Monday, April 27, 2009

THE NOTICER by Andy Andrews

THE SUMMARY: Down on his luck and with little hope, 23-year-old Andy had a life full of frustrations and little else. He lives in a hole under a pier and “bathes” in hotel pools. But when a mysterious old man named Jones finds Andy close to tears, he gives the young man a gift that changes his life—the gift of perspective. He teaches Andy to look at his life through a different lens, thus opening the door to new opportunities. And as Andy comes to find out, Jones has given this gift to many others struggling in the community.

THE MESSAGE: Life is a matter of perspective. Change your perspective and you can change your approach, opportunities, lifestyle, even what others think of you. As Jones’ said, “A life filled with opportunities and encouragement finds more and more opportunities and encouragement.”

THE PRESENTATION: Although Andy Andrews makes good points in The Noticer, many of his narratives lacked originality and bordered clichés. For example, to a married couple facing divorce, Jones talks about love being expressed in different dialects—a wink and nod to Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages.” Individuals feel and express love in different ways, and understanding your spouse’s dialect can change your marriage. And to a man who is constantly worrying, Jones tells him to every morning write down things he is thankful for because the “seeds of depression cannot take root in a grateful heart.” Good advice but hardly original.
Overall, I think I was expecting more from Andy Andrews. His book is a good reminder of ways to look at life differently, and that by changing your perspective, you can change your circumstances. Unfortunately, this tale falls short of inspirational.

THE QUOTE: “You ate sardines and Vienna sausages in the sand. I dined on surf and turf with an ocean view. It’s all about perspective.”


Saturday, April 11, 2009

EMBRACE ME by Lisa Samson

THE SUMMARY: For a majority of this book, this story takes place years apart. One is the story of Valentine, aka Lizard Woman, who travels with a group of other freaks in a sideshow troup. A tragic event disfigured her face years before, and she struggles with past demons that won't allow her to move forward. Befriended by a tatooed, hippie, motercycle-ridin' monk, she struggles with redemption and forgiveness. The second tale is about a former high-profile preacher named Drew that now has a tendancy to extinguish his cigarettes on his skin to release his inner turmoil. Their lives eventually cross in a small North Carolina town, both discovering the meaning of true forgiveness and redemption.

THE MESSAGE: Although this story dealt heavily with learning to forgive and be forgiven, and the miracle of a redeemed and renewed life, I'm amazed at Lisa Samson's ability to help the reader see beyond the facade of the people we see every day into the pain of their hearts. And even though the characters in this book are far from normal--a limbless woman, stretch-man, simese twins, a mother who deserted her child, a father with too-high standards--it's a beautiful thing to see these individuals used in the Body of Christ, His church. Too often, our fiction heroes are perfect, but this story presents people who are learning to walk through their mistakes and failures.

THE PRESENTATION: The two stories take place approximately six years apart. Drew's tale is told in a letter he writes to a priest willing to listen. It's an interesting way of storytelling, and worked most of the time. The other first-person perspective comes from Valentine, and every chapter switches between the two storytellers. Where Quaker Summer sometimes fell into preaching, this story lets the characters' actions and thoughts do the talking. It's somewhat a slow start, but once you figure out where it's heading, hang on.

THE QUOTE: "It's never too late for redemption. The scars never run too deep, so deep that God is not there."



Saturday, April 4, 2009

QUAKER SUMMER by Lisa Samson

THE SUMMARY: Heather Curridge is a woman who has it all by the world's standards--a doctor for a husband, a respectful son, a beautiful home, lots of money, and a tennis court ready to be installed. But all of this can't fill the void in her heart, a haunting from her former self. She's lost and in search of a life well lived. A life of purpose. And when she stumbles into the lives of three women, a nun and two Quakers, who have little in this life but lots to give, she wonders if she's found the answer. But it's not a quick or easy answer, for it involves forgiveness, drug dealers, doubt, sacrifice, and grief. And in the end, hope.

THE MESSAGE: Lisa Samson crafts a story that makes you take stock in your life. Are you imitating Jesus in your life, reaching past your selfish worldview to use your gifts to serve others? Or when you stand before the King, will you say, "I kept a clean house, I made sure my child was athletic, musical, artistic, and got good grades, I was present at all the important church activities, and I changed the oil in my car every three thousand miles because I was such a good steward of my blessings?"

THE PRESENTATION. Lisa Samson takes a raw look at pride and humility, selfishness and selflessness. Written from first person, Heather is a little scatterbrained and can easily lose her train of thought, but it's usually not too hard to follow. It made me realize that as we pull back layers of our humanity, the more we need God's grace and His covering.

THE QUOTE: "God wants us to care for the poor and the lonely and the sick, not just for their sake, but for ours. Because in this, we become like Him, growing a bigger heart than we ever thought possible. . . It's redemption time, and will you come to the well and drink deep? You'll get far more than you could ever give. Don't die in the desert of your Christian radio, Pottery Barn lives."