I can usually tell whether I'm going to enjoy a novel within the first 20-30 pages. Whether I will finish a book can be determined by how interested I am in it by that point. The Jordan Tracks by Steven W. Wise grabbed me from the prologue and wouldn't let go.
Set in the small town of California, Missouri in 1968, The Jordan Tracks tells the story of the Bates family: Ernie, Christa, and their son Aaron. Ernie works in the local turkey processing plant, Christa is the faithful wife, and Aaron is a Marine serving in the combat zone of Viet Nam. The book does not dwell much on the politics of the day. However, the citizens respect for those in the military is healthy and is something that even today seems all too rare.
The main focus of the book is how each of the Bates as well as those who cross their path deal with daily life - especially when tragedy strikes. For Christa and Aaron, both see events as the working of God's hand in their lives. Though they do not always understand why things happen the way they do they know that God is sovreign and that sometimes things happen for reasons beyond our ability to understand. Ernie, on the other hand, carries the scars from a tragic and abusive childhood. He must deal with that emotional baggage as the story unfolds.
There is a sharp distinction drawn between the Christians and non-Christians in this book. The one thing they hold in common is that neither is invincible. Tragedy strikes everyone regardless of their faith or lack of it. However, their faith shapes how they respond to life's events.
The characters in this book are vivid and real as they should be. Mr. Wise drew extenstively from his own experiences and people that he knew in sketching the characters of this book. He even worked in a turkey processing plant as a young man. As he explains in an audio interview with Stacy Harp of Mind and Media, it was these experiences that helped shaped this book.
I'm also glad to see that Mr. Wise was able to incorporate the presentation of the Gospel into the book without it seeming awkward or forced. In fact, the Gospel is presented in a very natural fashion and within context of the events taking place in the book. Too often I find that Christian novelists are working so hard to communicate the Gospel that they sacrifice the overarching story of the novel in the process.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about how Christian faith operates in the ups and downs of daily life.
I do not receive any consideration for this review other than a copy of the book which has been provided to me through Mind and Media by a generous gift from Authorhouse, publisher of the book.