Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hero's Tribute, by Graham Garrison (Kregel)

Michael Gavin--football star, war hero and philanthropist--has died. Expectations run high in his small hometown of Talking River as to who will be the one honored to speak at his funeral. None of those expectations include an obscure local newpaper reporter, Wes Watkins. Why?

Wes Watkins and Michael Gavin never met each other, yet Michael leaves behind a written request that Wes deliver his eulogy. He also leaves Wes a list of names and one week to find out why.

The list, people from Michael's present and past, yields more information about their hometown hero than anyone expected--and that few of them wanted to know. Michael's purpose: to teach the town the difference between a legend and a man.

Wes's investigation encounters speed bumps and roadblocks right off the starting line. From his micro-managing senior editor, whose primary motivation is the revenue Wes's exclusive is sure to generate, to Talking River's high school football coach, who digs in his heels to protect the hallowed image of his childhood friend, Wes struggles against a waxing tide of resistence every step of the way. Only Michael's immediate family understand his purpose, and they lead Wes with measured steps in the right direction with enough--but not too much--information. For there's a hidden personal lesson for Wes in Michael's request, too.

Mr. Garrison selects an intriguing premise for his debut novel and follows it through with a great narrative style. I wish my first novel read as well as Hero's Tribute does--okay, I wish my fourth one did! Delivered in a distinct and engaging voice, Mr. Garrison paces his story fluidly, filling in flashback narratives at just the right time to propel Wes's investigation--and our enlightenment--to a startling ending. We stumble into plot twists along with Wes--one of the most surprising epiphanies coming at the hand of the adorably precocious Addy, Michael's young daughter--as gradually we absorb the lesson Michael is so intent on bequeathing to Talking River.

Excellent story, solidly written and definitely worth the read.

Click here to read more about Hero's Tribute and view a really nice video trailer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Deborah: Mother of Israel, by Marlene D. Lake (OakTara)

Deborah: Mother of Israel is a comfortable tale of the renown Old Testament judge (Judges 4-5). The book exalts her as a woman of integrity and faith, endowed by God with extraordinary wisdom. Deborah uses this wisdom to flawlessly dispense justice in difficult civil cases among her countrymen, while continuing in her responsibilities as a young, small-village Israelite woman.
Ms. Lake fills in the Biblical account with skirmishes between the Israelites and their northern nemesis, the Canaanites, under the leadership of the evil Sisera. In one raid by Canaanite soldiers on her village’s livestock, her betrothed is killed, and another villager, Lappidoth, is severely wounded. Deborah helps nurse Lappidoth back to health, a process during which they become attracted to each other, then finally marry (Judges 4:4).
Over the years, the Canaanite oppression becomes so intense, something must be done. The fragmented Israelite tribal confederation seeks unity, looking to Deborah for spiritual leadership and to Barak for military expertise. The story reaches its climax in the battle against Sisera’s overwhelming army, and the Israelite’s subsequent victory, largely due to Deborah’s inspiration.
Ms. Lake strictly follows the Scriptural account of the famous Israelite prophetess, only creating fictional characters and scenes where necessary to propel the historical account to its well known conclusion. She also scatters snippets of Biblical history throughout the story, providing some insight into the life and times of ancient Israel. The story ends with an antiphonal rendering of Deborah’s and Barak’s song of victory (Judges 5).
Fans of the Old Testament figure of Deborah will likely appreciate Ms. Lake’s pristine rendering of her character. And those who love to loathe the vile Sisera will find plenty to fan their fire in the pages of Deborah: Mother of Israel.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Like a Bird Wanders, by Sharon Smith, Rosanne Croft, and Linda Reinhardt (OakTara)

A sordid history is about to repeat itself, save for the cryptic note of a dying woman.

Grace Rose McFarland leaves a single message for her beloved granddaughter: "Julia, the lion will destroy you." Nettie and Eva Jo, Grace's sisters, honor her last request by leading Julia to her grandmother's heritage chest in the attic. In it, she discovers a stack of letters and three prayer journals. And she begins to read.

Thus comes to light the story of the McCleods, a pioneer family eking out a living in 1902 Yacolt,Washington, by the grace of God and the toil of their hands. Told exclusively through letters and entries into the sisters' prayer journals, Julia learns family secrets she never would have dreamed could be true of her upright, God-fearing grandmother. But there's a story to tell and a lesson to learn, and Grace reaches out from the realm of eternity to ensure her precious granddaughter benefits from her mistakes.

The question is, will Julia take her grandmother's message to heart ?

In Like a Bird Wanders, we experience with Julia wilderness dangers common to the early 20th-century era, but lost to most modern Americans. But the most important things we learn are not restricted to a bygone historical era, they are timeless; that is, the choices we make, good and bad, affect not only on our own lives, but the lives of those around us--and especially those dearest to us.

Grace Rose McFarland has a story to tell not only to Julia, but to all of us. The question is, will we take her message to heart?