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Notable books

Notable Books | Four Christian novels reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "At the wire," Nov. 6, 2010

While We're Far Apart

Austin's World War II-era novel features two Brooklyn families, both struggling with grief and bitterness, trying to figure out God's ways. Building owner Jacob Mendel's only son has moved to Hungary, where he married and had a baby. Jacob watches Hitler's advance and fears for his son's safety. His tenant, the widower Eddie Shaffer, decides to enlist in the army, leaving behind his two children in the care of a friend, Penny. As the story develops, the walls of suspicion and hostility between the two families begin to break down. Austin's novel has lots of period detail and explores well how suffering affects faith and how God works in even difficult situations.

The Miracle of Mercy Land

It's the late 1930s and Mercy Land has been the assistant to newspaper publisher Doc Philips for the past seven years. She's come a long way from the baby born on the banks of Bittersweet Creek. A mysterious book comes into Doc's hand. It seems to know everything about people in Bay City, Ala., all the choices they've made, and all the roads they've not taken. When Doc calls a stranger to town, everyone thinks he's going to take over the newspaper. Only Doc and Mercy know he has a mysterious connection to the town. Is he still the boy they knew and loved, or has his dark side taken over? Jordan's novel drips Southern and period charm.

Hatteras Girl

Alice Wisler's modern romance takes place on the Outer Banks of North Carolina where Jackie Donovan, 29, writes for a local magazine and dreams about owning a particular house with childhood memories. She wants to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast if she ever gets the money. Her parents are eager to see her married, so she suffers a constant series of bad blind dates arranged by them. Then she meets Mr. Right-or is he? Can Alice see beyond surface charm to find what is really valuable? Wisler's characters have an aimless, vaguely Christian point of view, not that different from the characters in some independent movies-except more wholesome.

Amy Inspired

Thirty-year-old Amy teaches college writing and tries to get published. As she waits for inspiration to strike, making checklists rather than gritting out pages, she begins to doubt whether she'll ever succeed. Amy has slightly bohemian friends who engage in slightly edgy behavior. Eventually true love wins out. In short, Pierce has crafted an engaging story out of modern chick-lit fundamentals-trouble at work, trouble with guys, and a certain lostness. There's also a less developed faith story as Amy realizes from a pastor's sermon that her desire to be known or achieve fame could be God-given, but we are meant to "find recognition in Him."

Spotlight

"I only know one man who might be able to tell me where I come from, and that man is a liar and a fraud," says the boy Grady at the beginning of Jonathan Rogers' The Charlatan's Boy (Waterbrook, 2010). The fraud is "Perfessor" Floyd, a traveling showman whose greatest claim to fame was his famous "Feechie" show featuring Grady as "the Wildman of the Feechiefen Swamp." But when Feechie shows go out of fashion, the entrepreneurial perfessor rolls out other shows, including "the ugliest boy in the world," again starring Grady. This young-adult tale is funny and poignant as it follows Grady and Floyd on their travels around the island of Corenwald, where Floyd tries to separate villagers from their money and Grady tries to figure out answers to some big questions: where he came from, where he belongs, and whether he'll ever have anyone but Floyd to love.

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