Improbably, bestselling Christian author Chris Fabry's new book really works. A wisecracking journalist with an estranged wife and a sick son narrates most of the tale in the first person. The son needs a heart transplant, and he's scheduled to get one-from a death row inmate who maybe didn't actually commit the murder for which he was convicted. After that, it's all twists and turns as the narrator fights God, gambles away tens of thousands of dollars, and tracks down the story of the man on death row. A car chase, a showdown at the governor's mansion, and a moving-and very believable-conversion scene wrap things up.
Not in the Heart (Tyndale, 2012) is dedicated to "the addicted and those who love them"-a reference to the narrator's gambling problem. Sin is a real (and ugly) reality in the world Fabry creates. But this book is actually a story of hope, redemption, and sacrifice; it just hides that until the last two pages. Reading it, I had no idea where it was going. It is formula defying. Only after reading in its promotional materials that it was "inspirational fiction" did I finally place the genre. Think A Tale of Two Cities, as rendered by Hallmark.
Perhaps the most notable feature of the book is the distinctive, hard-bitten, hilariously cynical voice of the narrator. "I awoke with the distinct feeling that I was someplace I shouldn't be, mainly because Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake stared at me from opposite walls."
Fabry has built a rewarding story; it's hard to imagine inspirational fiction done better than this.