lizzie’s father is among a few men who have revolted, leaving the congregation and attempting to oust the pastor. Lizzie wonders just how far her father’s anger might cause him to stray from the strict Biblical principles he has always espoused.
inescapable is a surprisingly engrossing, action-packed thriller, as well as an exploration of whether it is possible to find one’s way home again after an extended absence during which so many things change, yet seem to stay the same. Mehl also explores the themes of redemption, forgiveness, and trust amid a captivating cast of supporting characters. The result is a delightful story about fresh perspectives, and finding inner strength, along with discerning one’s life purpose.