About this book: (from the publisher) Ever since he was a boy, Christopher’s parents made him jump off the tree in the backyard. This was to test his faith. Land safely and he might have enough faith to please God. But one year, Christopher breaks his leg, and suddenly it’s his little sister who seems to please their parents best. Distance grows between him and his father, especially as a sexual addiction takes root in his heart, launching him into a dangerous free-fall. Desperate for escape, Christopher looks to college, thinking he might find God on his own terms. Yet as he becomes entrenched in the secular haven of higher education, he discovers the “Cathedral of Learning” is no more of a savior than a tree. He flees once more, hitchhiking with an atheist set on his own spiritual journey. But as they end up in Selma, Alabama, Christopher and his new friend land in a church that won’t let them get away.
About the author: Michel Sauret is the winner of the International Book Awards for his short story collection (Amidst Traffic) and earned the title of Army Journalist of the Year for his writing in Iraq in 2008. His writing has been published internationally. His short story “Lost in the Night” appeared in the anthology, “Best New Writing, 2008.” Michel was born in Rome, Italy, and is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh’s English Writing department. He published his first novel, Breathing God, at the age of 19, and has been serving as a public affairs specialist and journalist for the U.S. Army since 2004.
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: PG-13 for occasional, mild profanity and mature themes
Content advisory: blunt (but not graphic) descriptions of a variety of sexual encounters
Reminds me of: novels in the style of David Guterson or Ivan Doig
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Reflection: If it can be said that fiction is escapism, this particular piece of literary fiction is the opposite of that. It seeks not to escape the realities of the world but to dive (jump?) straight into them. Through Christopher, Michel Sauret leads his readers into the heart of matters of faith and doubt and discovery, exploring the darkest corners with eyes wide open.
It’s not the sort of book you curl up with before bedtime (at least, I don’t). This is for wide-awake moments; it is a thinking person’s book, for those who seek opportunities to refine their understanding of religion in general and Christianity in particular. There’s no shiny veneer here to gloss over uncomfortable truths. As we journey alongside Christopher, we are taken through the darkness of abuse, addictions, and sexual aberration. And while that is a gritty and often grim journey, that is not the ultimate destination. Instead, God is found. Hope awaits.
Believers and non-believers who resonate with books that chronicle the evolution of personal faith will likely recognize themselves and their own doubts here. And perhaps also recognize the eventual destination. This novel is for discerning millennials in a post-modern age who welcome questions of faith and who understand that faith is not something to be inherited, but to be claimed after fierce discovery.
Thanks to the author for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.