Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Shack

At the end of February, I'm going to attend the Oregon Christian Writers Winter Conference in Salem. The keynote speaker will be Willim P. Young, author of The Shack. To say I'm looking forward to hearing him is an understatement.

Some books I’ve read are just too good to put down. The Shack isn’t one of them. I mean that in the best possible way. This novel is so filled with life-altering concepts that I had to put it down from time to time to allow new ideas to sink in. William P. Young has written The Shack in such a way that it teases our imaginations to say “what if?”

In the acknowledgements, Young says most of us have a shack in our lives. Reading the story of what Mackenzie Allen Philips encountered will capture your thinking in ways you don’t anticipate. As a novel, per se, the story didn’t keep me up nights turning pages. There are places where my attention flagged from detail overload. But as a vehicle to better understand God’s love and grace, The Shack has given me thoughts to ponder for many nights to come. The book left me with a fresh feeling of confidence about God’s unconditional love for me.

I am “especially fond” of The Shack.

After I return from the conference, I'll share some of Young's comments with you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

William Henry is a Fine Name

Author Cathy Gohlke's William Henry is a Fine Name is one of the best books I read in 2008. It's one I read during the holiday season, so am late in posting my review because of snow, rain, holiday activities, and, well, you know.

William Henry is a Fine Name is the story of two thirteen-year-old boys who have been friends all their lives. It's set in the antebellum (I love that word!) period in Maryland. Robert, who is white, sees his life as peaceful while the black William Henry knows about the evil that surrounds them in those abolition vs. slavery times.

Late night mysteries involving Robert's father threaten their family. Events move forward rapidly, forcing Robert to recognize firsthand the cruelty and injustice of slavery--the South's "peculiar institution."

Gohlke does a superb job of showing us the South of 1859 through the eyes of an adolescent boy. She doesn't rely on trite stereotypes to tell this suspenseful tale. Every character, black or white, is fully fleshed out.

The final sixty pages are so intense I laid awake thinking about them for a long time after I finished the book. I thoroughly recommend William Henry is a Fine Name, both for Gohlke's storytelling and for the clear-eyed look she provides into our nation's sometimes shameful past.

William Henry was the deserving winner of the 2007 Young Adult Christy Award. Don't let the "young adult" tag stop you. I'm a tad older than "young adult," and this book held me in its grip from first page to last.

I recently finished reading the sequel, I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, which picks up Robert's life after the start of the Civil War. It's another winner for Gohlke.