The first thing I want to say is that this book SURPRISED ME. Not in a way I didn’t enjoy or was unpleasant, but in shockingly beautiful eye-opening sense. I thought I knew what this book was about. It was simple, clear-cut, no surprises, but boy was I wrong.
While on a church retreat to Manila to help the victims of the sex-trafficking industry, no one in the group expected anything would go wrong. But it does when the beautiful and vibrant Wren Morgan gets kidnapped during their last couple of days there. Luckily for her no one knows the streets, slums and the sex-trafficking industry better than Ex-Navy Seal Stone Pressfield, who’s been to Manila before on a rescue mission. When Wren goes missing, he vows to do whatever he can to get her back and bring her home, because Wren isn’t just another student and church-goer, she’s someone he’s close to and someone he has feelings for.
I’m not going to lie, at first I thought I had this book figured out, girl gets kidnapped, guy does whatever he can to save her and it plays through two POVs, one where she’s being tortured and raped and the other with the guy fighting his way to get to her. That’s what I thought it would be like because that’s how this book seemed to play in my head. It turned out this book was NOTHING LIKE THAT.
It starts off in the present with Wren waking up after being kidnapped, giving the reader a sense of dread and feeling the helplessness that she feels. It’s actually pretty daunting. Then it switches to several weeks leading up to the trip/retreat to Manila, where we get introduced to Stone Pressfield and Wren before the kidnapping occurs. We get a feel for the characters, for Wren’s good-hearted nature and Stone’s….hardened personality. Who can blame a guy after the things he’s seen and done? The rest of the story isn’t Stone’s mission to save her, it’s actually what they go through together, trying to avoid the men trying to recapture Wren.
At first I didn’t like Wren, probably because she was so sparkly and shiny and such a good person at the beginning of the book; I just couldn’t stand it. But I guess I wouldn’t like myself much if I was characterized in a novel, I’m not the most upstanding citizen either. But what I love about female characters is their ability to adapt and change to certain situations. When it came down to it Wren maned, or rather, ‘womaned up’ and did what was necessary to survive. She still had her morals and never betrayed herself, never gave up hope, and that’s something not a lot of people can do in what looks to be hopeless situations. I soon came to learn, respect and admire her, especially for what she does in the end.
Stone Pressfield is just your all around great guy. No complaints from me! He’s bad-ass, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to save Wren, and is just a MORALLY UPSTANDING CITIZEN. It’s just all that….MORAL FIBRE,and his wanting to do right by Wren, wanting her to have better even when he’s exactly what she deserves.
“That I can do.”
“Don’t let him get me again.” It was her last thought.
She heard him curse. “Never. Never.”
Blackness swarmed through her, sucked her under, and this time she welcomed it.
What I think I enjoyed most, surprisingly, is the amount of detail and research it must have taken to write this book. The knowledge of the sex trafficking industry in the Philippines and even in North America is thoroughly communicated as well as his knowledge of the Filipino lifestyle.
Tidbit – my parents are from the Philippines and lived in Tanauan City, pretty far south from where the novel takes place. But I’ve driven through Manila and have seen some of the slums and Mr. Wilder depicts it all exactly as I imagine it. Being a visitor there and clearly looking like I was not raised there, my cousin told me to keep to myself, stay with her, and don’t talk or look at anyone. All we did was get on a bus and right after we got off, get on a taxi in Manila to go to the Mall of Asia but thinking about it now made me pretty nervous too. Not being able to speak the language even though I could understand it was tremendously difficult. I’d heard about girls being kidnapped but it never really occurred or hit me on this level until I read this book.
I congratulate Mr. Wilder for his debut novel The Missionary and how thoroughly it exceeded my expectation. It’s truly an eye-opening book. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next.
5/5 Hearts of Love