Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review - Clear Winter Nights

I was pleased to have the opportunity to read an advance copy of this little novel. The author and I both grew up in the same small town in TN. Our families were acquainted. I've watched his career (and specifically his writing career) with interest. I've read his non-fiction book Counterfeit Gospels and highly recommend it.

So, what about this first fiction effort?

Well, fiction is obviously a completely different ballgame from non-fiction. I have no proof of this, but I suspect that writing fiction is more personal. After all, you're not just reporting facts. These characters are made up from the author's mind. If the reader doesn't find them compelling or interesting, it's all on the author because he can't exactly blame anyone else for how they acted or what they said.

To be honest, I found these characters problematic at first. I wasn't convinced they were living, breathing people.

As I read along, though, I became more interested in some of the characters. I enjoyed the questions they were asking and the conversations they participated in. I particularly enjoyed the preacher grandpa (I suppose I can just say that he, in some ways, reminded me of my own grandfathers and my preacher dad), although the main character never really grew on me.

Is this great literature? Honestly: no. The prose doesn't sparkle and the characters don't live on after you close the page.

But I don't think the book had to be great literature to be effective. Because the questions the characters ask, and the answers they reach, those live on. These are the Big Questions. Why are we here and what does it matter and how does this all work anyway? The author didn't shy away from the big issues of our day either: what about human sexuality? What about all these hypocritical Christians?

The book declares on the cover: "Theology in Story". Well, the story part is a bit slim but the theology is all here. As such, this book would be excellent for a young Christian who didn't have the benefit of an older, wiser, Christian grandparent or mentor. There is no substitute for a loving, mature Christian who is willing to talk about the big issues, but this book could help fill such a void.

This is a quick, short read (my advanced reader copy was a slim 147 pages of text, not counting end notes or discussion questions). I think I would recommend it especially for young Christians teens or college students who are living similar experiences. The discussion questions for each chapter are one of the most helpful things about this book and could spark some true deep conversations. Those wouldn't have to be held on a clear winter night, a hazy summer night could work just as well, but the conversations would be well worth it.

This book will be available on September 17 of this year.

I highly recommend Trevin Wax's excellent blog: Kingdom People.
If you'd like to know more about this book or pre-order it: Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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