The Nikki Arana File:
of As I Have Loved You
Reviewed by Sheryl Root
As I Have Loved You by Nikki Arana
"...a compassionate and compelling stand-alone novel."
Nikki Arana, author of the acclaimed Regalo Grande series, has written a compassionate and compelling stand-alone novel in her latest book, As I Have Loved You. It’s a story that will resonate with many readers—one of the joys and difficulties of family relationships and the often unexpected and painful consequences reaped when we try to orchestrate another person’s life, even when it is with the best of intentions.
Leigh Scott is a single mom who only wants the best for her son Jeff, diagnosed with ADD in the fourth grade. Since then, Leigh’s life has been run on a timetable; school, activities, homework … everything scheduled around when Jeff’s medications would allow him to focus. Leigh willingly puts her own needs on hold in order to give Jeff the best possible chance for a meaningful and productive life.
Jeff is now a twenty-one-year old college junior at the precipice of discovering all that life has to offer him. Leigh knows he must put all of his time and focus into finishing college. He can’t afford any distractions. When Jeff starts dating Jessica, a girl with a troubled past whose present isn’t very stable either, Leigh is immediately concerned. But when she voices her misgivings, it only puts distance between herself and her son. Jeff sees things in Jessica that no one else seems to, and his growing love for her will bring changes into all of their lives. However, while Leigh sees only the negative influence Jessica has in Jeff’s life, God and Jeff seem to see things differently. Can Leigh learn to see with God’s eyes and love with God’s heart rather than her own?
Nikki Arana creates characters I immediately empathized with—realistic and flawed, yet trying their hardest to know and serve God. As I Have Loved You is told from both Leigh and Jeff’s viewpoints and while I could understand Leigh’s desire to protect her son and do what she considered best for his life, I also identified with Jeff’s desire for marriage and a family, as well as his yearning for independence.
Jessica is an extremely complex character and, if written by a lesser author, one that would be easy to dislike. Yet Arana writes her with perfect pitch, sharing just enough insight into Jessica’s background and the motives behind her often self-serving actions to give the reader the same compassion for her that Jeff has.
The spiritual themes in this book—while overt—are not preachy, but woven into the lives of the characters naturally. Arana also tackles a topic not often written about in Christian fiction—the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life.
I came away from this book recognizing things in myself that weren’t always comfortable, but all the more grateful for God’s faithfulness and patience with his children. Nikki Arana is a unique and irresistible voice in Christian fiction.
Sheryl Root is Partner Database Manager at OneHope, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reach every child with God’s Word. She’s also a writer and a reader of everything she can get her hands on … books, blogs, magazines. In other words, she’s both a data geek and a book nerd. She loves to be able to support Christian authors and spread the word on great books and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a wonderful community of published and yet to be published writers. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sheryl_Root.