A Walk To Remember – by Nicholas Sparks (1999)

A Walk To Remember

The story is told by Landon Carter when he is 57 years old, recalling a time forty years earlier. It was the 1950s in the small town of Beaufort, North Carolina. Landon and his buddies would sneak out at night to get into mischief, and often pull pranks on folks around town. Although it was a very religious community, the local minister, Hegbert Sullivan, and his daughter Jamie were frequently subjects of their off-color jokes. Jamie dressed modestly, wore a plain brown sweater, always carried her Bible, and was unfailingly kind.

Landon found himself thrown together with Jamie, first in desperation as a date for the school dance, and later as a fellow actor in the church’s annual Christmas play. For the first time, he saw how beautiful Jamie was, both inside and out. They began doing things together, like visiting kids at the local orphanage, and raising money for them. Landon’s old friends ridiculed him for hanging around Jamie, but after a while that really didn’t matter. About the time Landon realized that he had fallen in love with Jamie, she told him that she was dying.

The things that kept this book from being a sappy, shallow love story are: 1 – it was based on the author’s own sister, who was dying as he wrote the story; and 2 – it portrayed a kind of love based on devotion to God and others. As Landon and Jamie looked outward and tried to meet the needs of people around them, they formed a close bond to each other. While the book was a tear-jerker, it also showed how anyone, no matter how young or old, can make the world a better place just by loving others.

The book was made into a movie in 2002. While the book was set in the 1950s, the producers of the movie changed it to the late 1990s. They felt young people would be more drawn to a current-day story instead of one from the mid-century. Whether you read the book or watch the movie, you are sure to be moved by this story of deep love.

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A Treasure Deep – by Alton Gansky (2003)

a treasure deep

Perry Sachs didn’t have any plans to go on a treasure hunt. He was just following his conscience, trying to help an old man in an alley who was being beaten. The old man clutched a satchel tightly, and would rather die than give it to his attacker. Later, the old man and his family entrusted the contents of the satchel to Perry, and the treasure hunt was on.

What I enjoyed about this book was the tight-knit camaraderie and decency of the small group that worked on the excavation project. More than once, the small crew turned to God in prayer. Praying when they were about to begin, and praying when they ran into trouble. It was refreshing to have a story where people did their jobs with excellence and great care. I also liked the local mayor, Anne, who seemed like an adversary at first, but became an ally. There was enough action and suspense to keep this story moving right through to the end.

Lord Foulgrin’s Letters – by Randy Alcorn (2000)

Lord Foulgrin's Letters

Randy Alcorn has written some outstanding Christian fiction over the years. My favorites are “Deadline”, published in 1994, and “Safely Home” in 2001. ┬áHis characters were well-developed, and easy to relate to. Mr. Alcorn has also written a number of non-fiction books. Most of his books, both fiction and non-fiction, include themes about heaven, hell, and unseen spirit beings (angels and demons).

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Of all his books that I have read, this one seems to have the most emphasis on demons and spiritual warfare on this earth. Lord Foulgrin is the name of the fallen angel/demon who writes letters to an underling, advising him how best to get humans to never become Christians. Or if they are already Christians, he shares ways to tempt them into sin and lead them away from their faith. The storyline moves back and forth between the daily life of Jordan Fletcher on earth, and Lord Foulgrin’s rantings and ravings. ┬áThis book is basically a more modern version of C.S. Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters”.

I did enjoy the storylines about Jordan and his family. They seemed like an typical family struggling with things common to the American culture. But the overly-long monologues by Lord Foulgrin quickly became repetitious. They were just the same thing over and over. I think the scenes with Foulgrin could have been cut in half, and would have been more effective. Sometimes when you sound like a broken record, you lose your audience. But in spite of the repetitiveness, it was still a very sound spiritual novel.

 

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!

 

 

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