Past Forward: an audiobook review with a wrong first impression

Past Forward by Chautona Havig is a story I never would have been drawn to initially. Not because of content simply due to the fact that it is a new author for me, it is volume 1 of 6, and to be honest the cover didn’t initially appeal to me. However I was wrong! This story is fantastic! I loved it on audio (I did increase the reading speed to 1.55) and I couldn’t get enough. I ended up starting right in on volume 2. So how could I have had such a differing first impression than my ultimate one of complete delight? I’ll share more!

The book follows the story of Willow Finley after she is left in the world alone to “fend for herself” captivated me from the very beginning. If you have ever read, or watched, the story Room by Emma Donoghue there are some interesting resemblances in this story. While Past Forward does not have the same issues foul language that Room uses, it does ultimately deal with the same mature content in a much different way. I was impressed with how Chauntona Havig dealt with such intense and mature themes with such mindfulness and caution. She didn’t remove the challenges of life that Willow or her mother faced, but she tackled them well and honestly.   I don’t want to spoil the story but the simple, limited way of life that almost stunts Willow as she is brought up on a completely self sustaining farm by a single mother with little to no exposure to the outside world led to very distinct results that left me reminded of the story in Room. I use the term “stunts” lightly as I can also see the life she had as a gift and an enhancement to how her mindset and heart was formed in a sheltered environment. Plus getting to see what freedom and choice gave to Willow was such a totally different and freeing outcome in this story that holds no comparison to Donoghue’s much darker tale.

As Willow navigates those first few days after her mother’s death and then as she plows ahead with her life, I was so intrigued not only by the main character’s charm and tenacity but how Havig weaves in the lives of other characters.

The plot was “simple” like Willow’s life and yet so totally complex beneath the surface. Willow’s small existence has a large impact on the lives of those she encounters and on their community at large. Havig created realistic internal battles, challenging and interesting relationship dynamics, and raised so many interesting concepts about modern day living.

Willow has such a different way of thinking and getting inside her head is a gift to the reader. I was particularly interested in the challenge that Willow faces with how the world treats time and the desire “to save time.” She herself doesn’t understand why you wouldn’t make something from scratch or create the thing you want start to finish. She is always saying “but what would I do with the time I saved?” This story and the characters in it has made me examine my own life and how I treat my time.

In many ways the story is “slow moving” and yet that is the total charm of it, the pace is exactly what held me completely captivated. I hope you’ll check out the giveaway below and grab a copy of the book, it’s totally charming and challenging all that the same time.

Also just to add in a couple reasons why I love a good audiobook…

  1. I can “read” while I garden or do chores. Anything that makes folding or doing dishes more enjoyable amiright?!
  2. I can increase or decrease speed as necessary – in this case I listened at an increased pace of 1.55x
  3. I can have an audiobook going at the same time as I’m reading the same book in print to increase my opportunities to read and finish that particular story, or I can have an audiobook going at the same time as a different book and because the format is so different I can keep easily differentiate and not mix up the two storylines.

Thanks to Celebrate Lit Bloggers for providing me a copy of volume one. I did have to grab the next volume myself, the “curse” of a great serial novel I guess, just can’t get enough! All the opinions expressed here are my own.

About the Book

Book: Past Forward

Author: Chautona Havig

Genre: Christian Fiction, Romance, Suspense

Release Date: April 19, 2017

Alone without friends or family to comfort her after the death of her mother, Willow Finley’s idyllic life is over—and just beginning.

The Finley women’s lives, while rich and full, aren’t easy. rejecting electricity and many other modern conveniences, they live purposefully and intentionally–alone and isolated from the world around them.

When Willow Finley awakes on a hot summer morning, she is unprepared for the grief that awaits her. Jerked from a life of isolation with her mother, Willow learns what alone really means when she finds her mother dead.

From the moment Willow arrives in the police station with her startling announcement, Chad Tesdall fights the friendship he knows he can’t avoid.

The Past Forward series opens with Willow’s life-changing discovery and gently guides the reader through aspects of her life–the past weaving through the present and into the future. Experience her first morning in church, her first movie, and the culture shock of her first trips to the city. A birthday party and a street faire add welcome diversion from butchering, canning, and the beating of area rugs. Disaster strikes. Will she choose to continue her simple life, or will an offer in the city change it all? Find out in this first volume.

Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Author

Chautona Havig lives in an oxymoron, escapes into imaginary worlds that look startlingly similar to ours and writes the stories that emerge. An irrepressible optimist, Chautona sees everything through a kaleidoscope of It’s a Wonderful Life sprinkled with fairy tales. Find her on the web and say howdy—if you can remember how to spell her name.

More from Chautona

How Did My Weird High School Years Inspire This Book?

December 1985. The time had finally come. After two months of living in a run-down motel in Rosamond, California, we were finally moving to our own place. Seventeen miles away.

Just off Highway 58, outside Mojave, California (about the place that Alton Gansky’s, Distant Memory opens), a huge billboard loomed. For the curious, it’s still there today. Aqueduct City.

For the record, there was no city. There still isn’t. Just a dirt road or three. Oh, and the aqueduct. In fact, that’s eventually how we got our water—stole it from the California aqueduct.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

At the edge of all those parcels lay our new land. Twenty-two acres of desert sand, creosote, sage, and a tiny, baby Joshua tree at the end of our long, U-shaped dirt driveway.

I took out that sucker with my first attempt at backing down the drive. It looked like a snake had slithered back and forth across the sandy strip of cleared dirt, and somehow I managed to run over the foot-high tree. It wasn’t often I managed to shock my mother speechless. That was one time. I now have mad back-upping skills. Thought you oughtta know.

On that land, my parents put an 18’ travel trailer.

We hauled in water in 55-gallon drum barrels—first from a friend’s house and later from that aqueduct. It was several miles closer. One of those barrels ended up on top of the trailer for showers. The water pressure depended on how full that sucker was. Navy showers? Ever had one? It goes like so:

  • Turn on water.
  • Make one slow turn under the water to get all wet.
  • Turn it off.
  • Lather up.
  • Shampoo hair.
  • Turn on water.
  • Turn off.
  • Work conditioner into hair.
  • Turn on water.
  • Turn off.
  • Get out.
  • Try to stop your teeth from chattering.

For the record, that chattering is no joke. When it’s twenty degrees out there, water gets cold. And we had no way to heat it.

Our plumbing also included a shovel. For… um… other plumbing needs. Winter was the worst and the best time for the call of nature. Worst because, well, 40 mph winds and twenty-degree weather. Best, because no snakes.

We used Coleman propane lanterns, a propane refrigerator (that sat outside our door), and eventually, a gas-powered generator. Once a week, Dad would fire that thing up so I could iron my church clothes. #darkages

For the curious, summer was blistering hot.

No fans (except for stiff cardboard we used arm-power to operate). No air conditioner. Not even a swamp cooler. Mom and I would go into town and read at the library when we just couldn’t take another minute in 112-degree desert heat. She’d drive me to Lancaster so I could go sit in an air-conditioned movie theater and watch another movie. If it came out in 1986 or 1987 and wasn’t pure smut, I probably saw it. Out of self-preservation.

Before long, I’d been relegated to the “porch.” That consisted of a redwood lattice “patio” enclosure in front of the trailer door. (For those who haven’t figured it out yet, I was the dictionary definition of “trailer trash” in some people’s books.) That space was eight feet wide and sixteen feet long.

I had a twin bed out there. When winter came, dad made sleeping out there more bearable by heating huge rocks in one of those 55-gallon drum barrels and wrapping them in old quilts. That went at the foot of my bed to keep my feet warm.

If only the wind hadn’t blown sand into my hair every night…

What does all of this have to do with Past Forward?

Just this. People have often asked why Willow would choose to live without electricity. Some have said you couldn’t live only five miles outside of town and be so isolated and reclusive.

I disagree.

We did it. By choice. Because it’s who my father is. And of all of my characters, Kari Finley, Willow’s mother, is the most like my father. The way Kari taught Willow? That’s exactly how Dad used to teach me—by making it a natural part of life.

I didn’t know it when I wrote the series, but Past Forward really does show exactly what kind of life my father would have chosen to live if he’d ever really considered it. The self-sustaining work, the emphasis on beauty, the isolation—all of it shows the kind of man I call Dad.

If you’d asked me as a kid what I thought of living out there in Mojave, I would have said I hated it. Not only that, I would have believed myself. But if you’d talked to me for a while, you would have figured out that I said that because I was expected to. No one thinks you’ll like living with almost nothing, in the middle of nowhere, especially as a teenager.

Looking back, though, I actually I liked it. Dad. Mom. Me. And Boozer, our dog. I’d tell you about her, but that’s a story for another day. Yeah, I liked my life there “out on the property,” as we called it.

Except for the Mojave green rattlesnakes. Not a fan of those. Not then or today.

Just sayin’.

Blog Stops

Through the Fire Blogs, May 15

A Reader’s Brain, May 15

Godly Book Reviews, May 16

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, May 17

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, May 17

Blogging With Carol, May 18

Inklings and notions, May 18

Bigreadersite, May 19

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, May 19

All-Of-a-kind Mom, May 20

Texas Book-aholic, May 20

Aryn The Libraryan, May 21

Quiet Workings, May 22

Retrospective Spines, May 22

Inspired by Fiction, May 23

Carpe Diem, May 24

For Him and My Family, May 25

janicesbookreviews, May 25

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, May 26

Rebekah’s Quill, May 27

Inspiration Clothesline, May 28


To celebrate her tour, Chautona is giving away a grand prize that includes a complete paperback set of Past Forward & a custom Past Forward Lavender Lemonade candle!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.


Facebook Comments Box

You may also like


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.