Harriet Beamer Takes The Bus – by Joyce Magnin (2012)

Harriet Beamer Takes The Bus

With an old-fashioned name like “Harriet”, you are correct in assuming that this novel is about an older woman. Yes, Harriet is a senior who has been widowed for a few years, then has her fourth bad fall at home. Her son Henry and daughter-in-law Prudence convince her to move into their home in Grass Valley, California. At this point, Harriet realizes that she has never really traveled anywhere (since her husband hated to go anywhere) or had any adventures, and this is her last chance to do something independently. She decides to skip the easy way to California (plane), and instead take the slow way, using public transit as much as possible.

Harriet zigzags across the country, going anywhere that sounds interesting. She carries nothing with her but a small rolling suitcase containing a few sets of clothes, a good credit card, and a brand-new smart phone to help her find lodging, food, and directions. The entire book is a delightful, humorous tale of the places she visits and the people she meets along the way. Most of her stops are enjoyable, although she hits a few snags. In each place she stops, Harriet looks for salt-and-pepper sets, talks to God and writes letters to her husband Max.

I loved the way Harriet tried to interact with everyone during her trip, young or old, no matter how different they seemed from her. She had the true spirit of Jesus in her as she talked to people. If you’re looking for a simple, fun read, look for this book at your local library!

 

 

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Jordan’s Crossing – by Randall Arthur (1993, 2003)

Jordan's Crossing

I read this book because it was highly recommended by someone I am close to. The story-line is about a man named Jordan who takes a position at a university in Germany that pays extremely well, which will enable him to pay off a rather large debt. His wife Susan, son, and daughter are all dead set against moving to a foreign country, but Jordan drags them there anyway. Nothing goes right. They have a terrible time finding housing, their plans to home-school their daughter are cancelled because it turns out to be illegal there, they have a hard time finding a church that they feel at home in, and Susan is lonely and depressed. Their son finds a nice girlfriend, but even that turns out badly when a gang of Jamaican drug dealers slits their son’s throat and gang-rapes the girlfriend. The rest of the book is mostly Jordan in a rage, vowing vengeance and trying to find the gang so that he can kill them.

What I liked about the book was the theme that God is with us, no matter how terrible the situation we may find ourselves in. The older man who had also lost members of his family kept trying to point them to God for strength, and for the ability to forgive and re-build their lives.

What I disliked about the book was the total grimness of the story-line from beginning to end. I’ve read plenty of books with sadness and depressing themes, but those books usually mixed in some happiness and lighter portions to balance it out. It’s called “comic relief”, and theatrical performances as well as movies and books use it to give the audience a break from the constant negativity. “Jordan’s Crossing” was just depressing from beginning to end. Although I finished the book, it would probably not be one I would recommend.

Almost Friends – by Philip Gulley (2006)

Almost Friends

Life goes on in this 6th book about the little Quaker Friends congregation in the town of Harmony. Sam has been the pastor for half a dozen years now, and he and his wife Barbara are in a comfortable routine. But as often happens, comfort is replaced with rotten tomatoes.

Sam’s father has a heart attack, followed by another heart attack. The Friends decide to give Sam three months off – with pay – to help take care of his father as he recovers. The church requests an interim pastor, and are sent a female! It’s Krista Riley’s first assignment, but she’s dreamed of being a minister since childhood and throws herself wholeheartedly into the job. The congregation absolutely falls in love with her, and Sam begins to wonder if they’ll want him back after his father is recovered.

Krista is on cloud nine – until the day that a church member sees her in a restaurant with a close friend, and mistakenly concludes that their temporary pastor is a lesbian. Rumors circulate throughout the church, and the entire congregation is in an uproar about what to do with Krista.

The author has his usual mix of humor and serious thought in this book. The subjects of homosexuality in the church, gossip, privacy versus the right of the congregation to know, evangelistic tactics to avoid, and jealousy are all brought up in “Almost Friends”. This novel will definitely give the reader many things to think about.

 

Edge Of Apocalypse – by Tim LaHaye & Craig Parshall (2010)

Edge Of Apocalypse

It had been awhile since I’d read an apocalyptic novel, and this one caught my eye as I browsed the shelves at my public library. It’s the first in a four-book series, “The End”. The novel begins with New York City nearly being obliterated by nuclear warheads fired by North Korea. The United States fights back with an experimental weapon invented by Joshua Jordan, and the city is saved. Suddenly every country on earth wants it. Congress demands the schematics for the weapon, which Joshua is loath to give out, lest it fall into the wrong hands. That begins the political struggle between those who see Joshua as a hero, and those who want him arrested and punished for refusing to share the technology with the country and its allies.

Although I would call the book a political thriller, it does also include a fair amount about Joshua’s relationships with God, his wife, and his son Cal. There is also a friend who is struggling with addiction to anti-depression medicine in the story. The themes of globalism and big media control are also woven into the story.

Author Tim LaHaye is best known for his “Left Behind” series, which I read back in the 90s, when it was on the New York bestseller’s list. This series seems relatively unknown. I have read one other book by the co-author, Craig Parshall – Trial By Ordeal – and found it very entertaining.
https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/trial-by-ordeal-by-craig-parshall-2006/

If you like reading end-of-the-world book, you might give this one a try.

Just Shy Of Harmony – by Philip Gulley (2001)

Just Shy Of Harmony

The story that began with “Home To Harmony” continues on in “Just Shy Of Harmony”. The first book was the feel-good one, the one that made you want to live in the quaint little town of Harmony. But the second book has a decidedly different feel about it. Life is not so rosy. Pastor Sam is underpaid, overworked, tired of tending to the problems of everyone, and is beginning to question if there is a God. During Sam’s spiritual crisis, other members of the congregation take over the Sunday morning preaching.

But Sam’s not the only having troubles. There’s Dale Hinshaw, who is trying to get his scripture-chicken-egg evangelism program off the ground. Jessie Peacock, through no effort of her own, has won millions of dollars in the lottery, but wants to refuse the money. Wayne Fleming is struggling to raise his kids after his wife Sally runs off, but is shocked when she returns and wants to just go back to normal.

Mixed in with the problems of the church folk are the heartwarming parts of the book, like when one of the women at church took Wayne’s children under her wing. Also very touching was when the women’s group from church took over the hospital kitchen to make homemade noodle and chicken for a woman who was a patient there. (That didn’t seem like something the health department would allow in real life, but hey, this is fiction.) And I loved that the church members were willing to anoint Sally with oil and lay hands on her in prayer, even though their church had never done that before.

Overall, I enjoyed this Philip Gulley novel just as much as the first one!

https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/home-to-harmony-by-philip-gulley-2002/

My Hands Came Away Red – by Lisa McKay (2007)

My Hands Came Away Red

What do you do when you’re 18, aren’t sure that you want to get more serious about your boyfriend, and haven’t a clue what to do with your life? You go on a mission trip. Cori commits to a ten-week assignment with a team of young people going to an island in Indonesia to help construct a church. First comes boot camp, to help the team learn the customs, language, and physical hardships of the task and area they will be going to.

Then it’s off to the island. The work is hard, but rewarding. They not only finish the construction project, but build close friendships with some of the islanders. Everything seems perfect – until the day that a conflict between differing religious groups boils over. At that point, the only option for the team is to run for their lives.

This book, although fictional, had an intensely real feel to it. It’s almost as if the author has lived the story, or is close to someone who went through a similar experience. The flavor of the book seemed like a cross between a couple other books I’ve read in the last few years – “If We Survive” by Andrew Klavan
https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/if-we-survive-by-andrew-klavan-2012/ and “Tomorrow When The War Began” by John Marsden.
This book had it all – great characters, deep friendships, lots of action, psychological terror, and spiritual struggle. I would highly recommend this novel to readers of almost any age.

Home To Harmony – by Philip Gulley (2000)

Home To Harmony

Welcome to the little town of Harmony! Sam Gardner grew up there, went away to college, and is now returning (with wife and kids) to be the pastor of the small Quaker church congregation. He’s getting re-acquainted with many of the people he knew as a child, and meeting new folks.

This book has a similar feel to the “Mitford” books written by Jan Karon, although the male characters are more dominant in this book. My favorite character – beside Sam of course – was Sam’s ancient male secretary, who didn’t always see so well but had a real heart for encouraging people around him. Reading about Harmony made me wish the town really existed so that I could visit it.

Excerpt from the first page:

“I liked living where I did, in Harmony. I liked that the Dairy Queen sold ice cream cones for a dime. I liked that I could ride my Schwinn Typhoon there without crossing Main Street, which my mother didn’t allow.

I liked that I lived four blocks from the Kroger grocery store, where every spring they stacked bags of peat moss out front. My brother and I would climb on the bags and vault from stack to stack. Once, on a particularly high leap, my brother hit the K in KROGER with his head, causing the neon tube to shatter. For the next year, the sign flashed ROGER, which we considered an amazing coincidence since that was my brother’s name. He liked to pass by at night and see his name in lights.”