Friday, June 3, 2011

‘Almost Heaven’ by Chris Fabry – Book Review

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I had my first encounter with Chris Fabry by reading his latest book, ‘Almost Heaven.’ Based on my enjoyment of this wonderful book, I will be seeking out his other books as well as his radio program!

Here is the synopsis of this book:

“I suppose you can sum up a man’s life with a few words, but I need to put this story down to fill in the missing pieces. Or perhaps I can convince the people who know me as a hermit that there was some reason for it all. But this is not really for those outside looking in. This is for me.”
Some people say Billy Allman has a heart of gold. Others say he’s a bit odd. The truth is, they’re all right. He’s a hillbilly genius – a collector, a radio whiz – and he can make a mandolin sing. Though he dreams of making an impact on the world beyond the hills and hollers of Dogwood, West Virginia, things just always seem to go wrong.
But however insignificant Billy’s life seems, it has not gone unnoticed. Malachi is an angel sent to observe and protect Billy. Though it’s not his dream assignment, Malachi always follows orders. And as Billy’s story unfolds, Malachi slowly begins to see the bigger picture – that each step Billy takes is a note added to a beautiful song that will forever change the lives of those who hear it.

Here is the biography of this author:

Chris Fabry is a Christy Award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live! on Moody Radio; he is also heard on Love Worth Finding and Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. He is a 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and a native of West Virginia (where Almost Heaven is based). He is the author of 70 books for children and young adults, including Dogwood and June Bug. Chris and his wife, Andrea, are the parents of nine children and live in Arizona.

Here is the trailer for this wonderful book, featuring Mr. Fabry:

I was amazed and captivated by Mr. Fabry’s writing style. Here is a great example. The book is written from Billy Allman’s point of view. It is not only a perfect example of great writing, but also a wonderful glimpse into the mindset of this wonderful character:

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 bedcreeks 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.
My life has been filled with my share of dirges and plainsongs. I would sing jaunty melodies of cotton candy and ice cream if I could, a top-40 three-minute-and-twenty-second tune, but the songs that have been given to me are played in A minor and are plagued with pauses and riffs that have no clear resolution. I ache for some major chord, a tonal shift that brings musical contentment. I do not know if I will find that.
Throughout my life I have dedicated myself to God. I told him early on that I would go anywhere and do anything he wanted. No holding back. But as time slipped and the conversation has become more one-sided, that plan has appeared haphazard at best. God has been massively indifferent to my devotion, if he has even heard my cries. (pp. 3-4)

I also loved the guardian angel aspect of this book. Malachi was assigned the task of caring for Billy. It was interesting to see his perspective of the human condition:

Time hinders the humans because their lives are lived on two slopes. Their early lives consist of the upward climb to what they are trying to attain. They press on through education and strive to reach the point where they feel satisfied, where they have “enough,” always just beyond their grasp. They neglect what they say is important and strive for sand that so easily slips through their fingers. (p. 51)

It was interesting to see Malachi’s view of Billy’s life, as his perspective was interspersed throughout the book.

Amazingly, Malachi was assigned to another strong man of God centuries before (one of my favorite people in history):

“Yes! Saul of Tarsus, who later became Paul. Being sent to him meant that I missed much of the earthy life and ministry of our Lord. I longed to observe the life of Christ, but there I was, watching this young Jewish boy at his lessons day after day, protecting him from an errant horse-drawn cart while the whole world was turned upside down. I could see no rhyme or reason in this assignment.
“And then, after the Death and Resurrection – I only heard of these things: I didn’t see them firsthand as you probably did – my charge became vehement in his opposition to those who followed the Way. I had been protecting someone who was actually against the very One I had sworn myself to serve. It made less than no sense but I was stuck.” (p. 79)

I loved Billy’s description of music:

Music has a way of filling in the missing places. It is a gift from God, who didn’t have to provide it, but he did it anyway and I half think he decided life just wouldn’t be as good without it. Even if you’re penniless and on the street and have nothing at all, or if you’re shut-in and on a sickbed, or if you’re in prison, if you have music, there is something to feed your soul. I guess that’s the reason I started the station in the first place. I could stop playing my music, but there was a need deep down for something real I didn’t even understand. So in a way, I started the station to feed myself, for selfish reasons, and it’s blessed others along the way. (p. 326)

I loved the advice he gave his young charge, Natalie, to whom he gave a weekly radio program on his radio station:

…”If you lean on your own strength and understanding, you’ll spin your wheels. If you let God use the things he’s given you, and also use the things you feel weak in, your life will be an amazing song sung to him every day.” (p. 329)

Those are some strong words of wisdom – and the earlier you grasp that truth, the better your life will be!

This was one of my favorite books! Billy Allman, was stellar in his character; his integrity was impeccable and beyond reproach. I kept rooting for him throughout the novel. Billy reminded me a lot of a friend of mine who has chosen to live a life of solitude. I was glad to see that Billy decided not to live that type of life as the story unfolded.

This book kept me up far too late into the wee hours of the morning! I was so captivated by Billy and his story that I wanted to keep reading to see where the Lord was going to take him. And it was very clear that the Lord was guiding him; He was in constant communication with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I highly recommend this sweet and uplifting novel! Although Billy had his ups and downs in life, he was always strong and courageous in his life, which was a powerful witness to the Lord.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Tyndale Fiction and was provided by them for review purposes.

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