Monday, January 30, 2006

An Unfortunate Review

Hi all:

I don't often write negative reviews.

My feeling is that there are so many GOOD books out there, why give attention to bad ones? If I don't like something (book, movie, CD, fill in the blank), I don't write about it, in the tradition of the old saying, "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

But sometimes I feel it's valuable to articulate why something is bad. In particular, as a Christian I think it's VERY important to honor our Lord with our BEST work. I get quite bothered when I see mediocre (or worse) material being put out there under a Christian banner.

Hence the following review. I apologize in advance if it offends anyone.

Of course, counter opinions are welcome.


The Negative Review

“Her Daddy’s Eyes” by Gary E. Parker (published by Revell) is Christian fiction as opposed to fiction written by someone who holds a Christian worldview. In other words, Parker’s story is a thinly-characterized and poorly-plotted excuse to propagate Christian principles. As such, it may appeal to Christian readers who want clean, moral stories without ambiguity or a complex theology.

But even that audience may have a problem with the Christian principles that Parker espouses. God’s will, for example, is seen as a series of weak coincidences that lead character and nonbeliever, Allie Wilson, latches onto to justify her sudden, desperate, and selfish search for her long-lost father days before her wedding. The Christian character, Chase Mason, reinforces this revelation of God’s will in his life to justify his own selfish desires that “God told me you were the woman I’m supposed to marry.”

In addition, Mason likens being in God’s will to being on an interstate highway with good lighting, smooth road surfaces, and convenient rest areas whereas being outside God’s will is like driving on rutted, poorly lit back roads. Yet the Son of Man had no place to lay his head when he was on Earth. And there were no comfy places to rest on the way to the cross. And then there’s the parable of the wide road versus the narrow way. Mason’s health and wealth gospel doesn’t cover “taking up your cross and following me.”

The title is the first clue to the tone and attitude of the book. A grown woman referring to her father—one who abandoned the family, no less—as “daddy” is a bit too sentimental and possibly psychologically dodgy. It’s also odd that when a scene is told from Allie’s point of view she refers to her mother in the third person; “Gladys” does this or that, or “Gladys’s” house or garden. Yet she always calls her “mom” in dialogue. There are two Section 3s in my advance copy. The timing is a bit off, too, is Allie getting married in two weeks or three? Further editing is needed before the novel is released.

From a plot standpoint, Allie’s driving dilemma is not sufficiently motivated so that even though her fiancĂ© Trey is unambiguously a heel, readers can find themselves somewhat in agreement with his constant questioning of her urgency, if not with his lack of tact. His unlikeability also brings up the question “why did she agree to marry him in the first place?” These two central driving forces make the dramatic conflict feel contrived and weak, which heightens the feeling that it’s not really about the story at all, it’s about the moral theology the writer wants to propagate.

Allie herself is unsympathetic in her sudden, weakly motivated (a series of incidents involving eyes, including her “daddy’s eyes” in some old photos), obsession with finding her father before her wedding. She even stoops so low in her selfish desire as to snoop into Chase’s parents’ PRIVATE drawers and files and then gets Chase to logon on to their PRIVATE e-mails and PRINT THEM OUT. I believe this is illegal behavior of the highest order. And yet it is presented as nothing more than an annoyance like stealing a cookie from the cookie jar.

Nothing gives me greater pleasure as a reviewer then to promote good writing and good books, especially when they come from fellow believers. Unfortunately, I did not get much pleasure out of reading “Her Daddy’s Eyes” or writing this review. I cannot recommend it to any audience.

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