Review: Gilbert Morris’ A Bright Tomorrow

Once a month I offer a review– usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction, sometimes movies/TV. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk!

Gilbert Morris stands as one of Christian fiction’s most prolific writers. Still going strong in his mid-eighties, he’s given us sweeping family sagas and numerous standalone novels. A Bright Tomorrow, the first in the American Century Series takes the spotlight this month.

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Rating: 4 out of 5 mochas

What it’s about: Rural Arkansas at the turn of the 20th century can’t contain the ambitions of three teenagers. Lylah, Amos, and Owen Stuart lead their large clan as the oldest siblings. Their mother strives valiantly to grow a godly family, but their father’s wandering ways leave the others to shoulder the backbreaking work.

Circumstances draw the three away from the farm to far-flung corners of the country–and the world. Each takes very different paths to find their destinies. Readers lay down roots in New York, storm San Juan Hill in Cuba, infiltrate China, and witness bulging circus tents across the country. And God fills every place with His love and mercy.

You might like this if you like: Family sagas, turn-of-the-century history

What I’ve liked: Gilbert Morris excels at conjuring vivid characters. Each is not simply sketched; they’re painted in striking detail. Speaking of details, Morris does his historical homework, assuring his readers of an accurate read.

I’m not crazy about: This is merely nit-picky. However, the writing style in this story uses conventions that were more common to the earlier days of Christian fiction. For example, “head hopping” (hearing the thoughts of more than one character within one scene) is a common occurrence. Having said that, as a writer myself I’d take Morris’ track record any day–minor infractions or not.

The bottom line: The first in this series, A Bright Tomorrow sets up the saga well, and I look forward to following the Stuart family for fictional years to come.

What about you? If you had lived at the turn of the 20th century, what historical event or person would you have wanted to see in person?

 

In the Trenches

What is it about challenges that bind a group together? Have you ever noticed that?

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I’ve been thinking about it a lot this week. As I write this, our church youth group is taking part in an annual mission trip/youth camp.

Several youth groups in our area are spending the hotter-than-the-sun days of this week all over our town. They’re ripping off roofs for new ones, giving elderly and disabled people access to the outside world through new wheelchair ramps, cheering up homes through fresh paint, and other repairs.

It’s fascinating to watch our group during these weeks. They don’t scatter as much during free time or meals. They gravitate toward one another naturally, even if they’re on each others’ last nerves.

And throughout the year they keep these common experiences alive. “Remember that cactus that grew through the roof?” Yep, they all remember. Together. Just like I remember stories from mission trips of yore. (I like getting to use that word whenever I can, don’t you?)

Challenges bind us together.

The other day I ran into a former coworker from my hospice days. Eight years spanned the time from our last meaty chat. But we–and several other comrades–had hunkered in the trenches in those times. As we talked it was like we’d seen each other yesterday. Nothing can break our experience together.

It’s as if these bonds are God’s bonus for surviving and thriving in difficulty.

So, what challenges are you going through today? Are others facing them head on with you? Then take heart! You’ll share those common badges of honor forever.

And it’ll be like no time has passed, even if the years carry you far away from each other.

 

Time Travel: It’s Your Turn

I thought it would be fun to make you, dear readers, the focus of this month’s Time Travel (history) post. Ready to hop in the time machine?

Image: Daniel Cardle

Image: Daniel Cardle

Not that you’re old enough to be historical, mind you. Ahem.

I’d like to know:

Where were you in June 2005? And June 1995, 1985, 1975, and so on? I’ll let one of you get the ball rolling in the comments, then I’ll add my answers.

Noisy

Stomp. Thud. Whack. The ceiling sounds like it’s ready to rain down on us.

I smile and look down at my little hound dog, Daisy. Ruff! [Whimper.] She can’t decide if she’s defending our home or needing to cower.

Roofers rule the top of our house, showing the old, damaged shingles no mercy. The noise and commotion sound great to my ears. I know we’re getting the shelter of a much-needed new roof in return.

Daisy’s not convinced. I wish I could explain it to her. Wish she’d trust me when I tell her over and over, “It’s okay.”

She tucks her tail and paces anyway.

Do you think God ever feels like we do?

He allows noise and scary commotion in our lives to grow and benefit us. Out with the old, damaged bits. In with the new and improved things we need to heal and to carry out His will.

But we don’t understand or glimpse the big picture. We just feel the confusion.

He knows that. And He tries to comfort us. “It’s okay,” He whispers to us over and over. He wishes we’d just believe Him.

We’d do well to listen to the whisper and take shelter in His arms.

Even if we won’t understand this side of heaven.

 

 

Review: Whisper on the Wind

Once a month I offer a review– usually fiction, sometimes non-fiction, sometimes movies/TV. Grab your favorite hot beverage (mine’s a mocha), and let’s talk!

This month we’ll whisk away to World War I in Belgium, 1916, in Maureen Lang’s Whisper on the Wind.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 mochas

What it’s about: Isa and Edward have known each other forever. Now the terrifying German army occupying their homeland makes this war feel like it’ll go on forever. Can they operate their underground resistance newspaper and survive? Will it bring them together or will the war tear them apart?

You might like this if you like: Historical fiction in general, Downton Abby, the movie Swing Kids (even though it’s about World War II)

What I’ve liked: Whisper on the Wind sticks with the reader long after “The End.” I read this, oh, maybe two years ago. Even now I see the streets of their Belgian city and feel the desperate tension from the deadly enemy’s occupation and all-seeing eyes. Lang combines vivid detail and action with the emotion of well-developed characters. This is one of those stories that makes you feel like you have an idea of what it was like to live during this terrible time. It also illustrates inspiring bravery and heroism borne from necessity.

I’m not crazy about: Maureen Lang can’t help this, but I didn’t like that real people had to endure such conditions during this war. It’s sobering, but we can’t ignore what happened.

The bottom line: I’m so glad I picked up Whisper on the Wind. Lang wove a rich tapestry of story featuring characters who mirrored real-life homeland heroes.

What about you? Do stories based on real events, like this book, draw you or make you shy away?