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.

 

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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)

The Last Photograph – by Stephen Bransford (1995)

The Last Photograph

It’s the tale of two brothers – Gordon the older, and Stephen the younger. From earliest childhood, they were as different as night and day. Gordon was rough and tough, unafraid of anything or anyone. Stephen was thin and gangly, and a frequent target of the bully at school. As they reached adulthood, their paths continued to grow apart. Gordon went off to Vietnam, while Stephen went to seminary to avoid the draft. It seemed that the two of them would never be close as brothers.

Years later the family planned a ten-day hunting expedition. The brother who loved the outdoors and horseback riding led the group, while the other brother spent the majority of his time taking pictures with his camera. But for once, they weren’t fighting or competing with each other.

The story was fascinating. At several points in the book, I remember thinking, this just seems too real to be fiction. The feelings expressed by Stephen were so authentic and raw. The end of the book left me wiping my eyes with a tissue and blowing my nose. I have rarely read a book with such a moving ending. The afterword states that the book is based on events from the author’s life. Barnes and Noble’s bookstore website classifies the book as “autobiographical fiction”. Although there is no way of knowing exactly how much fiction was added to the facts, the book gives a beautiful account of the journey of the Bransford brothers.

The Crystal Cavern – by Hannah Alexander (2003)

The Crystal Cavern

If you’re in the mood for a good who-dunnit mystery, this is an excellent choice. Sable Chamberlain, a small-town doctor, and a paramedic, Paul Murphy, are looking into the recent death of her grandfather. While they are trying to find out what happened, they are framed for his murder and end up fleeing town on a cross-country bus.

An ice-storm hits, and Jerri, the bus driver, struggles to keep the vehicle on the road. Conditions worsen, and they can’t keep going. Fortunately, they are within walking distance of Sable’s childhood home, so the seven people aboard abandon the bus and hike to the house. There they discover that Craig, a longtime neighbor, is taking care of the house. The electricity is out, but there is a wood-burning stove for heat and cooking.

This is no ordinary house. The basement has an entrance to underground caves with stalactites and stalagmites. Sable and Craig have explored the caves as children, and know them like the back of their hands. The rest of the group see the caves as dangerous. They are trapped in the country house for days as they wait out the storm. Weird things start happening, and it becomes obvious that one of them is a killer – but who is it?

Note: This book was later re-printed under the title “Hidden Motive” .

The Deposit Slip – by Todd M. Johnson (2012)

The Deposit Slip

 

Jared Neaton is a self-employed lawyer who is just short of totally broke. One day a former colleague gives him a tip about a case in his Minnesota hometown that needs a lawyer. He can’t take it himself, he says, because of a conflict of interest. So Jared drives out to talk to Erin Larson, the woman needing legal representation.

Erin’s father has died recently. While going through his security box at the local bank, she finds a receipt for a deposit of ten million dollars. Erin is stunned, as her father was a simple farmer with no money to speak of. She shows the receipt to the bank manager, who can find no record of the deposit or the account it was put into. Where did the $10,000,000 come from, and where is it now?

I enjoyed reading this legal mystery. It had a good pace to it, and kept me glued to the story until the last page. My favorite parts of the book were the courtroom scenes, and the chapters when Jared was in Europe, chasing down the only person who might reveal the truth. It was rather like a Grisham novel with a simpler plot. I appreciated the fact that it was an extremely clean read – no swearing, bedroom scenes, or gore. This novel – which is the author’s first – gets two thumbs up from me!

Thr3e – by Ted Dekker (2003)

Thr3e

Kevin has always been a loner. His childhood was anything but pleasant. But he’s moved on. Now he’s in his late 20’s, and is a grad student, studying for the ministry. Kevin has deep theological discussions with Professor Francis on the subject of good and evil.

One day it becomes more than theoretical. Kevin is driving along in his car when his cell phone rings. The caller claims to know him very well, and says his name is Slater. Slater rattles off a riddle and asks Kevin what it means. He has no idea. Then Slater says he has three minutes to call the newspaper and confess his sin, or his car will be blown up.

This is just the beginning of days of terror. Kevin is being hounded by a lunatic who is obsessed with riddles and numbers that are multiples of three. The local police and the FBI get involved in the case. Slater manages to stay a step ahead of them.

This book is a good psychological thriller. It probably could have been a little shorter (416 pages long), as it felt a bit stretched-out in spots. Nevertheless, it was an exciting read. The book was later made into a movie, but as is often the case, it was not nearly as good as the book.