God’s Grace is Huge in Harsh Places

God’s Grace is Huge in Harsh Places

Review of  Under a Desert Sky: Redefining Hope, Beauty, and Faith in the Hardest Places

When a respected friend (Joan C. Webb) asked if I’d review a book about a woman’s personal journey with cancer, I was less than enthusiastic. (Blah) But, she’d do it for me, so I sucked it up and agreed. (I’m such a lovely, generous martyr.)

To my utter amazement this book has been difficult…not to read, but to put down. I haven’t walked this horrible road, but my husband and his entire family (mom, dad and sister) are very familiar. I haven’t lost a very close loved one to cancer. Yet. So, I presumed Lynne Hartke’s story would be sad and moving, but not anything that was meant for me.

I was so mistaken. She writes like an artist paints…with stunning colors, images that are sometimes clear and other times intentionally murky. This is much less a memoir and more a brilliant love story. She is so transparent about her relationship with God on her unexpected and unwanted journey- doubt, fear, anger, crushing grief, pure faith, sweet adoration and a few laughs are all in the mix or her many stories.

Hartke takes the reader along for her travels as she shares interesting life experiences, like hiking the Grand Canyon, wrangling rattle snakes and far-away trips. You will learn a lot about the desert I live in because much of her story takes place in Arizona.

The lovely and surprising twist is that (spoiler alert) right after she begins dealing with her own cancer diagnosis, she learns that both her parents are about to embark on their separate battles with the ugly disease. The roller coaster ride of caring for sick, aging parents across the country only enhances the value of the story.

You get to see what the truest of love looks like. You get to be a fly on the wall as she receives wisdom from her dad and learns from her mom how to trust God with her whole heart. You get schooled on how to face a huge challenge- with faith.

This isn’t a “poor me” story at all. It’s a model for how to walk through an impossibly tough situation with grace, joy and contentment, regardless of the cards you’re dealt. It’s a reminder that God’s grace is huge in harsh places. Hartke doesn’t let her life be defined by her challenges. She wants to keep being a loving wife, an active mom and a caring daughter. So she does.

She looks for the Lord- and finds Him- in nature, in pain, in all of the nooks and crannies of life.

You, like me, might not be battling cancer or some other incredibly difficult circumstance (at the moment), but don’t kid yourself into believing this how-to manual isn’t right for you. If you’re in the midst of a trial, you’ll find encouragement. If not, your faith will be uplifted and you’ll pave the way for when it’s your turn… and it will be your turn.

Buy this book. Give one to a friend. Read it and write a review that will inspire others to do the same. I give it my highest endorsement, and I’m not easy to impress. At the very least, you will not be bored.

When you read it, let me know if you agree with my review!




  • joancwebb

    Wow, Diane, this is a stellar review. Beautifully-written I might add. And I agree with you 120%! Everything you said about Lynne Hartke’s new book, Under a Desert Sky, is true. I’m so glad you were stunningly surprised! And thank you for diving into this adventure even though you weren’t sure about it. I’m so glad that you and Lynne have been able to connect. My heart is doing happy somersaults this morning now that I’ve read your review.

    • Diane Markins

      Joan, your opinion carries a lot of weight, but as mentioned, I didn’t know if this topic was for me. Man, I’m glad I didn’t decline. Lynne is a gifted writer and her journey is exquisitely conveyed…it really reminds the reader that God is everywhere we are!

  • Lynne Hartke

    Diane, I so appreciate this review and the encouraging thoughts you shared. I am so thankful you discovered hope in the pages and you saw Christ there, in all the difficult journey. Your words have breathed life to my soul. Thank you. – Lynne Hartke

    • Diane Markins

      I’m thrilled to discover such a wonderful resource. I plan to keep copies on hand to give to friends needing a bit of refreshed faith. 🙂

      • Lynne Hartke

        Thank you, Diane.

  • Thanks for this motivation and encouragement.