Well, I'm not an experienced book-reviewer but I would like to share my thoughts on my most recent read "Healing Sands" by Nancy Rue & Stephen Arterburn. I picked up this book last week at Barnes and Noble after deciding I needed to be more well-read within my genre (as should you be, oh Would-Be Author). I tend to read just two writers- Francine Rivers (my fave) and Karen Kingsbury. I needed to expand, so I picked up The Shack and Healing Sands. Now, I don't know how to say what I mean except to just say what I mean- know what I mean? So here's a bit about the book and my opinion of it:
- Ryan Coe feels lost- her marriage is over, her kids are living with their dad, her God-life is silent, and her patience is practically non-existent. To top it off, her once exciting job as a photojournalist has been reduced to taking pictures of enchilada festivals and B-level actors. But when she arrives at the scene of a crime and sees her son's face through her zoom lens, her world crashes. Her only mission-- to find out who really did this and why they framed her son.
But before she can help anyone, Ryan's got to get her anger in check. She turns to Sullivan Crisp's Healing Choices clinic, but even that doesn't go according to plan. Quirky and unusual don't even begin to describe Sully and she soon realizes that he isn't the quick-fix therapist she was hoping for. Between his unorthodox counseling and a group of women who are the first real friends she's had in a long time, Ryan begins to realize it's not control she's looking for, but something much more powerful.
When I first started reading I was impressed with the writing quality and eager to dig into the plot. I mean, just trying to imagine what it would be like as a mother to find my son in the middle of a crime scene squeezes my heart. And the authors do a good job of setting up that storyline. I wish I could say that the book gripped me from page one and never let go, but that's not the case. It didn't take long for some annoying things to pop up and begin distracting me from the story. It may be nit-picky but I couldn't stand some of the turns-of-phrase that were repeatedly used . Examples are "making pictures" instead of taking pictures, "holy crow", and "God-thing". Ugh.
This book tried SOOO hard to not use "Christianese" that it sounded even more unnatural than the church-talk would have. It uses what you might call "Donut-christianese". In fact, that's my new term- coined July 2010.
Named for those Sunday Christians who view church as a social club and like to stand around chatting at the donut table after services, Donut-christianese is speech meant to subtly imply an acknowledgement of God without sounding like a sold-old Jesus freak. I imagine those who use it would explain that "there is a place for church and God in life, but you don't have to go overboard with it." Do I need to expound on why that falls flat with me? I kept waiting for the deep spiritual elements of the story to leap off the page and blow me away. Never happened. It became apparent fairly quickly that this book was something different than what I was used to in the CBA market.
Nevertheless, I did still enjoy the story. Ryan (a woman, not a dude) is in the unfathomable position of having her teenage son accused of attempted murder. The evidence is strong, he won't deny anything, and Ryan seems to be the only one who doesn't believe he did it. While unraveling the mystery of the crime, she must also unravel the mysteries of her failed marriage and her parental shortcomings- which are sometimes emotionally engaging but other times too pale in light of her current situation. I did want to find out who-dunnit... in more than one plot line. There was a decent subplot involving her counselor, Sullivan Crisp (though his brand of "Christian" counseling was pretty light on Christ) and the loss of his wife and daughter. There was also a pointless sub-subplot that only served to interrupt the rest of the story. But overall I was satisfied with the book's ending, because by that point I had accepted it for what it was- not a spiritual story but simply an entertaining bit of clean fiction.
Ultimately though, I think it's sad that the quality of the writing did not reach its full potential, apparently for fear of going overboard for Christ. There could have been such a powerful message contained within these pages, but it never emerged. With such an intense premise, it is surprising that it didn't make me cry even once. It entertained but never touched my heart. If you can't go overboard for Christ within the CBA market, where can you? And why wouldn't you want to? After all, Christ went overboard for you and me.
I don't technically have a star system set up for reviews, but I suppose if I did I'd give this a 2.5, possibly 3, out of 5. There are two other books in the series- Healing Stones and Healing Waters- but I doubt I'll ever read them.