Sometimes I've wished for a restaurant review that, instead of judging all restaurants by a single standard, judged them according to what the restaurant was trying to do. The "best" restaurant in New Orleans, at least according to the average restaurant critic is Commander's Palace. I've been there a couple of times, and it is wonderful. The chairs are padded and some have arms. It is a white tablecloth place. The food is inventive, and very good. The atmosphere is lovely--it is in an old mansion. It goes without saying that it is very expensive. Given a choice between it and our local McDonalds, my four year old would pick McD in a heartbeat. It its own way though, McD's is a great restaurant. It is clean (well as clean as anyplace that has that many people in and out all day can be). The food is hot, it tastes good, it is the same every time you go, no matter which store you patronize. The staff is generally friendly and some of the restaurants even have playrooms attached. The price is reasonable too. If my little one spills something, it isn't a problem (and if the manager sees her spill it, s/he will probably replace it).
Why am I writing a review of two very different restaurants in a post headed by a book link and titled My Review: John's Quest? Well, I was about to right a not-so-flattering review of the book when I realized that what I was doing was basically criticising McD's because it didn't have white tablecloths (or criticising Commanders because they did). Basically, John's Quest is the Christan version of a Harlequin Romance. It is the same size, the same number of pages and, like a Harlequin, the basic plot line is that boy meets girl, there is an attraction, something keeps them apart but in the end they live happily ever after. The "something" in this book is that John isn't a Christian, and Monica is, and does not want to get involved with a non-Christian. We hear her talking about her faith and we hear him learning about her church and its beliefs and then experiencing a conversion. While I found that preachy, my guess is that those who read this type of book regularly are looking for that type of overt religious expression, just as my little one expects her nuggets to look and taste a certain way.
The author and the characters are African-American, but except for a couple of references to skin color, I would have had no trouble picturing them as blue-eyed blonds. I don't know if the author would consider that a good thing or not. In other words, the characters do not speak in dialect and the church they described could be any generic Protestant church (at least from the little I know about generic Protestant churches). Unlike The Bishop's Daughter, it did not name a bunch of church offices with which I was totally unfamiliar. The characters names: John, Monica, Gina, Kevin, Karen, Anna and Scotty sound normal to my European-American ears.
So, if you like preachy Harlequin-style romance novels, I guess this is a good one. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a Harlequin, but I'll admit I prefer them steamy to preachy.
First Wilcard will tour this February 11. Check back then to read the first chapter and learn about the author.
Question for Discussion: What do you think of my restaurant analogy? Should all books be evaluated by the same standard, or should the author's purpose and how well s/he met it be considered?