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.
As I’ve been heavily into non-fiction books and podcasts lately, it seemed that it was time to jump into fiction again. This book is what I would call a reality novel. Claire is a forty-something divorced mother of four kids, who makes a living by writing from home. Despite being home most of the time, she is so busy writing that she doesn’t spend much time with her kids, and she is far too busy for friendships or God time.
Claire’s relationship with her ex-husband Rick is strained, especially since he remarried. His new wife tries to be friendly and kind to Claire, but finds her bitter and unreachable. As in real life, the four kids are stuck between their father and their mother. One of the kids really starts acting out and getting in trouble at school.
When Claire has to stop working for several months due to carpal tunnel requiring surgery for both hands, she begins to evaluate her life. What she sees is not good, and she makes a list of things she wants to change.
The book had a nitty-gritty feel about it. Anyone who has gone through a divorce, especially with children, will be able to relate to Claire. And those who haven’t been through the experience of divorce will get an idea of how difficult it is. There is no quick fix to heal a family that has been ripped apart, but with the help of God, friends and hard work, healing can happen.
“The Search” is the first book in the Ben Sylvester mystery trilogy, which I read many years ago. The main character, Ben, works as a political consultant for an international company that helps third-world countries develop democratic governments. However, things don’t always go smoothly. The book opens with him running for his life in some part of Africa. He makes it safely back to the United States, but his troubles aren’t over. His house is empty, and his wife Karen and their two kids gone.
The rest of the book is just as the title suggests, a search. The search leads him to an isolated area of Canada to find his missing family. About halfway into the book we also meet Karen, his wife. Karen has had her own kind of search, a spiritual one. She has become a Christian, and is now a much stronger woman. Instead of being a timid person and being afraid of many things, including her domineering father, she has a calmness and confidence that God has things under control. Karen wants Ben to have a relationship with Jesus too, but he is used to taking care of himself and doesn’t think he needs any help. But of course, all of us need help.
If you like action-packed mystery with a spiritual element, this is a good book to check out. Being an older book, you may have a bit of a search for it, but that’s what this book is all about – searching and finding the effort worth it!
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.”
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.
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.
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.