‘Heart of Petra’ by Hilarey Johnson: A Review

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27 NIV).


(Click here or the picture above to buy).

About Heart of Petra (from Amazon):

She longed for adventure…the safe kind.

Twenty-year-old Leah Petra Jones calls out to God for an adventure, something more than life as the dutiful daughter of a worship pastor.

Only, in a church filled with secrets, adventure already waits.

At first sign of risk she reneges—but it’s too late. A handsome intern pastor helps the church transition right into a scheme where she is both prize and pawn. Petra learns that the most dangerous adventure can happen right in your own church.

About Hilarey Johnson (from Amazon):

Hilarey Johnson teaches martial arts in Idaho with her husband and three children. She keeps a larger than normal, urban garden with chickens. When she isn’t writing or getting lost, she loves to cook foreign foods and read redemptive fiction. Someday Hilarey hopes to time travel.

You can connect with Hilarey on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

My Review:

I give Heart of Petra by Hilarey Johnson 4.5 out of 5 stars.

One of the themes (for lack of a better word) in my life over the past month or so is seeking, encountering, and knowing God, so I’m not surprised I identified so much with Leah Petra Jones, the main character in this suspense novel by Hilarey Johnson.

Like all good formerly-homeschooled girls, Leah lives and works at home, under her father’s spiritual covering, waiting for a husband.  Even though she leads worship with her parents, she feels like she’s in a fishbowl, and she doesn’t connect with God.  She wants an adventure.  After her church undergoes a leadership change, Leah becomes a secretary at the church (with her father’s approval, of course), and she sees everyone is hiding something, and the protection she’s been raised to trust unquestioningly may not be what she thinks.

I can’t remember a time when I’ve been so impressed with the fact that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Sarahbeth Caplin’s Where There’s Smoke, actually).  Every character in Heart of Petra is a big, fat sinner, including Leah.  I really liked that about this book.

I also appreciated how Hilarey Johnson handled the theme of spiritual covering/protection and how it’s often used as a cloak for control and manipulation; how in the places we’re allegedly protected (and by we, I mean all good formerly-homeschooled girls) can come great pain.*

Finally, I really enjoyed Leah’s journey with worship.  As a former worship leader, I understand the “fishbowl” life, the difficulty of connecting with God while worrying about making sure everything is just right for everyone else.  I appreciated how Truitt guided Leah through the nuances of worshipping God in Spirit and in truth.

The only issue (thus the deducted half star) was that this book was not well-formatted.  I really loved the story (can’t say enough good things about it), but because of the formatting, I got lost in dialogue and events a few times.

Other than that, I’m calling all good Christian girls to read this book.  And while you’re at it, read Sovereign Ground.

I also want to include the link to an interview with Hilarey Johnson that really influenced my decision to read the Breaking Bonds books.

*A few words of my own on protection, after the accusations against Bill Gothard came out:

Protection has been the ideal around which I think this movement revolves, and it has at times been beaten over my head.  But you guys,  I’m disillusioned with this ideal.  I’ve come to believe based on studying God’s Word and personal experience, that it was never my dad’s job to protect me.  It was his job to train me up in the way I should go (Prov. 22:6), and he did;  it was his job to bring me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4), and he did; but I can’t find a verse that says it’s his job as my parent to protect me, much as he wants to.  God would never have placed such an impossible burden on my dad, or any other father out there. On one level or another, every man would fail. (By the way, just to be honest, I did not come to this particular conclusion overnight, but after a season of a great deal of anger toward my dad for not protecting me in certain areas – which I will maybe someday talk about, but not today).  I’m honestly angry that people still place this burden on husbands and fathers, and that wives and daughters and (to a lesser extent) sons lose their autonomy before God.