Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A book that will pluck your heartstrings

On the first page of Almost Heaven, by Chris Fabry, I read this paragraph...

"I believe every life has hidden songs that hang by twin threads of music and memory.  I believe in the songs that have never been played for another soul.  I believe they run between the rocks and along the creekbeds of our lives.  These are songs that cannot be heard by anything but the soul.  They sometimes run dry or spill over the banks until we find ourselves wading through them. " p.3

It was a beautiful expression about music and life.  Music makes my husband's heart tick and so this quote resonated with me.  I've come to appreciate how much music is a part of people's souls.  It tells our stories and in it we are able to say things that we might otherwise not be able to say.  With music we cry out in grief and with music we cry out in joy.

Almost Heaven is Chris Fabry's third novel set in the town of Dogwood, West Virginia.  It is the story of Billy Allman and his quest to build a radio station in his home.  You know that from the beginning of the story.  But, really, the story is much more than that.  It is a story about the pain in a man's heart and his walk with the Lord through both the pain and the healing of that pain.  You do need to know that there is healing to that pain in the story.  It is the hope of knowing that which will help you read this story and not set the book down.

I do not want to share much of the plot of this story because it will give away much of the story.  I was able to give June Bug, Fabry's second novel, a positive review without any reservations.  With this novel, though, there is something I need to talk about.

I have often been surprised at the issues that I've had to think about as I've read many books over the past two years.  This book is making me contemplate something that I've shied away from in the past.  I've noticed over the past twenty years that much attention has been paid guardian angels.  Part this story is told from the perspective of the guardian angel that is to watch over Billy.  At one point, the angel doubts God.  He lets fear and anger steal into his heart.  I can't say that the picture Chris Fabry paints of angels is biblical.  I also can't say for certain that it isn't, but it doesn't sit with me and what I've read in the Bible.  The Bible is about God, though, not angels.  I wrote yesterday that I believe that what is in the Bible is what God wants in the Bible.  The point of the Bible is to point us to God and not to ourselves.  There is a great temptation to fill in the gaps about the things that we want to understand and yet don't fully--the mysteries of God and His creation.  It would be tempting to dwell on the parts of this book that are written from the perspective of the angel.  But, I think it would be wise not to, but to instead remember that this is a book of fiction.  It is a very good book and well told story, but it is not the Bible.  Just as the book The Shack is not the Bible either.  It is tempting to let what fiction books say to creep into our understanding of biblical doctrine and what we understand of God, but we need to be careful and take what we read and question back to the Word of God...

I did enjoy this book, but the parts written by the guardian angel unsettled my heart so greatly that I had to skip many of them.  And upon finishing the book, I had to dispel much of them from my mind because of the great detail about demons and imps.  If one is downtrodden, the way they are written about in this book may seem overwhelming as it did to me on Saturday.  I know spiritual warfare is real, but we need to be armed with God's Word, not fear.  Knowing all of this, I really leave it up to you as to whether this a book you'd like to read.

Chris Fabry is a strong believer--of this I have no doubt.  His website is www.chrisfabry.com  On his website, he is very humble and honest about the great struggles he and his family have been through the past few years.  He has written about his family's trials with mold in their old home and their move to Arizona from Colorado to detox their systems.  Reading his blog caused me great consternation that I struggled with Almost Heaven.  I do not think at all that he would want to malign the Word of God or to mislead anyone about what the Bible says.  But, I think he would say he wrote a work of fiction.  So, that is what I would encourage you to remember as you read this book.  It is a story of fiction.  After reading this book, if you find yourself with any questions about angels or God, I'd encourage you to speak with a pastor or Bible teacher and dig into the Bible.  I think that's just what I need to do.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Tyndale Publishing.

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