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Living Water
Living Water
by Obery Hendricks
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.95
42 used & new from CDN$ 1.62

5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping, at times lusty, tale and an engaging read, June 29 2004
This review is from: Living Water (Paperback)
This is a gripping, at times lusty, tale based on the life story of the Samaritan Woman. LIVING WATER is not a stereotypically lightweight, biblical novel. It's for readers who are ready for a challenge and willing to look for truths presented in nontraditional forms.
Author Obery Hendricks, a seminary "professor of biblical interpretation," calls this, his first novel, "an African American retelling of the New Testament story of the woman at the well who was married to five successive husbands at a time when women did not have the right to choose either marriage or divorce." Ethnic overtones are evident in some characters' nicknames (Sonny Boy and Big Mama) and patterns of dialogue ("Oh Lordy, we're in trouble now" and "Don't he talk sweet"). But there are deeper parallels: The ravages of slavery and harsh control influence the heart of the story --- the Samaritan men being humiliated and beaten down by the Romans; the women being powerless property of the husbands who have lost respect for themselves and take out their frustration on their women.
The book opens with a short, startling death scene of the Samaritan woman's fifth husband. Then Part 1 is a flashback, from prenuptial childhood up to that pivotal, bloody mess. She --- her name is Maryam, though significantly we aren't told this for 250 pages --- is a spunky, in-your-face kind of kid who sadly learns, from her kindhearted grandmother, Ma Tee, that spunk is not acceptable for girls. "Atop the coarse woolen tunic that is [the girl's] usual attire is now draped a stale, heavy garment of carefulness. Ma Tee has tried her best to craft it to her size, yet it does not fit. Still, she will dutifully struggle to wear it, though its weight will sag her heart to its knees." And this narrative comment comes even before she's married to and beaten down by her first husband and abandoned by numbers two, three, and four.
This is a feminist story, but not drastically so; it is egalitarian more than man bashing. The big cast of characters --- five (or is it six?) husbands, three father figures, a brother-in-law, Messiah Jesus, and more --- include bad men and good; similarly with the Samaritan women. In a supplemental reader's guide, Hendricks explains that the Samaritan woman's journey "to be free of male domination and mistreatment was also my own journey to free myself from the roles of dominator and mistreater."
Theologically conservative readers may rankle at some feminist theology, but, again, this is not as radical as it might be. Hendricks interprets biblical passages (mostly from Proverbs, once from Luke) that personify Wisdom (a feminine Hebrew word) as being descriptive of "the woman-side of God."
For a novel that is replete with social commentary applicable to any age --- including a chapter on an itinerant, fraudulent faith healer --- LIVING WATER is an engaging read. Part 2 --- in which Maryam claims her name, takes up with a man who loves her and treats her well, and becomes a disciple of Jesus --- includes powerful scenes of redemption, even unto the last page, which drew a tear to my eye.
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence

Go for the Green
Go for the Green
by Jeff Hopper
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars An Accessible, Light Read for Avid Golfers of Both Genders, June 27 2004
This review is from: Go for the Green (Hardcover)
If you're looking for a gift book that will suit the avid golfer in your life to a "tee," look no further than GO FOR THE GREEN. Jeff Hopper's 365 competent, straightforward golf-themed devotions, packaged together with graphics and photos, make a compelling combination.
What do golf and faith have to do with each other, besides make for a gifty devotional? Writes Hopper, " has taught me that God doesn't show up only at church. He can meet us wherever we are. Often for me that has been on the golf course." Judging by the number of golfers out on Sunday mornings, one would think he makes a good case.
The first thing you notice about this well-designed little gift book is how beautifully it fits in your hand --- or would fit into your golf bag. J. Countryman is a leading publisher of gift books, and its expertise in making this volume irresistible, aesthetic-wise, is obvious the moment you pick it up and leaf through the pages. From the embossed dimples on the golf ball on the cover to the gold foil letters of the title, impulse purchase is written all over the book.
Although golfers could certainly buy this for themselves, it is obviously designed to be given to the golfer in your life, from the opening page gift plate page ("A gift for....from") to the decorated end-papers. There's a ribbon marker, essential to any good daily devotional, and the binding looks tough enough to withstand 365 days of wear and tear, and to accommodate a little banging around in the golf bag.
Beginning in chronological order with January and divided by golf seasons ("The Off Season," "The Majors Season," "The Golf Season," "The Silly Season"), each page is laid out with the date, a scripture verse, and a very brief devotional of about three to five paragraphs. A cute graphic with a golf ball teed up and ready to play marks the devotion's beginning. Four color-photos decorate the section dividers throughout the book.
Each pale-green page also contains a boxed golf tip, including some from golf professional Doug Scrivner. Although some feel like filler ("Don't forget the sunscreen, players") most are thoughtful and practical:
"When reading putts, pay closest attention to the last five feet."
"As you improve with your wedges, you'll want to keep those grooves clean for more spin."
"If you like your standard putter but are missing short putts, try a cross-handed grip."
Permeating the book is the author's love of golf. Hopper is the editor of Links Letter, a bi-monthly publication devoted to golf and faith, and also writes for [...] the official web site for Links Players International.
Hopper writes in an approachable, conversational style that should be appealing to both women and men who feel more comfortable with a nine iron in their hand than a book. The devotions are simple, usually beginning with a paragraph about something pertaining to golf, then a line or two making a spiritual correlation. In the last paragraph or two, Hopper drives his point home, lest the reader miss the application. There's nothing subtle here --- just straightforward good golf talk and ideas for deepening your spiritual life. From tee to green, he covers an admirable range of topics: sharing your faith, forgiving yourself on the golf course and learning from mentors in both life and in golf.
Admirably, Hopper tries to keep the book applicable to golfers of both genders, referencing both male and female golf legends. The book's content still has a masculine glaze to it ("Men have one standard question they ask new partners on the golf course..."), but it's appropriate for women as well.
This charming book is an accessible, light read, and its lovely packaging makes it perfect for gift-giving.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby

Everyday Faith: Practical Essays on Personal Faith and the Ethical Choices We Face in Daily Life (from the Pages of the Akron Beacon J
Everyday Faith: Practical Essays on Personal Faith and the Ethical Choices We Face in Daily Life (from the Pages of the Akron Beacon J
by Terry Pluto
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from CDN$ 5.82

5.0 out of 5 stars An Outstanding Collection of Terry Pluto's Columns, June 27 2004
In the name of full disclosure, I need to confess that I am a huge Terry Pluto fan. For those of you who have never heard of him, he is an award-winning faith and sports columnist for the Akron Beacon Journal and the author of nineteen books. Among readers of the Beacon, he has a legion of fans. On a personal note, Pluto is the reason I subscribe to the Akron Beacon Journal, even though I am a major contributor to the Beacon's competitor, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. Journalists like myself subscribe to the competition to know what they're up to. Not me. I buy to read Pluto. There, I've said it. With that out of the way, I can get down to business and tell you about his latest book EVERYDAY FAITH, a collection of fifty-seven of his "Your Faith" columns, published Saturdays in the Beacon's Religion section. I'm very familiar with each of the essays contained in this latest anthology. In fact, most of these columns I've clipped, saved, copied and shared with distant friends. They're that good.
They're good because he asks the questions we ask of God in the middle of the night, when we can't sleep. They're good because Pluto realizes that faith and living are inseparable and that it's faith that oftentimes makes living more understandable. They're good because he seeks answers on how it all fits together as we tuck our kids in bed at night, are called on to discipline an employee, deal with a sibling, handle grief or the death of a dream, or when we don't feel like praying. In his writing, Pluto works out his faith with "fear and trembling," like the Good Book suggests, and we, who have the privilege to read him, are the beneficiaries.
In one essay titled "Clergy: Your People Want To Know What Happens to Their Prayers," he challenges pastors, rabbis and imams to talk to their congregations about prayers that don't seem to get answered. Pluto writes: "Your people...want to know they are not alone, that others also have had a feeling of dropping off God's radar screen. They're not so much angry as they are seeking hope. They want to know they still matter to God, and the trials they are facing will end and there is a purpose behind it." Pluto also tackles --- no, wait, tackles isn't the right word; he doesn't "tackle" issues, he merely leads the discussion.
Another essay is titled "Where Is God When People Die?" and brings out questions so many of us asked after 9/11: "Where is God among the rubble and bodies? Where is God in the tears, the blood, the agony? Where is God when innocent people die, when it seems the world no longer makes sense?" In less than 200 words, Pluto untangles evil and assures us that when we weep, so does God. He's not a preacher. He's a searcher, just like us.
Pluto weaves universal truths from simple questions, using down-home stories about people like you and me, pulling in quotes from area clergy to round it out and make his point. Scripture is quoted liberally. The biggest criticism I hear of his work among some of my Christian friends is that his columns are too basic and simplistic. But I say, "Viva le Simplistic!" Pluto doesn't pretend to be a theologian (though what he writes is theologically correct). He's real. He struggles. He questions. He ponders. And then he writes his heart out.
And we are so blessed because he does.
--- Reviewed by Diana Keough

In the Presence of My Enemies: A Gripping Account of the Kidnapping of American Missionaries and Their Year of Terror in the Philippine Jungle
In the Presence of My Enemies: A Gripping Account of the Kidnapping of American Missionaries and Their Year of Terror in the Philippine Jungle
by Gracia Burnham
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars An Unforgettable Story Full of Grace, Mercy and Forgiveness, June 27 2004
IN THE PRESENCE OF MY ENEMIES is the true account of the horrendous ordeal that missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham endured after they were kidnapped by terrorists while celebrating their anniversary in May 2001. Held captive for a full year, the couple were within minutes of rescue when Martin was killed by "friendly fire" --- gunshots from their rescuers, who were soldiers in the Philippine army.
The skeletal story of the Burnhams' captivity and mistreatment at the hands of Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group active in the Philippines, is well-known to American audiences given the understandable media attention Gracia Burnham's release and homecoming generated. That story pales in comparison to the compelling account Burnham and veteran Christian author Dean Merrill provide in this book.
Whether due to Merrill's deft touch or Burnham's natural instincts, the two skillfully manage to avoid turning the memoir into a sensationalistic politic diatribe or melodramatic evangelistic treatise. The contributing elements were there: tireless workers on the foreign mission field enjoying one night of extravagance during their first real vacation in years, yanked from their cabin at gunpoint, subjected to horrific circumstances and conditions, with only one missionary left alive to tell the story. But Burnham and Merrill realized that the drama was inherent in the facts of the story, and any attempt to overdo it would have diluted the impact of Gracia's straightforward narrative.
The horror of what she experienced and witnessed during her year of captivity is difficult to fathom: beheadings, near-starvation, day-long marches that ended exactly where they began, forced "marriages" between captors and captives, even the fear that the Philippine army would make a rescue attempt --- a fear that proved to be well-founded with Martin Burnham's unnecessary death. And yet, Gracia relates the events of the year with such grace and skill that her story maintains a steady forward movement; she never stops the momentum by expressing outrage or analyzing the reasons why certain incidents occurred. What happened to the hostages on Sept. 11, 2001, for example, would have compelled a lesser person to rail against God and reject him completely, but Burnham --- who must still wonder about the timing of the events of that day --- seems to have come to terms with every aspect of her ordeal.
Perhaps the most surprising element of her story is the relationships that developed between the terrorists and the hostages. Their conversations were often friendly, and at times, the hostages realized that, in a sense, they were all on the same side, trying to avoid a deadly confrontation with the soldiers who were tracking them. In a particularly enlightening section, Gracia takes the reader into the mind of a terrorist who expressed genuine shock that the hostages thought they were being mistreated. Similarly, she recounts a conversation about the Koran in which her captor maintained that a verse condemning killing did not apply to him. Neither did an admonition against stealing.
Most of all, Burnham's account comes across as honest. She openly writes about those times when her faith in God vacillated, when her hope would turn to despair, and when the sheer boredom of the daily routine began to get to her. In short, her story rings true.
Burnham and Merrill deserve whatever honors and attention this book gets, because this is far more than a dramatic account of a momentous event --- it's an unforgettable story saturated with grace, mercy and forgiveness.
--- Reviewed by Marcia Ford

The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus (Miniature Edition)
The God I Love: A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus (Miniature Edition)
by Joni Eareckson Tada
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 27.87
30 used & new from CDN$ 1.28

4.0 out of 5 stars This autobiography may be Tada's best work to date, June 27 2004
For Joni Eareckson Tada's memoir to turn out to be anything less than stellar would be difficult to imagine. A long-time bestselling author with an amazing story and a highly successful ministry, Tada outdoes her remarkable record with an autobiography that may be her best book so far.
The basics of Tada's life are well-known in Christian circles. Reared in a Christian home, Joni Eareckson was planning to enter Western Maryland College in the fall of 1967. But a trip to a Chesapeake Bay beach in July of that year permanently changed her life. A "simple" dive went wrong, and Joni ended up paralyzed from the neck down, confined to a wheelchair for life. In the following decade, Christians in America would become familiar with the once-unknown young woman who had learned to draw and paint with her mouth and was steadily producing a successful line of artwork sold in Christian stores. Her story was told in print and on film, and her voice later became a mainstay on Christian radio. In the intervening years, she has become an advocate for the disabled, not only in the United States but also around the world.
In no previous book has Joni Eareckson --- now married to Ken Tada --- been quite so transparent and open about the highs and lows of her relationship with God, particularly in the years immediately following the accident but also amid the day-to-day frustrations that come with being dependent upon others for the basic necessities of life. Through it all --- through the extraordinary accomplishments of someone who at one time had every reason to give up on life --- you get the sense that many of Tada's inner struggles are very ordinary, very human, and therefore very easy for others to relate to.
Tada writes about social issues, such as her firsthand experience with oppression in former communist countries, with as much sensitivity as she writes about highly personal issues, like her disappointment and sorrow after learning that she was infertile. She seamlessly intersperses detailed accounts of her many international trips with loving stories about her close-knit family, her circle of friends, and her marriage to Ken. Especially poignant are passages relating to the deaths of her mother and father.
Throughout, of course, the focus always returns to Tada's relationship with God and the subtle irony inherent in the subtitle, "A Lifetime of Walking with Jesus." Even from her wheelchair, Tada "walks" with God. She writes, "Ah, this is the God I love. The Center, the Peacemaker, the Passport to adventure, the Joyride, and the Answer to all our deepest longings. The answer to all our fears, Man of Sorrows and Lord of Joy, always permitting what he hates, to accomplish something he loves...There are more important things in life than walking."
Fans of Joni Eareckson Tada's previous books will not be disappointed with this one. It's a beautifully written tribute to the love of God as seen through the life of one woman who found freedom and joy in Christ in the midst of what another might consider a cruel confinement.
--- Reviewed by Marcia Ford

The Caleb Quest
The Caleb Quest
by Mark Atteberry
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 12.23

4.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing and Well Thought-Out Book, June 27 2004
This review is from: The Caleb Quest (Hardcover)
Author Mark Atteberry knows firsthand from his day job as a minister that countless Christians are discouraged by the way their lives are turning out. "Their dreams have fizzled, and in some cases, turned to nightmares," writes Atteberry. "The dream job was never offered, the dream marriage lost its fire, the dream kids went astray, and the dream house was never built." In THE CALEB QUEST he promises, "Hope could be resurrected in your heart...Your faith in God could be renewed...Suddenly, your life could have meaning and purpose again."
Big promises, and they come from Atteberry's own personal quest. He writes that he was troubled that so many scripture verses in the Bible promised so much, yet so many Christians were mourning the death of their dreams. "Has God been unfaithful to His promises?" asks Atteberry. "Do dreams really come true? And if so, what does it take to make them happen?"
Atteberry went looking for answers. He found them, he believes, when he studied the life of Caleb, whom he calls "The boldest dreamer and achiever in all of God's word." Writes Atteberry, "I'm convinced that the main reason his story was included in Scripture is to show us that dreams really do come true, not just in Disney movies, but in real life."
When we look at the life of Caleb, we discover that fulfilled dreams are the result of clear thinking, strong faith, patience and lots of hard work, Atteberry writes. The key is taking a hard look at your dream and making sure it fits with God's will. "Nothing...will help you if you've already committed to a course of action that puts you in opposition to God." He also cautions readers, with some humor, that God's blessings always harmonize with His gifts ("If you're tone-deaf, you'll never be an opera singer. Rap maybe, but not opera.").
Atteberry is the minister of Poinciana Christian Church in Kissimmee, Florida, and the author of THE SAMSON SYNDROME. His passion for his topic in THE CALEB QUEST is contagious, and his first person writing is reminiscent of and is as well thought-out as a good sermon series. He mixes biblical narrative and interesting anecdotes, from art to baseball to crabbing. He also alludes to his own dream fulfillment, from his first attempts to write a novel eighteen years ago to becoming a published author. "Don't ever tell me dreams don't come true," writes Atteberry, who then cautions, "...they don't always come true when you want them to." Our timing for our dreams isn't always God's timing, he reminds us. Patience is called for. "Our job is simply to be faithful in the meantime," he writes.
Atteberry devotes a chapter to the "dream killers," pointing out that they are often our family members and our friends, and challenging readers to defeat them with courage and trust in the Lord. Of course our own worst enemy, he cautions, may be ourselves. "Have you grown lazy? Are you hanging around with negative people?"
There's a bit of THE PRAYER OF JABEZ tone to this book, and occasionally some of the sentences feel over-hyped: " could be only a few pages away from finally understanding how to get from where you are to where you've always wanted to be"). But readers will appreciate Atteberry's plea for them to be "humble and teachable." "The Caleb Quest is no pie-in-the sky prescription for wealth and happiness," he warns readers. "It rejects the 'name it and claim it' theology that has left so many confused and discouraged. Instead, it offers a down-to-earth, biblical, workable plan for making your lifelong dream come true."
The jacket copy promises quite a bit ("...this book will dramatically change your'll finally discover what God wants you to know" ) --- maybe too much. But the book ends on a lovely note: "My dreaming friend, as you close this book and lay it down, I pray that you'll take up the Caleb Quest, and that someday, at the time of God's choosing, you'll see the fulfillment of your lifelong dream. But just as fervently, I pray that when it happens, you'll use it to bless others. If you do, I predict you'll make a startling discovery: that the giving away of your dream will bring you more joy than its fulfillment ever did."
Readers should find this an intriguing book, and questions for personal or group study should offer opportunity for additional perspective on what it means to dream big for God.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby

Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage: with Study Guide
Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage: with Study Guide
by Gary Rosberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.99
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars An Important Book for Both Engaged and Married Couples, June 27 2004
In HEALING THE HURT IN YOUR MARRIAGE, Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg are on a mission: to divorce-proof America's marriages. "You and your marriage are the devil's intended victims...Satan would like nothing better than to discourage you, debilitate your marriage, and add another crippled or broken family to his ledger," write the Rosbergs. As hosts of the nationally syndicated radio program "America's Family Coaches...Live!" they've heard myriad tales from wounded couples teetering on the brink of divorce, and have helped them put their marriages back together.
The authors believe that after the honeymoon fades and "the Novocain of naïveté wears off" many marriages suffer from unresolved conflict that causes hurt and anger. "If we do not learn to close the loop on our conflicts, our marriages will be at risk for sliding toward disconnection, discord, and possibly emotional divorce," write the Rosbergs.
The book is salted with scriptural models for resolving conflict, diagrams, and anecdotal stories modeling problems with hurt and anger. There's Zach, who lets his mother run his life, and his wife Jan, whose anger over the situation is eating her up. Laura's husband is a workaholic, and she cries herself to sleep over his neglect. Jack works the night shift, and comes home unexpectedly to find his wife in the arms of a man from their Bible study group.
Every spouse will hurt their partner in some way, believe the Rosbergs. "It's not a question of if, only when." What separates those who head for divorce court and those whose marriages last is how the couple will resolve the conflict and hurt that they feel, they believe. The Rosbergs see three things that keep couples moving in the right direction: the couple acknowledges that they will cause each other pain from time to time, the couple learns what to do when conflicts and pain occur, and the couple puts God's plan for resolving conflict into practice.
With this in mind, the Rosbergs give readers a biblically-based plan to carry out all three steps, beginning with the idea of "the loop." The loop of conflict begins when your spouse offends you in some way. Until it is resolved, the loop remains open. At some point you reach the fork in the road --- the choice to close the loop or leave it open. Once forgiving love is exercised, the loop is closed.
Forgiving love, as seen by the Rosbergs, is a six-stage process: preparing the heart, diffusing anger, communicating concerns, confronting, forgiving, and rebuilding trust. Each stage is explored in detail, and includes examples of couples working through that particular step. Although the Rosbergs encourage couples to say no to divorce, they are also realistic, giving some examples of couples who don't make it. "Reconciliation can occur only when both spouses want it and pursue it through whole forgiveness."
The Rosbergs also look at the origins of marital conflicts, including family background differences, personality differences, values differences, and differences between the sexes. They also examine various types of anger (situational, displaced) and our responses to anger (protecting ourselves, exploding, denying, stuffing). Healing is hampered when pride, guilt, laziness, shame, and fear throw a "red light" that stops us on our journey toward resolution, they write.
"Unless you and your spouse learn how to work through your hurt and anger, you will likely find yourself on an emotional roller coaster that never slows down," write the authors. "Unresolved anger evolves into bitterness and resentment." The unresolved conflicts are part of the "open loops," and closing every "loop" as soon as possible is vital to divorce-proofing your marriage, they write.
They also examine cultural messages about conflict resolution, including messages from the media, advice from friends and family members, and instructions given by the church. Some of the most enjoyable illustrations in the book are when characters from the television sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond" are used to illustrate five common conflict resolution styles. The couple writes with one voice, occasionally switching to first person accounts when they share personal marital anecdotes, which makes for a smooth read. Their plan for resolving conflict and managing anger and hurt flows in an orderly and logical way, with plenty of subheads to help the reader stay on track.
With virtually no Christian extended family left untouched by divorce, the Rosbergs have a ready-made readership. Engaged couples will find this book a great discussion starter, and married couples could find it a marriage-saver.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby

Circle of Grace: A Novel
Circle of Grace: A Novel
by Penelope J. Stokes
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.74

4.0 out of 5 stars An Absorbing Story for Readers of Faith Fiction, June 27 2004
After penning nine novels, Penelope Stokes knows how to craft an interesting story, and she raises the bar a bit higher for herself in CIRCLE OF GRACE.
Four mismatched college classmates craft an unlikely alliance in this tale, then drift apart over the next few decades, connected only by their "circle journal," passed around by mail for each woman to update the others on how her life unfolds. However, most of the women can't resist embellishing their accomplishments, hiding important life events, or brushing aside their failures, so the entries in the circle journal are mostly a charade.
Grace Benedict (whose name has several interesting connotations) had thought of the foursome as "the Four Corners" or "the Compass Points" in college because of their diversity of perspectives when challenged in a philosophy course to answer the question, "What is truth?" The heart of Stokes's novel lies in the answer to this question.
Liz Chandler, a dyed-in-the-wool atheist who, as a student, believed love was overrated, goes on to find true love with a surprising person --- but she isn't sure she is ready to be honest with her old friends about her new life. Amanda, or "Lovey," is the vacuous, agnostic blonde Southern cheerleader whose dream marriage to football player Bo Tennyson has slipped away over the years into an expensive, polished façade. But can she confront Bo with the truth about their relationship? Tess Riley, the daughter of an Episcopal bishop, has become a successful writer with two Newbery Medals and three Horn Book Awards. But she keeps the truth about her identity a secret.
And Grace, the moral compass and "truth teller" of the foursome, believed in college that "the truth will set you free...truth enables us to become the people we were created to be." But thirty years later, Grace is perhaps the worst at coming clean, spinning a fantasy life in the circle journal for her friends that bear no relationship to reality. Grace has been burned in the "truth telling" department before. Her parents' marriage had a dark side that she discovered after her father's death. It was then that truth ceased to be an abstract concept for Grace. As Stokes beautifully writes, truth then "had a color, a taste, a smell. A dark red hellish light, a bitter burn like acid on her tongue, a scent of smoke and ash and the rotting remains of half-cremated dreams." Her mother tells her, "We always think we want the truth, Grace. But the truth isn't always pleasant or noble, and it's certainly not painless."
Now, diagnosed with a terminal illness and long past believing her college credo that "the truth will set you free," Grace must decide if she will finish life the same way she has lived it, or be willing to be painfully honest with her friends about her own deceptions and her need for a relationship.
Readers who dislike their authors deviating from what they have come to expect will enjoy CIRCLE OF GRACE, which echoes THE BLUE BOTTLE CLUB in its object motif and follows some familiar Stokes formulas. In this sense, CIRCLE OF GRACE is like settling in for a conversation with an old friend. However, more conservative Stokes fans will discover that the author has taken some risks in this novel: allowing her characters to use some profanity, and letting one of the friends "come out of the closet." What is most unmistakable about this novel is how Stokes's writing, always proficient, sparkles in places, and she proves she knows how to turn some lovely phrases ("Liz's questions, along with so many of her own, hung out there like loose threads on a badly-woven sweater. Pull one, and everything might unravel.").
This novel, with its lovely writing and themes of truth, loss, friendship and redemption, will provide an absorbing story for readers of faith fiction.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby

by Ted Dekker
Edition: Hardcover
37 used & new from CDN$ 1.52

4.0 out of 5 stars Fans of this mind-bending trilogy will not be disappointed, June 27 2004
This review is from: Red (Hardcover)
Thomas Hunter continues his mission to save the world from the deadly Raison Strain virus in RED, the second volume in Ted Dekker's "The Circle" trilogy. This time, though, the countdown is much nearer the eleventh hour, when the virus will begin to annihilate the world's population. Only by discovering the formula for the antivirus will the world be saved, and Hunter --- an unlikely hero with no background in chemistry --- may be the planet's only hope.
But Hunter doesn't need a scientific background. In fact, he needs little more than a good night's sleep to keep moving closer to finding the formula the world so desperately needs. As in BLACK, the first book in the trilogy, each time Hunter falls asleep in this dimension he wakes up in another dimension, a futuristic world that has only a fading memory of the events surrounding the release of the Raison Strain by terrorists willing to die in their pursuit of global power. In that dimension, Hunter seeks a long-lost history book chronicling the earlier events in this dimension. His pursuit of the book there mirrors his quest for the antivirus here.
As he draws nearer to finding what he is seeking, he acquires skills and information --- precious little at a time, it seems --- in the alternate dimension that carry over into this world to give him supernatural abilities and uncanny knowledge. That makes Hunter a very important man, both to the world leaders trying to avoid a global catastrophe and to the terrorists who have brought the world right to the brink of such a catastrophe. But for the first time, it appears as if the relationship between the two dimensions may not be as it originally seemed, setting up some intriguing possibilities for the final volume, WHITE, which releases in the fall.
Fans of Dekker will not be surprised to find that the author carries all this off with considerable skill. Hunter's life flows between the two dimensions so naturally that you don't even think twice about the probability that dream-like travel between two realities could exist. Dekker is equally adept at allowing the suspense to build through the progression of the events in the story; the build-up never feels forced or heavy-handed. And he makes sure that the beautiful Monique de Raison, whose company developed the vaccine that mutated into the deadly virus, needs to be rescued once again. Don't be surprised if you start to hear the theme music to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in your head as you're reading one section of the book.
There's a third dimension in the trilogy, of course --- the spiritual dimension. In RED, the underlying Christian message is much more subtle than in BLACK, making this one a stronger book. Readers new to the trilogy should read the books in sequence, because RED won't make a lot of sense without the background that BLACK provides. As for those readers who have been eagerly awaiting the second book, rest assured --- you won't be disappointed.
--- Reviewed by Marcia Ford

The Last Odd Day: A Novel
The Last Odd Day: A Novel
by Lynne Hinton
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from CDN$ 4.25

4.0 out of 5 stars A Lovely Story with Messages of Faith, Hope and Charity, June 27 2004
Fans of Lynne Hinton's previous novels will find her new book, THE LAST ODD DAY, odd indeed. Deriving its title from November 19, 1999 (11.19.1999), the "last odd day" until 3111, it is a quiet, rambling account of an older blue-collar woman coping with her husband's long-term care and her own long-term memories; it is more novella than novel and more a meditation than a narrative. However, while Jean Clover's story may not have the dramatic action or symbolic cohesion of Hinton's earlier work, it is nonetheless a lovely story replete with messages of faith, hope and charity.
The basic facts: Jean, daughter of a Cherokee woman and a blind white man, grows up poor and marries O.T., who almost immediately goes off to fight in World War II, leaving Jean home on the farm with his parents and brother. For many years, nothing much happens: O.T. works, Jean keeps house, and any disappointments either of them feel are either ignored or accepted --- until the day Jean learns that the child she has carried nearly to term has died in utero. After the grueling and gruesome experience of laboring in childbirth without a baby to take home, Jean runs away to a motel for a month, filling her room with infant clothes, toys, and paraphernalia until returning home quietly and carrying on as if nothing had happened.
The years pass, and the couple carry on as if nothing ever will happen --- until the day when O.T. is felled by a stroke and winds up in a nursing home at half his former size and with less than half of his former faculties. Jean visits and cares for him faithfully, and during one of her regular bedside stays, she learns from a caregiver that her husband has had another visitor. Jean's encounter with that person will change both of their lives.
It's not spoiling this book to reveal that O.T. had secrets; it would be spoiling the book, however, to give all of the details of what Jean does with her new knowledge. What is most fascinating about Jean's reminiscences is that, despite the lack of luxuries in her life, she lacks neither love nor wisdom. When, at the end, her conventional church-lady neighbor attempts to tie up Jean's life, Jean resists with her customary stillness, knowing that some events and emotions cannot be reduced.
Hinton's achievement in THE LAST ODD DAY is a protagonist who will not be reduced, even if her circumstances and choices have made her a woman of little consequence for many people. Jean's dignity and decency are not contrived; Hinton seems almost to have channeled this character from a deep place, from the Godhead. But while Jean is a compelling character, the reader simply doesn't have enough information about her to understand her actions. Even at 192 pages, the book feels more like a character sketch than a narrative; yet such a moving and sincere character sketch should not be ignored.
--- Reviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick

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