Monday, April 30, 2018

All Things Bright and Strange

Title:  All Things Bright and Strange
Author:  James Markert
Publication Information:  Thomas Nelson. 2018. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0718090284 / 978-0718090289

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The boy shuffled his feet in the dark basement."

Favorite Quote:  "It's long past time now that we find a way to gather again. Our beliefs may be different. Some may not believe at all. But we have the same questions, the same needs, the same desire for good to prevail. And it's time to focus again on what brings us together instead of what could tear us apart."

Your reaction to this book depends on what it is you are looking for in it. Yes, that is true of all books, but this one poses expectations based on the label that brings you to this book.

Some have labeled this book as Christian fiction. It is, and it isn't. The references and the names used are Christian images. The allegory-like plot of good versus evil can be seen in that light. The messages of tolerance can be seen as Christian in spirit. However, the book also ventures into the world of demons, voices from the beyond, and a literal battle between good and evil. As with all things religious, it depends on your interpretation whether something is or is not representative of your beliefs.

Some have labeled this book as historical fiction. It is, and it isn't. The main character's background is in the history and trauma of World War I. The book is set in the 1920s in the aftermath of the War. the defining moment in his personal life centers on race relations. Beyond that, to me, history is not what this book is about.

Some have labeled this book as Southern fiction. It is, and it isn't. Set in the the fictional town of Bellhaven, South Carolina, Southern culture and mysticism definitely play a role in this book. The starting point of the book in racism can certainly find a history in the South. Yet, this book could work in many different setting and environments. The story is not about the setting.

Fortunately, for me, I know none of these labels before reading this book. I am drawn to the book based on the cover, the title, and the description. "The town folk believe they’ve found a little slice of heaven in a mysterious chapel in the woods. But they soon realize that evil can come in the most beautiful of forms."

The description leads to one label that does fit this book - supernatural. The small town of Bellhaven, South Carolina discovers a hidden chapel in the woods. For each visitor, the chapel seems to fulfill a longing for someone who has died. This same small town also gets a mysterious new resident who buys and restores a decrepit mansion that is said to be haunted. All is clearly not what it seems. What appears good may not be, and what seems to embody evil may not be.

Within this supernatural battle lies the very human story of Ellworth Newberry. He did not die in the War, but he did lose his life. His physical injury led to the demise of a promising baseball career. His emotional scars leave nightmares and fear. An act of violence in his home town leads to his wife's death. Ellsworth Newberry retreats from the world and from his life. Yet, his home town still looks to him as a leader especially in the strange new goings-on in their town. This calamity may perhaps be Ellsworth's saving grace.

Within this supernatural story and this personal emotional journey lies a very strong message of tolerance which I love. This small South Carolina town is quite diverse in its ethnic, racial, and religious demographics. Yes, it is constructed to make a point, but it works for it repeats a powerful message. More unites us than divides us, and standing together, good prevails.

So, I don't know about all the other labels for this book. I label it enjoyable, thought provoking fiction.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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