Monday, July 8, 2013

Book Review: Clear Winter Nights

Just read "Clear Winter Nights" [Theology in Story] by Trevin Wax, which does deliver on theology, but not so much on story. (This is an Advance Reading Copy - the book comes out September 17, 2013)

Click here to see it at Amazon
Dawn's Recommendation: 2 of 5 Stars

Overview: What happens when a young Christian dealing with disillusionment and doubt spends a weekend with an elderly, retired pastor? They talk. And no subject is off limits. Clear Winter Nights is a stirring story about faith, forgiveness, and the distinctiveness of Christianity. Through a powerful narrative and engaging dialogue, Trevin Wax shows the relevance of unchanging truth in an ever-changing world. (from Amazon)

About the Author: Trevin Wax is an editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources. He also has written Christian non-fiction books, magazine articles and has his own blog called Kingdom People.

What I liked: It was a short read --only 147 pages, 11 chapters. 

I liked that the story included a wise grandfather who shared Jesus' love with his grandson (the MC), taking time to talk through all the grandson's doubts and questions. This character was nicely developed.

The Conversation Guide has wonderful questions, broken out by chapter, for the reader. The questions are like a self-study and refer to what the MC is going through and asks the reader related questions. Ex. "Have you ever been through a dark night of the soul when you felt separated from God? If so, what was it like?"

What I didn't like (contains spoilers!): The entire book was dialog on theology. The author on his website mentioned "The Shack" and that he wanted to try to write fiction (his normal is non-fiction), so I thought I'd give "Clear Winter Nights" a try, but the story is not very interesting. It mostly contains theological dialog between the MC, his fiance, and his grandfather. There's not much to hold the reader's attention. The MC has internal struggle about his beliefs and he talks about them. And talks. And talks.  No action. No resolution -- not even at the ending.

I didn't really like the MC. He breaks up with his fiance. His constant banter back and forth with his grandfather sometimes seemed disrespectful. He drinks, sometimes looks at porn, and is very negative about Christianity, but claims he's been a Christian since childhood. Basically, he is a confused just-out-of-college student, who cynically questions everything. (This got old for me.)

The story was so everyday, like a dialog between me and my family. In fiction, I want some action. I also want to be shown things, not told. I like to learn things about the character as the story progresses, not be told right up front. Ex. "Chris was a gentleman." Show me how by his actions, don't tell me.

The gem of the book, The Conversation Guide, is at the back. Had I known it was there, I might have enjoyed the book more (using it as I read), but the front of the book never mentions it. 

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