“The Cure” is a novel of a man whose life has been devastated by alcohol. Riley Keep has lost everything – his job, his family, his faith. Life has been reduced to sleeping at homeless shelters and getting drunk with his buddy Brice. Rumors of an instant cure for alcohol reach Riley, and he drags Brice with him to the town that supposedly has the cure.
The story does a powerful job of letting you see the world through the eyes of someone living in a drunken haze. At times Riley truly doesn’t care about anything, and at other times he tries everything he can to correct his wrongs. It’s a picture of every one of us, trying to fix our wrongs alone and often making our situation even worse. The ending of the story will likely shock and surprise you. Be sure to read the afterword by the author, and you will understand why he chose to conclude the story in such a way.
Excerpt from chapter 4:
“He watched the sun rise, and for some reason he got mad. Not because of Brice, exactly. It was more that he hadn’t had a drink in maybe two whole days. A deadly serious situation. And there was God, pulling the sun out of his pocket like it was nothing. It made him mad to think how simple it would be for God to give him what he wanted, and how little he wanted compared to most people. The lobstermen, for example, who were constantly buying new pickup trucks and houses and clothing for their wives and children, and steaks and television sets and bowling balls and popcorn at the movies. And him, what did he ask? Nothing but a drink. It made him mad to think how stingy God could be, until he realized he had not asked for what he needed. Riley Keep had lost most memories, but he was pretty sure he had never asked the Lord for alcohol.”
Callie Webber is a PI who works for a wealthy philanthropist she has never met, investigating people and organizations he is thinking of donating money to. It’s Callie’s job to determine if they are worthy of the gift. In addition to her regular job, Callie spends time helping battered and abandoned women get back on their feet. One of the women is accused of murdering her boyfriend, but Callie simply can’t believe that she did it, and starts her own investigation.
I enjoyed this mystery, both for what it contained and what it didn’t contain. There was no vulgar language or behavior, and no grizzly descriptions of dead bodies. What the story did contain was a young woman who converses regularly with God throughout the day, whether she is frustrated or terrified or happy. Callie relies on God, not just on her own strength. This is a refreshing read for anyone wanting a clean mystery.
“If We Survive” is an action-filled novel about five Americans who go down to a Central American country to help repair a schoolhouse for a village. The book begins at the point at which the project is complete and they are all set to return to the US. Then disaster strikes without warning – hence the title.
What I particularly enjoyed about this book were the different personalities of the American team – one sympathetic to the revolutionaries, one a spoiled brat, one idealist who thought he could just talk everyone into getting along, one young woman with an almost otherworldly calm, and a terrified teenage boy who had come on the team to get away from his bickering parents. And then there was their Hans Solo, the I-don’t-care-about-anyone-but-myself pilot. Teens and adults alike will enjoy this book.
“It was a church project. Or a church-slash-school project, to be more precise. The villagers here were too poor to buy the wall material themselves, and the local men were too busy working for their daily bread to take time to put the schoolhouse back together. So our church had taken up a collection for the cinder blocks and tools and mortar and so on, and then called for volunteers to come down here for a week or so during the summer break and slap the thing back up so the kids could get some kind of education. Grove High put up posters about the mission too, and Principal Hagen mentioned it during an assembly. In the end, some of us joined up in the name of Christian outreach and some of us came to get the Public Service credits we needed for graduation. Some of us had our own reasons too. Well, I guess all of us had our own reasons, when it comes down to it.”
Have you ever run into an old college friend many years later? You might find that you can pick back up that friendship instantly, or you may find that you no longer have anything in common. “Safely Home” is the story of a friendship between Ben, a business student, and his Chinese roommate, Li Quan. Ben shares his faith with Li Quan, who also becomes a follower of Jesus before returning to his homeland.
Fast forward 20 years. Ben travels to China, attempting to help his company expand their business, and lives with Li Quan. By now, it is Ben who has no faith, and Li Quan tries to lead him back to God. The story deals a lot with the daily persecution that Chinese believers endure. How far would you be willing to go in living what you believe?
Excerpt from chapter 2:
Is this the day I die? Li Quan asked himself the familiar question as he wiped sleep from his eyes. Why couldn’t he be courageous, like his father and great-grandfather?…
He’d asked himself the question every day since he was Shen’s age. Every day the answer had been no. But his father had taught him, “One day the answer will be yes, and on that day you must be ready.”
It was on a Sunday his great-grandfather Li Manchu had been beheaded. And it was also on a Sunday his father, Li Tong, lying in a beaten lump, had died in prison. Here in the cold predawn outside Pushan, it was another Sunday.
Sam is just an ordinary guy that wants to fit in and have everyone forget that he’s the pastor’s kid. Jennifer is a girl suffering from schizophrenia whom Sam saves from a group of bullies. From that point on, Sam is her best friend and hero.
The story is told alternately from Sam’s and Jennifer’s point of view. Both of them struggle with their fears and demons. The phrase “do right – fear not” pops up many times throughout the story. There is much for them to fear, both from people they can see and presences they cannot see. Sam makes some bad decisions, and then struggles with how to get himself out of the situation. The story reminds us that we’ll encounter spiritual warfare in life, but have to keep struggling to do what’s right.
The book would be great for a discussion group. There are some suggested questions by the author at the end of the book.
Jennifer dropped her voice and leaned toward me. “I said your name last night,” she confided to me as if it were her great secret.
“You…what? What do you mean?”
“I said your name,” she repeated, even softer than before. “When the demons came to my house.” …
“Demons, huh?” I said. I hoped maybe Jennifer was making some kind of joke, but I didn’t really think she was. “You get those a lot around your place?”
She nodded. “They come in at night. When no one else can see them. They change everything.”
“Shoofly Pie” introduces us to forensic entomologist Nick Polchak, aka “the Bug Man”. Nick’s whole life is devoted to studying and understanding every type of fly or insect. His dream is to discover some unknown insect. His adoration of bugs tends to put people off a bit, but it’s hard not to admire a guy so devoted to his line of work.
Into the story comes Kathryn, who has lost a dear childhood friend, supposedly to suicide. But she can’t bring herself to believe he would take his own life. So she hires the Bug Man to investigate, much to the irritation of the local police chief. I loved Nick’s clever ways of questioning people, and getting to the bottom of things. If you enjoy this book as much as I did, there are five more Bug Man mysteries!
Bug Man novels include:
1 – Shoofly Pie
2 – Chop Shop
3 – First The Dead
4 – Less Than Dead
5 – Ends Of The Earth
6 – Nick Of Time
This novel tells the tale of Muri Pond, who has not seen her Native American father since she was five, then hears of his passing. She and her two children drive out to his shabby desert home, which is lined with a fence made of discarded oven doors. The story is told from the viewpoint of Muri, but every so often, the author lets you see into the mind of Joseph Pond, her father. What I enjoyed most about this story was how God met both Muri and her father at whatever point they were at in life.