The Glass Sea Sisters – by Lisa Wingate (2013)

The Sea Glass Sisters

This short novel is the story about the powerful bonds of family. No matter how geographically distant, there is something that binds us together. In this story, Elizabeth has live her entire life by the family farm in Michigan, and become a 9-1-1 operator. Her Aunt Sandy, unlike the rest of the family, followed her dreams and opened a seaside shop on a small island off the coast of North Carolina. Now that she is older and has developed diabetes, everyone thinks that she should return to Michigan. The issue becomes urgent when they hear that a powerful storm is headed for the east coast. Elizabeth and her mother drive down to the island to persuade Sandy to leave, but are stranded there for the duration of the storm.

In addition to the story-line of trying to convince Sandy that she doesn’t belong on the island, there is a second story-line. Elizabeth has been traumatized by an emergency call that ended badly. Throughout the novel, she has reoccurring nightmares about the call, which she tries to hide from her family. By the end of the book, her mother and Aunt Sandy help her come to terms with the emergency call that was haunting her.

I think Aunt Sandy nailed it when she said:

“Elizabeth, storms are part of living on an island. Every decision you make in life has benefits and consequences. Sometimes you just have to go on faith, and even that comes at a price. It means you have to give up on the idea that you’re the one in charge of the universe. This old house and I have been through all the storms before, and we’re going to get through this one. Whatever I need, whether that’s provisions or friends to help in the aftermath, or the kindness of strangers like the volunteers who helped after the last storm, God’s going to bring it my way.”

 

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Deceived – by Irene Hannon (2014)

Deceived

Kate Marshall is a successful counselor who works with women who have been traumatized by abuse or difficult divorces. She helps them work through their emotions, then prepares them for interviews and work situations. Although the work is fulfilling, Kate has a deep sadness. Three years previous, her husband and four-year-old son died in a fishing accident. Her son’s body was never recovered, so she has a hard time convincing herself he is really dead.

One day while at a local mall, she spots a child on the escalator who looks exactly like what she thinks her son would look like at the age of seven. The boy even says something unusual that her son used to say. Kate freaks out and tries to get to the boy, but he and the man he’s with are gone before she can get to the upper level of the mall. She is so shaken by the incident that she hires a private investigator to find the boy, in the hope that it is her son.

This novel is part of Irene Hannon’s “Private Justice” series. This author is best known for her romantic suspense books, and has won a number of awards. Her books are “clean reads”, meaning you will not find any gratuitous violence or sex, or any foul language. I have to say that although I enjoyed this book, there was not a whole lot of suspense. It was pretty obvious from the beginning what the truth was. So if you want a book with lots of twists and turns, and a surprising ending, this isn’t your book. But if you want an easy read with a happy ending, this is an enjoyable one.

In Between – by Jenny B. Jones (2007)

In Between

Katie Parker is in the lowest spot of her life. Her dad has been gone for a long time, and her mom is in prison now. She’s been staying in a temporary housing facility for adolescents, but now is being assigned to a foster family. James and Millie Scott, the foster parents, live in a small town with the ridiculous name of In Between.  The Scotts have bought a decrepit old theater, and are preparing to do the stage play “Romeo And Juliet” in about a month.

Katie doesn’t feel like she fits in, either in the Scott’s household, their church, or the town’s high school. James and Millie, as well as crazy grandma Maxine, do everything they can to help her adjust to life with them. But Katie holds everyone at a distance, figuring that she’s just in between one place and another, so it’s better not to get too close to anyone.

The two things I loved most about this book were Katie’s character, and the wacky grandma Maxine. Katie’s character was spot on for a kid who is without parents; you really felt her sense of alienation from everyone. Maxine was someone who truly tried to understand Katie without being condescending. Even though they were about fifty years apart in age, they developed a unique friendship. This is a great story about overcoming the things in life that drag you down, and building a new life.

Jan Oke Didn’t Start The Christian Fiction Movement?

mount-up-with-wings-on-antiques-shelf

 

Yesterday I was in a Christian thrift-store, looking at their used book area, when I spotted a fiction shelf labeled “Antiques”. After looking at a few of them, it was obvious that these pre-dated the Janette Oke books. Was there really Christian fiction before her?

Yes, there have been authors here and there through the years who have published Christian fiction. There’s John Bunyan with his allegory “Pilgrim’s Progress” in 1678. Then there was the 1896 classic novel “In His Steps” by Charles Sheldon. There was fantasy-type fiction from J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in the mid-1900’s. If you really want to go back, there’s Dante’s “Divine Comedy” in 1321. But I thought the Christian Fiction movement kind of started in 1979 when Janette Oke started cranking out books. Perhaps I was wrong.

I snapped a picture of the bookshelf with my cellphone, then pulled one book off and examined its dustcover. “Mount Up With Wings” by Rubye Kilgore Hancock” (1956) There was a description of the plot, followed by: “This is delightful Christian fiction.” Also on the shelf were:

“The Warm Summer” by Craig Massey (1968) about a 14-year-old boy who experiences a home business, a swindler, finding love, and getting to know God during the summer months.

“Highpockets” by John R. Tunis (1959) about a fictional baseball team and its rookie center fielder. with morals and integrity emphasized.

“With Healing In His Wings – by Orville Steggarda (1958) about a doctor who ministers to his patien physical and spiritual needs.

“Eternity In Their Hearts” by Lon Woodrum (1955) won 1st prize in Zondervan Publisher’s Christian fiction contest.

I was going to snap some more pictures of dustcovers from some of these books, but another customer was already looking at me rather oddly, so I resisted the urge. Suffice it to say that the history of Christian fiction has been a long and winding road, some of which has already gone down to obscurity.

The Candy Bombers – by Robert Elmer (2006)

Candy Bombers

 

The year is 1948. The war is over, but for German cousins Erich and Katarina, life has not returned to normal. Berlin is bombed-out, neighbors and relatives have died, and the food supply to the city has been cut off. They go looking for food to help feed their families, but get caught. Erich hates the Russians for oppressing them and blocking food trucks, and he hates the Americans because he believes they killed his father. But when he meets an American photographer, his feelings toward Americans slowly begin to change.

Although this is fiction, the book is based on an American pilot/ photographer, Gail Halverson, who participated in the Berlin Airlift. American pilots dropped crates of food supplies into the city of Berlin for the starving residents. Hungry children lined up against the airstrip fence, and Halverson passed his candy and gum rations through the fence to them. He decided to carry it further, and began dropping small bags of candy from the plane, attached to handkerchief parachutes. Word spread, and folks back in the US started collecting gum and candy for the children of Berlin. Other pilots joined the effort, and over 23 tons of candy were dropped by the “Rosinenbombers”, or candy bombers. It didn’t solve every problem for the German families in Berlin, but it showed that the people they viewed as enemies could also be kind-hearted.

Although the book is geared toward kids 4th grade and up, people of any age can enjoy this story. It is the first book in “The Wall” trilogy.

 

Growing Up On The Edge Of The World – by Phil Callaway (2004)

Growing Up On The Edge Of The World

 

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.

Not A Sparrow Falls – by Linda Nichols (2002)

Not A Sparrow Falls

 

Bridie is a young woman who was greatly influenced by a sweet, God-loving grandmother, but has forgotten her roots. Now she’s living with a meth-lab boyfriend in the middle of nowhere. When she see things going bad, she stuffs a duffel-bag with his drug money and makes a run for it. Bridie figures she can just start life over somewhere else and bury the truth.

The other main character is Alasdair, a small-town widower. He’s the pastor of the church that his father originally pastored. But he’s got things he’s trying to cover over too. His wife had been plagued by life-long depression, and the car accident in which she committed suicide has been covered up as a mere accident. Their three children are being neglected by Alistair, who is now depressed himself. His 13-year-old daughter is having her own issues, and gets caught shoplifting. She crosses paths with Bridie, and they become close as Bridie starts taking care of Alasdair’s children.

The church is not portrayed in a very flattering light throughout the book. The congregation seems mostly concerned with their image in the community. Alasdair just isn’t meeting their expectations. They seem embarrassed by the mental issues of their pastor and his now-dead wife, and the misbehavior of his daughter. Instead of trying to help him, they try to force his resignation. I was dismayed by the behavior of the church.

But the turning point comes when both Bridie and Alasdair both decide that it’s better to stop covering things up, and face any consequences of their sins and shortcomings. They get to the point where it doesn’t matter if they are rejected by church members, neighbors or townsfolk. The only thing that’s really important is to have things right with God and their family.

I have to say I’m glad that I stuck with the book to the end. Some parts seemed unrealistic, but other parts rang true to life. My favorite part was when the sweet grandma was talking to Bridie’s old boyfriend and trying to reach him with love. She was the character in the book that demonstrated true Christian faith. She never gave up, and never showed hate. It drove home the point that no matter how far we wander from God, He always loves us and will put people in our life to encourage us to come home to Him.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Holy Bible, Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV version)