If you grew up in an old-fashioned church, where everyone knew everyone, and there was a definite code of conduct, and keeping up your image in the community was all-important, you will identify with a lot in this book. The main character is 12-year-old Terry Anderson. He loves his parents, but thinks they are sometimes a little extreme in their faith.
Terry and his brothers are very tight, sharing a love of playing practical jokes, but also yearning to break free from the pressure to be perfect young Christian men. The Anderson family has always been poor, but things become even worse as the mother battles a debilitating disease, and the father is injured in – of all places – church.
There are three story-lines that run throughout the book – the Anderson family trying to survive bad health, Terry finding a stash of money that becomes an albatross around his neck, and a church congregation moving from an attitude of legalism to grace and forgiveness.
I absolutely loved Terry’s quirky dad, and the way he worked to keep his family together. It didn’t matter what kind of trouble his kids got into, he still loved and encouraged them. I also enjoyed the descriptions of what Terry was thinking about in church, and things that went wrong during the worship service. But most of all, I appreciated Terry’s inner struggle to do what was right when he really didn’t want to, which is something everyone likely struggles with.
This would be a good book to read for a discussion group. It’s not overly long (283 pages), and it has a good range of issues to talk about.