A well-written but mostly predictable Christian novel.

READ REVIEW

HEARTS SET FREE

Lederman’s (co-editor: Good Words for the Young, 2016) decades-spanning Christian historical novel tells the story of a group of misfits who find their faith in Las Vegas.

Uukkarnit Noongwook is a Native American Athabaskan from Nenana, Alaska. In 1925, he sets out with his mother to find his father, a dog-sledder-turned-celebrity who absconded to the Lower 48 with a New York reporter. Their search brings them to Nevada, where a silver boom has drawn men from all over. Uukkarnit adopts the name “Luke” and encounters a group of kind Christians who teach him the ways of their faith. Meanwhile, David Gold is a boxer from the Lower East Side of Manhattan who attended the Moody Bible Institute before becoming the sparring partner of heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. He’s seeking an answer to the questions, “Can I love God, not as I want Him to be, but as He is; and what is His will—what does He want of me?” By 1930, David is in Reno, Nevada, where he meets a woman whose small, Las Vegas–based congregation needs a preacher. In 2011, Tim Faber and Joan Reed are the middle-aged producers of the hit documentary series Mysteries of Modern Science. Tim never had any faith, but the once-devout Joan pines for her lost religiosity. They’re making a special about Belgian Catholic priest Georges Lemaître, who was the first to theorize that the universe had once been atom-sized and continues to expand—although, as this book portrays it, he was written out of history by jealous, secular scientists. Joan even suspects that an attempt was made on his life. Now, the producers travel to Las Vegas to meet with Lemaître’s 99-year-old astrophysicist colleague, Luke Noongwook, to get the full story. These separate stories of varied characters come together to form a tapestry of faith, yearning, and wonder at the majesty of the universe. Lederman’s prose is polished and often lyrical, particularly when he voices the characters of Luke and his mother: “Our gods are as harsh as the world around us, they offer no relief,” Luke’s mother says to David and her son. “Tatqim, moon god, lusts after his sister, Seqinek, the sun, and gives her endless chase; their story is an ugliness that mars the beauty of the night. And your god, where is he? Can he, too, be found among the stars?” Even in these moments, however, Lederman tips his hand to reveal the book’s strict Christian worldview, in which atheists are depicted as arrogant fools and other religions are portrayed as being rooted in fear. The book has the expected cameos of historical fiction—including the aforementioned Johnson and pilot Amelia Earhart—which fans of the genre will enjoy, even if they do strain credulity. The overall milieu is attractive throughout, and the novel is often entertaining. However, because it is, first and foremost, a story of rediscovering faith, the ultimate resolution of the main characters’ stories is never really in doubt.

A well-written but mostly predictable Christian novel.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9986030-1-8

Page Count: 398

Publisher: Azure Star, LLC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more