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Notable Books

Notable Books | Four books about trauma and recovery reviewed by Susan Olasky

Issue: "Tick, tick, tick ...," May 7, 2011

Heaven Is for Real

This story of a 5-year-old child's near-death experience sits atop the best-seller lists and has become a Shack-like phenomenon, due in great part to WORLD alum Lynn Vincent's ability to flesh out the story of the boy's burst appendix, apparent death, and miraculous recovery. Whether you like the book will depend largely on whether you are interested in near-death experiences, whether you find them credible, and how much your faith depends on believing them. Read it because it's an interesting account, but not because you need an eyewitness to tell you something you should know from the Scriptures. Luke 16:31 says, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

Unshaken: Rising from the Ruins of Haiti's Hotel Montana

Woolley had just returned to the Hotel Montana after a day of filming a Compassion International project when the earthquake struck, collapsing the hotel on him and killing his colleague David Hames. Although his leg was badly broken and gashed, he was able to crawl to an open elevator where he huddled for the next 65 hours waiting to be rescued. Woolley describes his wait, explains how his camera and iPhone became tools of survival, and shows how God drew near in his suffering as he struggled with fear over how his death might affect his wife, who struggled for years with major depression, and his two young sons. It's a compelling story of God's goodness even in dire circumstances.

The Long Winter: One Man's Journey Through the Darkness of Foster Care

Paul Owen, now a professor at Montreat College, became an orphan after his mother died of cancer when he was 13. His father died when he was 5, and his mother did her best to care for him despite her disabilities. He knew material poverty but he didn't suffer a lack of love. That changed when she died, and he began living with a series of seven foster families in the next four years. He coped with cruelty and indifference by withdrawing-to a bedroom if he had one or to long treks outside if he didn't. Owen's ability to understand his younger self (sullen, lonely, desperate for a father's attention) and to remember telling incidents and conversations (including some offensive language) makes for a compelling story.

Generation Ex-Christians: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith ...

Should we be worried about the large number of young adults who leave the faith? Won't they come back when they get married? Drew Dyck says we should worry. Young adulthood is lasting longer, increasing the likelihood that those who leave might never return. All leavers are not the same, he says. He divides them into six categories, profiles individuals who fit the categories, highlights the issues that precipitated their leaving, and provides ways for believers to address them. Dyck provides warm, intelligent, and godly counsel for those who love any kind of leaver, whether modern, postmodern, neo-pagan, recoiler, drifter, or rebel.seeking after God, praying, shaping thanksgivings for Jesus's rebuilding the pathways between God the Father and me." Interspersed among the letters are short meditations.


Novelist and teacher Walter Wangerin, diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2006, underwent a grueling course of chemo and radiation treatments. During that first year, as he endured relentless pain and increasing breathlessness, he wrote letters to friends in which he described how the diagnosis and ordinary daily events-visits to doctors, a car accident, conversations with his wife and grandchildren-affected his mind and spirit.

In Letters from the Land of Cancer (Zondervan, 2010) he writes, "The cancer, do you see, has accomplished a number of blessings for me." He describes some of them: "My diseases, far from acting the foe, are profound initiators of spiritual clarity, devout meditation, a faithful (peaceful!) seeking after God, praying, shaping thanksgivings for Jesus's rebuilding the pathways between God the Father and me." Interspersed among the letters are short meditations.


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