Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

A great story leaves you missing the characters when it ends, and Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry clearly qualifies as a great story.

I had never read any of Berry’s books before, but when christianaudio.com made Hannah Coulter its free download of the month in August, I was curious. After reading high praise from the likes of Russell Moore, I downloaded it and began listening. I was hooked.

In the latest installment in Wendell Berry’s long story about the citizens of Port William, Kentucky, readers learn of the Coulters’ children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors “live right on.”

“Ignorant boys, killing each other,” is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war while the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan’s wife, Hannah, now has time to tell of the years since the war.

An audiobook is enhanced or ruined by its reader. HC‘s reader, Susan Denaker, richly deserves this high praise from Audiofile Magazine:

Susan Denaker brings twice-widowed farm wife Hannah to life with soft-spoken but resolute dignity. As the 20th century closes and a new millennium begins, the elderly—yet fiercely self-sufficient—Hannah reflects on her past, especially the crucial threads of family, community and the soil. Denaker does an especially effective job of portraying the other figures in the “Port William Membership” in a manner that fits the approach of the first-person narrative. She adjusts the octave and tone of the male and female characters of varying ages just enough to set them apart from each another, but listeners can be certain that Hannah maintains full control of her own storytelling. The experience evokes a sublime visit to a beloved grandmother figure with memories and wisdom to impart.”

As the book drew to a close I experienced that sort-of-hollow feeling that you get when a friend moves away. I have found the story coming to mind many times in the weeks since. I hope Jill doesn’t mind when I say that I miss Hannah Coulter.

(It’s no longer a free download, but it is worth the money to listen!)


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These are the first two books of a series about our nation’s birth.  Gingrich and Forstchen have teamed up on several books of historical fiction, and their stories are remarkably well told.

To Try Men’s Souls highlights Washington’s Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River to  attack the Hessian outpost in Trenton, NJ. The first year of the war is told through memories and flashbacks, so this battle is not told in isolation.

The book vividly recounts the suffering and brutal conditions of the American soldiers. George Washington is humanized, while at the same time, retaining his rightful heroic stature. Thomas Paine’s writing of The American Crisis weaves its way throughout, no doubt with some literary embellishment.

Valley Forge picks up a year later to tell the story of the American army through the winter and spring of 1777-78. VF brings to the forefront the conflicts and clashes within the colonial government and armies, as well as the need for Baron von Steuben’s military training.

Nit-picking: the grammar can be wretched at times with misplaced modifiers and dangling verbals that could lead to some confusion. However, the plots are wound so tightly and the drama drawn so taut that this reader overlooked most of the poor grammar.

These books have provoked much reflection on the meaning of being American, and what it means to be a Christian American as well.

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north! or be eaten

This fall Andrew Peterson came out with the second in his “Wingfeather Saga”, North! or Be Eaten. In this book, he picks up the story begun in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and continues the adventures of Janner, Tink, and Leeli, along with their family.

I wasn’t especially thrilled with some aspects of the first book (read my review here), but North lessens the irritations considerably. It is a little clunky in spots, with some of the plot twists being a bit herky-jerky.

Peterson divides the company of travelers and traces two and then three and then four different plot threads before weaving them back together at the end. This was where some of the clunkiness came in, but all in all he was pretty effective with this rather difficult maneuver. Peterson is growing rapidly as a writer…in my never-to-be-humble opinion.

North is a rip-roaring good tale and it is fast-paced! Once the reader gets past the halfway point, it will be very difficult to put it down. Parents, your son will likely be reading this at the dinner table!

I liked the development of the theme of the Throne Warden. It continues to provide discussion opportunities for parents and children. Interesting theme introduced of abandoning responsibility which will necessarily be played out in the next book as well. I would have liked to see a tighter biblical theme of evil developed. I’m not sure what needs to be done, but something seems a bit lacking to me. Something along the lines of those who are oppressed by evil also choose it and embrace it. It’s hinted at here and there. I dunno maybe I’m reaching too far.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book and I am very much looking forward to the next in the series.

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