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Notable books

Notable Books | Four books with Christian themes reviewed by Susan Olasky

Conversations with American Writers

Long-time English pro­fessor Dale Brown collects interviews he conducted with nine writers whose novels spring from or reflect their faith or struggles with faith. Probably the most well-known to Christian readers is Jan Karon, author of the Mitford books. In a wide-ranging interview she discusses her calling to be a writer and how hard it was at first. "It was so bad; it was so bad. I had failed. I did not know how to write a book. Mr. Churchill's line came to me then and has been very important, very core. Just 'never, never, never give up.' Period." The interviews explore the writing process and whether, as Shelby Foote asserted in a letter to Walker Percy, "art is by definition a product of doubt."

Ancient Highways

Brett Lott shows how an act of forgiveness begins to heal a three-generation­family fractured by wounds and secrets. The saga begins during the Depression when 14-year-old Earl runs away to Hollywood: Lott wonderfully depicts the vanity and insecurity of one who never becomes a star but is always waiting to be discovered. Earl's daughter is 9 years old after World War II, and it's through her eyes that we see her parents' unhappiness. Her son, Brad, a Vietnam War vet, can't figure out a future. Some of the book's best scenes take place in this early Hollywood, and other memorable scenes pop up throughout, but the parts are better than the whole.

Winter Haven

Vera is a mousy ­accountant who loses herself in ledger books until she receives a phone call: The body of her brother Siggy (he'd run away 13 years before, when he was 15) has washed up on an island off Maine. Oddly, the body she identifies hasn't aged, so Vera needs to figure out what her autistic brother has been doing for the past 13 years-and that opens up the floodgates of memories and misunderstandings about God. The island seems to hold answers, but Vera's searching uncovers more mysteries and confusion. The result of all this is a page-turning gothic tale, combining elements of romance, mystery, and ghost story, that aspires to go beyond genre to explore God's purpose in suffering.

Free Food for Millionaires

This big, realistic novel centers on a set of young Korean-Americans working in New York's financial industry in the 1990s, and their parents. Protagonist Casey is a recent Princeton grad who is aimless, alienated from her family, and deeply in credit card debt. Though Casey and the other well-developed characters seek fulfillment in work, status attainment, and sex-there's a lot of it, and bad language-those things don't satisfy. Because she's writing about Korean-American culture in which the church has a central role, most of Min Jin Lee's characters are wrestling with God in some way. That makes this book different: How many novels grounded in New York City reality even acknowledge that God is worth thinking about?

Spotlight

At the beginning of The Whole Life Adoption Book (NavPress, 2008), authors Jayne E. Schooler and Thomas Atwood write, "We believe that God makes families through adoption, just as He makes families through procreation." They also acknowledge the "unique challenges that can occur in adoption." It's those unique challenges that make this book an essential resource for every adoptive or potential adoptive family.

The authors, adoptive­parents and adoption­professionals, have a combination of personal and professional experience that gives their advice weight. Their practical and reassuring book can help families identify potential problems and develop strategies to avoid or navigate different stages and kinds of adoption, whether trans-racial, international, older child, or infant. Even while discussing potential issues, the authors maintain the perspective that "all families face difficulties as their children grow. Healthy families learn how to work through those problems and help their children grow into successful, well-adjusted adults."

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