Monday, August 29, 2011

The Answer by Allison Wynn

Wynn’s The Answer is a self-help short story; it is non-fiction subject matter presented in a fiction writing style. I was left with the impression that the story is the author’s personal experience but since it is written as fiction I can’t say that for sure.

The two main characters, Eric and Allison, meet at Starbucks. Eric thought the table he selected was vacant only to discover a journal left on the seat. In an effort to identify the owner he reads the journal and that’s when Allison returns to her table to discover this stranger who is weeping. I will summarize the rest of the story by saying this man and women (strangers) spent the entire day together talking, their lives were forever changed and they began the battle of letting go of anger.

I must be careful with my criticism because I don’t want to minimize a powerful, life-changing experience if this really is Wynn’s story. Having said that, there were a few red flags waving as I read The Answer. First, my mind cannot picture a man and a woman, who are strangers, spending the day together (skipping work) talking. That’s just not reality. Second, Eric is a married man having an intimate, life-altering experience with another woman and then he goes home to tell his wife all about it. My thought is, wouldn’t you want your wife to be there when you have this “a–ha” moment? As much as I would want to be happy for my husband for this break-through I would feel cheated that I didn’t get to be part of that, but some stranger was.

As for the self-help, non-fiction material Wynn claims that feeling insignificant leads to anger and the need to make others feel insignificant. It’s a cycle that takes discipline to recognize and break free from. That’s all fine and I can agree with that but, I would go one step farther and say the cycle can only be broken when we surrender the behavior to Christ and allow His grace to lead us into a new way of life. I was waiting for “we can overcome anything if we ask God for help” and it wasn’t there. I guess The Answer truly is a self-help book and I was hoping for more.

I received a complimentary copy of The Answer in exchange for a review.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

June Bug by Chris Fabry

Let me begin by telling you how I heard about this book…. I was reading a review and the writer said that particular book was as good as Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers and June Bug. My attention was zeroed in at that point because Redeeming Love is on my “Best Ever Book List.” Of course, I was skeptical. The probability of me agreeing that another book is of the same caliber as Redeeming Love, is slim. June Bug was placed at the top of my to-read list and this is what I think of Fabry’s novel…outstanding!

June Bug is a modern day retelling of the musical Les Misérables. The only life this nine year old girl named June Bug knows is one of traveling around the country in an RV with her father. Stuck in a Wal-Mart parking lot for several days, June Bug entertains herself inside the store until the day she glimpses at the missing children poster inside the front door only to see a picture of herself. This turns her world upside down and the story takes off from there.

Fabry does a remarkable job of writing from the perspective of a nine year old girl. That is no easy task, but it flows effortlessly throughout the book. The way June Bug thinks and talks is spot on when compared to girls I know that age. It’s almost uncanny how accurate Fabry’s character is to reality. He must have a daughter that age.

The other trait that had me enamored throughout the book was the unusual yet perfect word pictures. He describes in a whole new way and yet it makes perfect sense and you wonder why you never thought to describe it that way. Here a couple examples I particularly enjoyed: “Her face was kindly, with more lines than the map we kept in the RV.” and “there were a bunch of trailers packed in like haulers at a NASCAR race.”

 June Bug is a great story and it is written exceptionally well. June Bug gets ahold of your heart and barely lets go at the end of the book. Staying up late and thinking about the book days after completion is to be expected when you decide to read Fabry’s June Bug.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Don’t Give Up: Unexpected Answers to Marital Challenges by Gary Hoffman

Don’t Give Up is born out of the Men on the Edge Ministry that began at Saddleback Church, of which Hoffman is the leader. This book contains the material used in the support group for men with marital struggles. Hoffman’s book makes a good tool for support groups as well as being a complete resource for men to use on their own. A study guide style suits this book well and it also offers graphs, charts and a few questions to ponder.
Hoffman has a very specific target audience for his book, men in a marriage that is/did fall apart. It’s easy to determine whether or not Don’t Give Up is for you. I also feel the book is geared more towards men who either don’t have a personal relationship with Christ or are on the fringe. I say that because, as a Christian, some of the points Hoffman makes seems elementary. Having said that, there are some tidbits that are useful for women and couples who have a solid marriage. I was pleased when I read Hoffman’s reasoning for not using lawyers and I was glad to read his instruction on behavior during a separation.

A few nitpicks: redundancy, long sermon passages and overall not the caliber of writing I expected. First, I did not like the restating. There were many times the exact same sentence was written twice in the span of half a page. Verbatim. And many chapters could’ve been shorter if the repetition was eliminated. Several scripture passages were used over and over throughout the book, as well. Second, Hoffman prints long sections of sermons giving by Rick Warren. Whose book is it, anyway? And finally, Don’t Give Up fell short of my expectations. Saddleback Church is well-known and well-known for putting out excellent materials. I felt like Hoffman tried too hard to sell the ministry and relied on the reputation of Saddleback to carry the book along.
Don’t Give Up is a good resource and study guide for men who are trying to hold together their marriage. Everyone has to start somewhere and this book is a good beginning place. The format lends itself nicely to a group setting which is also a good place for struggling men to be. Hoffman has a great ministry going and is meeting the need of many men—I can’t criticize that!