Take One by Karen Kingsbury is the first in the new Above the Line series. Though it is not a continuation of the others series involving the Baxter family, some of the characters from those series do appear here and there, and it was fun to “catch up” with them. This book can be read and enjoyed as is, though, without having to go back and reread the previous books.
The story involves two friends, former missionaries, who feel called to a ministry of producing independent inspirational films, and the various problems, setbacks, and answers to prayer along the way. Another prominent story line involves the college-age daughter of one of them who is bitter about the loss of a friend and struggles in her beliefs, pushing the envelope in her behavior. Though there’s nothing overly explicit described, parents might want to preview this book before letting daughters read it and be prepared to discuss some of the girl’s behavior. A third story line involves Bailey, Cory, and Tim from the previous books.
I enjoyed the book and the behind-the-scenes look at what it involved in film-making and the trials of faith of the two men and their families. One has his wife with him while the wife of the other stayed home with small children, and there are struggles each family faces. In all honesty I am a little tired of the Bailey/Tim/Cory storyline, but in the phase of life Bailey is in, it is understandable that she would still be searching and trying to discern the Lord’s will in that area. If you like Karen’s other books, you will like this as well.
This Side of Heaven is not exactly a sequel of A Thousand Tomorrows, about Cody, the bullrider, and his wife with cystic fibrosis, and Just Beyond the Clouds, about Cody’s brother with Down’s Syndrome, but those characters do appear. This story is about a young man named Josh who wandered from his family’s beliefs and standards, had a short dalliance with a woman while out of town, resulting in a daughter that he believes is his, but his parents don’t, and then suffers an accident leaving him in pain and unable to work while the insurance company stalls payment. The previous books have been criticized by some because their references to faith were vague, but in this book the message of the gospel and the grace needed just to live in this world every day is very clear. This book is a little grittier, though, than other books of Karen’s that I have read. Nevertheless, these are situations that people do face. I could have done without the references to online poker, however: that can be so detrimental to some that I wish some of the characters had met through another venue.
All Josh wants to do is get his settlement, have the surgery that will relieve his pain, prove that his daughter is his, and take care of her. His mother, Annie, struggles with shame over what Josh has and hasn’t done with his life, and her story especially spoke to me: sometimes when someone “falls away” it’s easy to focus on our feelings rather than their needs, and her struggles were very real to me.
If you do read this book, be sure to read Karen’s afterword. It sheds a poignant light on the story.
(This review will be posted to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)