So Brave, Young and Handsome

July 27th. 2009

Several years ago I read Leif Enger’s novel, Peace Like A River, and thought I’d found one of the most lyrical writers of our time. His book was spiritual, mystical and poignant. So when I was in Barron’s and saw he had a new book, So Brave Young and Handsome, I was expecting more of the same. Well, color me shocked. This novel was written with the same beautiful, lyrical style (the man is a genius with vocabulary) but this was a grit and whisky adventure story that swept me into a little appreciated era in American History–the glory days of fading cowboys and the advent of the automobile. Like Peace, there is tragedy and mystery and emotions get twisted like sheets in the wind, but this is fun too. Kind of a Huck Finn meets O Brother Where Art Thou sort of ride.Redemption is the key that turns this story and I can’t think of many authors who write it as well as Leif Enger.

The Fixer Upper

July 26th. 2009

So I flew to Vancouver, Canada to tag with Mel to a conference, and along the journey grabbed some much needed ‘facebook’ time with novels. One that I could hardly put down was the  newest page-turner from Mary Kay Andrews. (Let me just say everything I’ve read of hers I love, they’re all sooo much fun to read.) The Fixer-Upper is both funny and poignant and revolves around one of my favorite subjects, delipidated houses. The main character, Dempsey Killebrew, faces one of those ripped-from-the-headlines nightmares involving bribery and elected officials and the only way she can ride out the storm is ‘fixing up’ her father’s family home so he can sell it. Much to Dempsey’s surprise an aged and cantankerous distant relative has taken squatter’s rights in the house and can’t be budged, literally. Not to mention the FBI is hounding her to implicate her former boss and two of the most delightful Southern gentleman to grace the pages of modern fiction rise to her defense. It’s filled with delightful characters who play true to course, no  big surprises, but a whole lot of delicousness (not that that is a word, but you get what I mean, right?) Run to the bookstore for a copy of any of Mary Kay Andrew’s novels and enjoy a mental vacation.

The Missionary

July 15th. 2009

I met Dave Lambert (one of the authors of The Missionary) at a writer’s retreat, thinking he was 100% , grade A editor. Turns out he’s a great writer too. He and his collaborator, William Carmichael, have crafted a gripping story seemingly lifted from the headlines of any daily newspaper. I don’t often peer too close to stories of international corruption and drug lords (aren’t they all the same horrible evil just dressed in different outfits?) But putting this conflict into the hands of an honorable and compassionate missionary who believes what he’s told, spins this story close to home. Without spoiling too much of the plot for you, I’ll say the dilemmas David Eller (the missionary) faces are realistic, but the answers to them aren’t so clear cut. As Christians don’t we tend to believe what’s right in front of us? I don’t relish taking stand against corruption but its a sage reminder that Christians all over the world have to do this on a daily basis.  Great book–action-packed and memorable.

The Four Corners of the Sky

July 8th. 2009

I ordered Four Corners of the Sky after reading a review in the Dallas Morning News a few months ago–there were comparisons to a modern day Wizard of Oz.  I was surprised at the heft of the book and, after reading all the accolades, that the author–Micheal Malone– had multiple best-sellers to his name. So, when I sat down with the book–which begins with a wonderful assortment of characters–I kept searching for the whole Wizard of Oz connection.  Was Annie Dorothy? Was her father the Wicked Witch of the West? The home town is named, Emerald. But obvioulsy I was looking way too deep, trying to read Scarecrow into Uncle Clark and Lion in Destin. And though, I think, boiled down this is essentially a story about a great and complicated con, it’s not the main character’s con. Annie is a pinging ball bouncing in reaction to things everyone else sets into motion. And, I’m not going to lie, I did get confused with all the flash backs, flash sideways and a few flash outs. When she flew her plane into the tornado, I thought–here it comes–she finds out she’s in a parallel universe or something. Nope. Just more twists and turns to a plot that mixes character studies with suspense. I think I preferred the suspense parts. The first half of the book was magical, full of expectation. The second half could have been condensed. It was still a book filled with interesting characters and fun, jazzy dialogue. Just remember the Wizard of Oz similarities are all floating on the surface.