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Protagonist Elijah Campbell has a problem. He doesn’t like to relate to others—including those he loves—in reality. He’d rather fake it and hide. 

In the first chapter of The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell, we meet the tool Elijah uses to fend off disclosure. “I ... tried to recover my most reliable way of responding when my walls were about to be breached: a smile so bright no one’s scrutiny had ever survived its wattage.”

Soon Elijah’s smile-weapon no longer works. His wife is unhappy. His editor is unhappy. And, Elijah, himself, is unhappy. If only he’d let his childhood nightmares return him to a wound that needs attention. 

A literary professor might say that author Kelly Flanagan uses magical realism when Elijah begins to have conversations with family members now gone. A psychologist might say that Flanagan is using “psychodrama” or “lifespan integration therapy.” 

Whatever we want to call it, the story invited me into this vital question: What conversations do I need to have? 

I loved this novel’s understanding of humanity. I loved its incisive insights like this: “The dark night of the soul knows no deadline” or “(Security is) a temporary condition. ... So our addiction to it can wreak a good deal of havoc.”

The novel also reveals how awful it can be to go to a church that smiles sad people to death. 

Flanagan is a practicing psychologist with three works of nonfiction: The Marriage Manifesto, Loveable, and True Companions. This novel is the latest from the IVP spiritual formation imprint that includes novels by Sharon Garlough Brown. The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell refreshes in its verve and honesty. (IVP Formatio)

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