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Notable books

Notable Books | Four new novels from Christian publishers reviewed by Susan Olasky

Eleventh Guest

This is the 11th book in the A.D. Chronicles, which cover the period when Jesus was alive on earth. The prologue, set in the present, doesn't make much sense if you read the books out of order, but it's not necessary to the story. The novels are wonderfully crafted and historically rich: They provide plausible context and backstory to events recorded in the gospels. This volume follows a group of lepers who, having heard of Jesus' healing power, go after Him. As they wander from place to place, they share their stories of livelihoods disrupted and families destroyed by the disease. By emphasizing Jesus' healing ministry, the Thoenes are able to show Jesus as Savior and not just tell it.

Watch Over Me

This novel has lots of story threads-an abandoned baby, an eating disorder, a failing marriage, an unloved teen. Christa Parrish redeems those gritty plot elements with a story about grace for troubled people with messy lives. She has drawn believable Christian characters who face marital discord and personal demons-and try to cope with them on their own strength. The facade they've built keeps others from knowing how deep is their despair-and it takes an infant to begin to turn them outward. Throughout the novel the main characters run from God, but Parrish shows (not tells) how God pursues them, even through terrible heartache. She writes with sensitivity and grace.

White Picket Fences

The Janviers live in a nice house in an affluent neighborhood. Amanda teaches special needs kids; her husband is a financial advisor. Their two kids do well in school, and all seems well. Then Amanda's ne'er-do-well brother disappears, leaving a teenage daughter behind, and she moves into the Janviers' well-ordered home. As the story progresses we learn that family members, motivated by fear, love, loyalty, and the need to protect, are keeping secrets from each other that corrode the family from within. This well-crafted family story shows how events from the past can continue to play a role if they are hidden rather than exposed to light.

Though Waters Roar

This novel begins with 20-year-old Harriet Sherwood in a jail cell in 1920. It takes until the end of the book to discover why she's there. In the meantime, through Harriet's flashbacks, we learn stories of her great-grandmother, a member of an anti-slavery society; her grandmother, a temperance activist; and her mother, a suffragette. They experience the aftermath of the Civil War, an economic crash, a great flood that washes away a town, the effects of drunkenness, and World War I. They learn to trust God in the midst of trials. The novel covers a big sweep of history, but occasionally the message gets the better of the story.

Spotlight

Doubleday finally released 5 million copies of Dan Brown's much-anticipated The Lost Symbol: That's the largest first printing in the venerable company's history. Booksellers hoped the book would revive a flagging industry, and more than 2 million copies, including audio and electronic, sold during the first week.

With more than 80 million copies of The DaVinci Code in print, Dan Brown is no stranger to bestsellers. That doesn't make him popular with critics. Whether motivated by a love of good writing or envy, it didn't take long for some of them to compile a list of Brown's clunkier sentences and product placements: "Yanking his Manurhin MR-93 revolver from his shoulder holster, the captain dashed out of the office." One blogger suggested that readers ignore Brown and give the price of the book to a favorite charity.

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