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The format—a story told from alternating viewpoints, with a few letters, radio and e-mail transcripts, and other realia thrown in—is becoming familiar, but two practiced writers employ the tactic and run with it in this page-turner. Marina loves her family, her faith, and her little brothers, but she is horrified when she discovers that her mother’s favorite preacher, Reverend Beelson, has just declared that the world will end on July 27, 2000; in another family, Jed accompanies his father to the mountaintop where Beelson says they will await the end of the world and prepare, as 144 of the faithful, to begin anew. They stockpile supplies, dig latrines, live in tents, and build an electrified fence to keep out everyone else. Yet these details are background to the real story of Jed and Marina’she is a Believer, and he is not—as they wrestle with faith, skepticism, family attachments, and their interest in each other. The authors pull off the remarkable feat of making the sacred tangible, of delineating what it means to believe. Beelson is a particularly rounded character: a man who believes that God has spoken and that he must obey. The harsher aspects of fundamentalist religion are not glossed over, and the final conflagration is right out of the headlines. Jed and Marina have epiphanies great and small, and they emerge whole, still searching for belief in its myriad aspects, and for each other. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-15-201767-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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Evocations of Narnia are not enough to salvage this fantasy, which struggles with thin character development.

A portal fantasy survivor story from an established devotional writer.

Fourteen-year-old Eva’s maternal grandmother lives on a grand estate in England; Eva and her academic parents live in New Haven, Connecticut. When she and Mum finally visit Carrick Hall, Eva is alternately resentful at what she’s missed and overjoyed to connect with sometimes aloof Grandmother. Alongside questions of Eva’s family history, the summer is permeated by a greater mystery surrounding the work of fictional children’s fantasy writer A.H.W. Clifton, who wrote a Narnialike series that Eva adores. As it happens, Grandmother was one of several children who entered and ruled Ternival, the world of Clifton’s books; the others perished in 1952, and Grandmother hasn’t recovered. The Narnia influences are strong—Eva’s grandmother is the Susan figure who’s repudiated both magic and God—and the ensuing trauma has created rifts that echo through her relationships with her daughter and granddaughter. An early narrative implication that Eva will visit Ternival to set things right barely materializes in this series opener; meanwhile, the religious parable overwhelms the magic elements as the story winds on. The serviceable plot is weakened by shallow characterization. Little backstory appears other than that which immediately concerns the plot, and Eva tends to respond emotionally as the story requires—resentful when her seething silence is required, immediately trusting toward characters readers need to trust. Major characters are cued white.

Evocations of Narnia are not enough to salvage this fantasy, which struggles with thin character development. (author’s note, map, author Q&A) (Religious fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2024

ISBN: 9780593194454

Page Count: 384

Publisher: WaterBrook

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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Totally implausible to anyone acquainted with Mennonites, and totally misleading to anyone else, this first novel by the author tells a melodramatic story of an evil leader’s impact on Sarah Ruth’s beloved Heart Colony of Mennonites. The story opens with a glimpse of the foot-washing ceremony and Hezekiel’s anger with his wife and children for failing to attend. He proceeds to beat his wife, his children, as well as those of others, and to tote a shotgun around, occasionally shooting at people he wants to intimidate. This plot line is absurd since pacifism and anti-violence are the strongest tenets of actual Mennonites. Sarah Ruth seems realistic, unlike the other characters, but it’s hard to accept that in the dog days of a Mississippi August she and her brothers have been attending school. In fact, she has qualified to be a contestant in the countywide spelling bee when Hezekiel forbids them to attend any longer. As Sarah Ruth struggles to understand the conflict in the community, Hezekiel is manipulating events to give him complete control. It’s too much for Sarah’s mother, who supports Sarah’s attendance at the spelling bee and then is forced to leave the community altogether. Add in a little courtship, a kidnapping, a dangerous gasoline oil spill, and an accidental death by tractor, and the plot truly runneth over. Furthermore, the religious element never jells, with little scripture quoted and only one Bible story. A shame. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-202385-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000

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