Friday, May 01, 2009
Silver Birches: My Review
I've read a lot of books that tell a good story, but books that are really well written, those which really paint pictures with words, which make you feel the story are few and far between. Maybe that's because I generally prefer fluffy light fiction, or maybe it is because being able to write like that is an exceptional talent. Anyone can say there is a red-painted vase with a yellow sun. A few gifted writers can make you feel the red, and use the red to set the overall tone of the scene. Adrian Plass, author of Silver Birches is such an author.
The main character in Silver Birches is David, a man in his late 30's/early 40's, who was recently widowed. David is one of those guys who makes his living talking about Jesus, but he hasn't given a speech since his wife died. He is evaluating what he wants to do with his life, and falling into depression when he gets a call from an old friend of his wife. The three of them had been in the same church youth group in their teens. Angela told him that his wife had given her something to give to him. She wanted to give it to him at her house, an old English manor, on a weekend attended by other friends from that youth group. He agrees to attend, as do several other people.
The group gets together with the goal of telling the others their greatest fear. They eat, drink and talk. We learn about their hurts, fears, faith--and for some, lack thereof. That being said, this isn't the typical Christian novel. For one thing, I have read that some industry standards for Christian novels require that Christians do not drink alcohol. In this book they do, socially and without adverse effects. Also while the thread that holds these people together is membership in a church youth group, many of the stories told and issues addressed could be those of any group of almost middle-aged adults. I don't really want to give anything away (but this book is much more about the characters than the plot) but at the end one of the characters embraces traditional Christian sexual morality and rejects today's "if it is what I'm attracted to, it must be good".
As I noted at the beginning, what struck me most about this book was the absolutely beautiful use of language. It is faith-based fiction and anyone who has been on one of those youth group weekend retreats with their Saturday night combination of sleep deprivation, prayer, candle or firelight and introspection will feel at home around the fire with this group.
Just in case you haven't figured it out, I loved this book. Thanks so much to Christian Review of Books for sending it to me. If you are looking for a review of a Christian book, they have a bunch.