If you can't fathom Jesus pursuing you as surely as he pursued these characters, then read the proof in Psalm 23. God loves us. He is not scandalized by our failures.

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Something about summer makes me want to read fiction. Even if I don’t have a beach trip planned {sigh}. Every other season of the year I tend to prefer non-fiction. But summer … well, it just calls for fiction. And for me, I stick to Christian fiction. Safer that way – Philippians 4:8, you know.

This year I picked up Beth Moore’s first novel, The Undoing of Saint Silvanus. The title did not entice me at all, but I like Beth’s non-fiction and Bible studies, so I was really curious about her very first fiction novel. And just in case you need a fiction recommendation for August, I decided to do a quick review.

You may be wondering, like I was, why Beth wanted to switch to fiction when she seems to have a pretty good thing going. Maybe the challenge?

Here is what she wrote in her Note from the Author at the end of the book:

“It’s novel to me in every sense of the word because I’m a nonfiction writer. I prayed hard through the process of writing this book just like I’ve prayed for every other one I’ve written. I am driven to the marrow of my bones by a calling, and I have zero interest in wasting time on something of little eternal value. I asked God over and over to please dry up the story if it wasn’t something he could bless.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that He did indeed bless it. I took this book on the plane to Cuba and back – so unfortunately, I was a little distracted during the first 14 chapters (out of 62). The chapters are short – which I like. I probably should go back and read those chapters again because for me, the book didn’t get good until Chapter 15. It seemed to have a really long set-up to get to the storyline. But never fear, once the story got going, I was hooked!

Beth goes on to say …

“Jesus created and perfected the art of storytelling. Over and over, he told stories to illustrate divine realities like the love of God, the Kingdom of God, the power of prayer, and the impact of faith. Those who first heard them, as well as those who read them now, are able to picture themselves in the parable even if shifting from character to character within a single scene to understand something deeper about God.”

This book is chock full of colorful characters. I’m pretty sure every reader will be able to find at least one to relate to.

I will warn you, though, that a couple of characters were a little dark. It was true to real life, but some may think subjects like tarot cards and murder shouldn’t be included in a Christian novel. But this was a mystery set in downtown New Orleans, so I wasn’t alarmed – I half expected it.

But Beth addressed it …

“My own story is different from Olivia’s and Adella’s and Jillian’s, but parts of it have been just as messy and much of it, equally complicated. I’d like to have been the kind of person who could write a lighter story than what you found within these pages, but I haven’t lived a story like that. Amid unending variables and uncertainties, I have found one constant. One absolute game changer. One perfect hero. He is more than I can keep to myself.”

The story line is fictional, but the Savior is not.

Surprisingly, there are not a lot of Christian references in this book. A non-Christian could read this book and not feel bombarded. Not even close. On the other hand a Christian reader – that would be me – might be left wishing there were more. Most Christian references were subtle like this …

“I do most certainly not need a hug.” Adella’s words were muffled as her face pressed into Emmett’s shirt. “What I need is some peace of mind!” “You know as well as I do, Adella Atwater, that peace of mind isn’t about peaceful circumstances. There’ll always be some conflict or calamity as long as we’re trudging along on this side of Jordan’s shore. Peace of mind is about trust.”

If that little preview wasn’t enough to hook you in, here’s what’s on the book jacket:

Only God knew why Jillian Slater agreed to return to New Orleans on the news that her father had finally drunk himself to death. It’s not like they were close. She hadn’t seen him – or her grandmother, the ice queen – in almost twenty years. But when Adella Atwater, the manager of her grandmother’s apartment house, called and said her expenses would be paid if she’d fly in for the burial, a free trip to New Orleans was too intriguing to resist. What Adella didn’t tell her was that the apartment house wasn’t a house at all and, whatever it was, bore the dead weight of a long and painful history. As soon as Jillian meets the odd assortment of renters and realizes that her grandmother had no idea she was coming, she hatches a plan to escape. But the investigation into her father’s death quickly unfolds and Jillian is drawn into the lives of the colorful collection of saints and sinners who pass through Saint Silvanus. She soon discovers there is more at stake than she ever imagined. Who is behind the baffling messages and the strange relics left on the steps? Is it possible that her family is actually cursed? Or is it just this crazy old house that holds them all under its spell? Jillian walks into a web of spiritual and personal danger borne out of her family’s broken history, and despite Adella’s wiliest efforts, only God himself can orchestrate the undoing of all that is going on at Saint Silvanus.

I read the book consciously looking for a verse to hand-letter and there wasn’t one. A Beth Moore book with no Bible verses?!

So what to letter, what to letter? Beth did not make it easy on me!

Until I found this in the Note From the Author

“If you can’t fathom Jesus pursuing you as surely as he pursued these characters, my pen skidded dismally off the page. Jesus loves us. He is not scandalized by our failures. He is not limited in what he can do with what’s left after family disasters. Nothing is beyond his redemption when he is invited in. No one with a whit of breath left is beyond the reach of his grace. My prayer is that his relentless love for you reverberated from the rooftop of Saint Sans and landed securely in your soul.”

That’s it! That is what the whole book is about!

Jesus pursuing all His colorful characters.

No matter what mess they got themselves into, He still pursued them. Of course, their reactions were up to them. (You’ll have to read the book to find out!)

Aren’t you glad He still pursues you?

All the days of your life!

Psalm 23:6 (NLT): Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Isaiah 43:1: But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

1 Timothy 1:15-16: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

I definitely recommend The Undoing of Saint Silvanus. Once the  mystery got going (and I got home from Cuba), I did not want to put it down until I knew the undoing. Squeeze it in before summer is over!

Oh – and one last thing: take note of the drawing inside the front cover. It will help you picture the inside of Saint Silvanus! I didn’t figure that out until much too late!

If you can't fathom Jesus pursuing you as surely as He pursued these characters, then read the proof in Psalm 23. God loves us. He is not scandalized by our failures.

The hand-lettered print above?

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Do you like Rae Dunn mugs as much as I do? I have 4 different mugs and the spoon rest above!

 

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I am linking up with Arabah Joy at Grace and Truth and Lori Schumaker at Moments of Hope and The Book Nook at Create With Joy and Holley Gerth at Coffee For Your Heart and Jennifer Dukes Lee at Tell His Story and Becoming Press at Writer Wednesday and Anne at Quick Lit.

 

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Book Review – Lessons I Learned in the Dark

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