Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life
by Elaine Neil Orr reviewed by Kristy Quist
(University Press of Virginia) A Chevy station wagon, the boy next door, and the Beatles. Sound like a usual childhood? Add three sets of china, hired kitchen help, and a living room straight out of Southern Living. Set it in the rainforest with lizards and mamba snakes, and you have the odd life of a missionary kid in Nigeria in the 1950s and ’60s. Elaine Neil Orr calls Nigeria “the country of my heart,” left behind for her rarely visited “home” in the United States. Intertwining her young joys and losses with the emerging unrest in newly formed Nigeria, she recounts the heartbreaking histories of her life and Nigeria’s civil war.
Something Rising (Light and Swift)
by Haven Kimmel reviewed by Lori Vanden Bosch
(The Free Press) The bleak flatlands of Indiana and the green felt of the pool table are the backdrop for this stunningly rendered coming-of-age story. Cassie Claiborne has more than two strikes against her: a distant, pool-obsessed father; a mother saddled with the burden of the one big decision of her life; and a brilliant but brittle sister. By realizing and recreating her parents’ choices, Cassie forges a life based on what is best in both of them. Although her redemption is ultimately secular, and the author seems to use her seminary training merely to sprinkle religious tidbits here and there, the writing is flawless: comic, tragic, complex, and page-turning.
An Assembly Such as This
(Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman: Book 1)
by Pamela Aidan reviewed by Sandy Swartzentruber
(Wytherngate Press) Devotees of Pride and Prejudice, a rare treat awaits you! Pamela Aidan retells Jane Austen’s beloved story from the perspective of the intriguing Mr. Darcy. This can’t-put-it-down novel provides delightful insights into Darcy’s friendship with Charles Bingley, his irresistible attraction to Elizabeth Bennett, and the life of a landed gentleman in Regency England. While others have tried to embroider Austen’s novel and failed, Aidan shows great sensitivity and respect for the original characters and plot. (Book 2 in this series is titled Duty and Desire; Book 3 is scheduled for publication later this year. If you have difficulty locating these books, order from www.bn.com.)
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
by Gary D. Schmidt reviewed by Kristy Quist
(Clarion Books) Turner Buckminster finds himself lonely and frustrated since his family came to his father’s new congregation in Phippsburg, Maine. Even his baseball prowess has failed him. Then he meets Lizzie. Smart, strong Lizzie Bright Griffin lives on nearby Malaga Island, settled by former slaves. Phippsburg residents are determined to empty the island, at any cost, to make their town more attractive to tourists. Based on historical events, this rich, layered young adult novel tackles father-son relationships, the tragic results of racism, a minister trapped by his congregation’s expectations, and forgiveness—all against the rugged beauty of the Maine coast.
Ella in Europe: An American Dog’s International Adventures
by Michael Konik reviewed by Randy Engle
(Delacorte Press) Michael Konik’s love of dogs began when he was young and led to the adoption of Ella, his prized canine companion. After Ella ended her career as a therapy dog, Konik rewarded her with a trip to Europe. This book shares hilarious and poignant stories of that trip. Clearly this is first a book for dog lovers—an excuse to write a book chock full of “dog stories” that just happen to occur in Europe. Secondly it is a travel documentary of sorts. Konik gives irrefutable evidence (as if any was needed) why dogs are, indeed, our best friends.
by David Sacks reviewed by Nathan Bierma
(Broadway) David Sacks takes on the alphabet one letter at a time in his engrossing and generously illustrated history. Each letter has its own story to tell. The letter F, for example, once looked like Y and sounded like W. The letters J and V, on the other hand, were officially added only two centuries ago. Sacks digresses with companion essays on Gutenberg, Webster, and the origins of lowercase letters. The alphabet revolutionized human language, Sacks says, by using symbols to represent individual sounds rather than things or ideas, as hieroglyphs did. Readers and writers of any kind will cherish this lively and perennial book.
Unspeakable: Facing Up to Evil in an Age of Genocide and Terror
by Os Guinness reviewed by Wayne Brouwer
(Harper San Francisco) Os Guinness was scheduled to speak about “evil” in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001. That providential irony led to further reflections on the topic. In Unspeakable, Guinness wrestles with seven questions raised by the “ancient trilemma”: how can an all-powerful, benevolent God permit evil of such magnitude? This book is an intelligent and readable answer to questions such as these: What is evil’s origin? Is evil growing? How can we fight evil effectively? How does evil’s existence shape our ultimate beliefs?
God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It
by Jim Wallis reviewed by Michael Buma
(HarperSanFrancisco) Drawing on a wide range of ecumenical experience and more than 30 years as a political activist, Jim Wallis argues that Christians have become blindly partisan in their political thinking. Wallis makes a case for a wider scope of Christian ethical discourse in America, suggests Christian non-violence as the necessary biblical response to terrorism, and pleads for anti-poverty initiatives in an age of corporate accounting scandals and massive tax cuts for the wealthy. There are moments of repetition and sections where Wallis is stronger on rhetoric than research, but God’s Politics poses a visionary challenge that needs to be met by Christians across the political spectrum.
The Secret Life of Lobsters
by Trevor Corson reviewed by Randy Engle
(HarperCollins) Before they arrive on our plates boiled and buttered, lobsters lead a fascinating and amusing life. Turning lobster research into narrative prose, Corson reveals this bizarre (almost alien) creature in all its glory. Did you know, for instance, that lobsters have the only eyes that refract—not reflect—light, and that they have 20,000 such eyes? At times the crude but realistic language of the fishermen in this book may offend, but upon closing the book all undoubtedly will sing “All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small . . . the Lord God made them all.”