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Notable books

Notable Books | Four noteworthy novels reviewed by Susan Olasky

Betrayed

In this thoughtful and taut thriller, sisters Holly and Vicki Andrews both end up working in Guatemala, one as a veterinarian for a charity that preserves endangered species and the other as an investigator for a foundation considering a grant to a faith-based orphanage.

When Holly is murdered, the police are ready to dismiss it as an act of random violence-but Vicky believes her sister's death is related to her work. Her search uncovers uncomfortable facts about her own past and the sometimes unsavory history of U.S. involvement in Guatemala. She must learn who to trust and whether the words of Holly's favorite hymn, "This Is My Father's World," are true.

Song Yet Sung

Liz Spocott, also known as "The Dreamer," is a runaway slave in 1850 who falls into the hands of and then escapes a notorious slave catcher. Her dreams foretell a bleak future (that looks much like the present), where both black and white kids are enthralled by violence and turn their backs on education.

Two different slave catchers chase Liz through the marshy wilderness of Maryland's Eastern Shore. She escapes capture with the help of both free blacks and slaves who use "the Code," secret signals and words to lead slaves to freedom. McBride's well-drawn characters and interest in pursuing spiritual themes set his books apart from those of other serious writers.

Beginner's Greek

Peter is a romantic and a nice guy who dreams of meeting his true love on an airplane. So when beautiful Holly shows up and claims the seat next to him, he's primed for love, which blossoms during the flight from New York to L.A. But he loses her phone number, years intervene, and she marries a young writer who turns out to be Peter's childhood friend and a cad.

A series of events-marriages, breakups, affairs-among the main characters and their connections eventually bring the couple together. Collins has crafted an urbane comedy that will remind chick-lit fans of the movie Serendipity and of 1930s drawing-room comedies-except with graphic language and sex.

Safe at Home

Sportswriter Jack Hall loves baseball, especially a minor league team, the Bobcats. But in 1953 television and air conditioning are keeping people home, and it looks as though the team will go under. When Hall scouts Percy Jackson, a phenom playing for the black high school, and finds that integrated teams increase black attendance, he encourages the Bobcats to sign the 17-year-old.

Hall believes in segregation, but he also loves baseball. He learns to respect Percy and his family when he sees the way they stand up to racial hatred. Doster brings to life this tumultuous period, creating a cast of characters that we come to understand, even though many hold on to racial views-and use racial language-that offends.

Spotlight

David Sheff's Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Meth Addiction is powerful reading that's not for the faint-hearted. Those who are related to an addict will appreciate Sheff's honesty and his ability to capture on paper the fear, loneliness, anxiety, gut-wrenching guilt, and moments of hope that parents feel when their kids use drugs. The portrait he paints of his pre-addicted son as a young, joyous boy with a stunning verbal ability makes the story even more wrenching.

Those without an addict in the family probably know someone who is going through it. Sheff provides plenty of reasons to blame him for his son's trouble-divorce, shared custody, his own drug use-but who has parented perfectly? You see the strains addiction puts on spouses, siblings, and health: Sheff suffered a brain aneurysm at least partially caused by stress. You see the utter despair of those without hope in Christ. This honest book also contains useful information about meth, addiction, and treatment. Caution: language.

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