Saturday, January 1, 2011

"The Reluctant Prophet" by Nancy Rue

"For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me." Matt. 25:35-36

This Bible passage doesn't appear in "The Reluctant Prophet" but it's message is woven throughout the whole story. And to make it perfectly obvious -- if you hadn't noticed from the publisher or the plot summary -- this is Christian fiction. But it's not as in-your-face evangelical as some books I've read, which will make some people love it more and others like it less. It's not a perfect book, but I enjoyed reading it and it made me think.

Allison Chamberlain is the protagonist of this novel. She is 41 years old and has been a Christian for 7 years. I always worry a little about the characters in Christian fiction -- will they be Pollyanna perfect people who never have doubts and never do anything wrong? That is definitely not the case with this book. The book opens with Allison not paying attention to the sermon in church because she's distracted by the people around her and asking God to show her what she's supposed to do with her faith. Unlike most of us, Allison gets not only a Nudge from God but hears a very specific message: Go out and buy a Harley. The story is about what happens when she does just that and her Harley brings her into contact with the kind of people you don`t see sitting around you in church. Even after her Nudge from God, Allison doesn't turn all Pollyanna.

There is a lot in this book that will make you really think about what Jesus said about "the least of these" and whether what we are doing as Christians is really enough. But there was also a lot in the book that bothered me. For example, Allison stopped going to church (rather than look for another one) when her pastor and her small group did not support what she believes God is telling her to do. And some of the theological/spiritual aspects felt a little fuzzy to me. The focus is much more on social action.

I also didn't like that the church people were painted as the "bad guys" of the book because they didn't support what Allison was doing. If a friend who was barely making ends meet bought an expensive motorcycle and brought drug addicted hookers into her home, I don't think my reaction would be very different.

But the book created strong emotional feelings in me for the characters. I cried several times while reading. And the story held my attention; I was worried about that when I saw the length of the book. I recommend reading it.

I got this book free from Amazon Vine to write a review.  The opinions expressed herein are my own.

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