In Just Shy of Harmony
, Philip Gulley's follow-up novel to Home to Harmony
, the award-winning author again offers matchless slices of small-town life as he catches us up on the doings of the quirky characters that inhabit this small community. Beloved minister Sam Gardner slides into depression as his little Quaker church, which once had goals of spreading the gospel and ending world hunger, now juggles such lofty issues as what type of vanity table to put in the ladies' restroom and the progress of its chicken noodle sales. Gulley gently pokes fun at evangelical Christianity's foibles through his characterizations, including church member Dale Hinshaw's "Scripture egg project" (chickens lay eggs with Scripture in the yolks to reach the unsaved). There are poignant moments: Wayne Fleming's wife Sally has deserted him and his three kids, and now Wayne is in love with lawyer Deena Morrison, owner of the Legal Grounds Coffee Shop. When Sally returns home, Wayne must make the most difficult decision of his life. Reading one of Gulley's stories is as comfortable as sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch, listening to an old friend spin tales. This installment in the Harmony series is sure to win Gulley some new fans and please his loyal following. --Cindy Crosby
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From Publishers Weekly
When Sam Gardner reads an article about "the ten warning signs of depression" in a Christian magazine, he discovers that he has seven of them. The article closes by telling readers that if they have seven or more signs of depression, they should see their pastor. The trouble is, Sam is the pastor. He's tired of writing sermons and exhausted by his congregation's resistance to any change more meaningful than installing a new vanity in the women's bathroom. In this refreshingly candid novel, a sequel of sorts to Home to Harmony, the members of Harmony's quirky Friends Meeting engage in various struggles with depression and doubt. Like Jan Karon, Gulley has a gift for understanding the hilarity and pathos of small churches in small towns. With his characteristic wry humor, he develops a host of side characters, from Dale Hinshaw, the self-righteous and infuriating church elder, to the salt-of-the-earth lottery winner, Jessie Peacock. Gulley is unflinching at depicting some of the church members' narrow-mindedness, but he never succumbs to stereotype. While some readers may initially have a difficult time adjusting to the way Gulley often switches from the past to the present tense, this device helps the book play out like a comfortable, down-to-earth conversation. Many readers will relate to Sam's honest struggles with faith and will appreciate the book's subtle message: that Sam's faith is rekindled only when he steps away from congregational infighting and begins to help others. This story is a winner.
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