Thinking Out Loud

April 27, 2009

Andy Andrews’ Fourth Novel is More Autobiographical

Filed under: books, Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:54 am

noticerWriting in the first person this time, Andy Andrews, author of Traveler’s Gift, again presents what is very much a self-help book presented in narrative form.   In The Noticer,  officially releasing Tuesday (28th) the story is situated in his real-life community and refers to his real-life wife and sons, and shares experiences and principles that Andrews has found helpful in his own life.   But should it end up in the fiction section with his other books?  It’s clearly meant to be about Andrews himself.

The central character of the story however, is a man who simply goes by the name Jones.   Not ‘Mr. Jones,’ as we’re often reminded.    Christian book readers will immediately notice some similarities between Jones and John, the central character in The Shack-related title So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore, as both lead characters simply “show up” at pivotal times in peoples’ lives.

But while the John character is used to introduced a kind of Socratic dialog that deals with doctrinal matters — a similarity shared with David Gregory’s Dinner With A Perfect Stranger and its sequel — the Jones character in The Noticer leaves the title firmly planted in the “inspirational,” not doctrinal or apologetic category.   Its main message is that navigating through life is often a matter of perspective.   That’s the core essence of the book.  Other truths are added extras, much like the added toppings on a hamburger.

Some of the ideas clearly echo concepts brought out in The Traveler’s Gift, the first Andrews novel in this series published in 2002.   Both deal with people dealing with hard times, especially economic, so the release of this title right now is quite timely.     One early chapter is strongly reminiscent of Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, abbreviated to four languages in this treatment.

The length of the book and the careful distance it seems to keep from stronger Christian terminology makes this an excellent gift for someone who has not yet crossed the line of faith; who is not a heavy reader; for a younger or older male reader; or for someone not interested in reading that fits into the regular “Christian living” section at the Christian bookstore.

This review is a part of the Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers series.
For an earlier review in this series, check out The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley reviewed here.


April 14, 2009

The Traveler’s Gift: A Gift to Our Economic Climate

travelers-giftAlthough written in 2002, The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews begins with a story that seems to be pulled from last week’s evening newscasts.    The man in the story is unemployed, their daughter needs surgery, they’re not covered by a medical plan.    This story seems so much more 2008-2009.    Is that prophetic?

Also, although written in 2002, the book bears a resemblance to last year’s Christian bestseller, where again, a fictional premise is used as a premise to introduce a large quantity of teaching; what could be termed Socratic dialog.  In other words, this is a self-help book written as fiction, and as such very similar to David Gregory’s Dinner With a Perfect Stranger.

And like the Gregory title, this book is a prime prospect for men — both in terms of length and content — a characteristic probably shared with the new Andy Andrews book The Noticer, releasing at the end of the month.

The book revolves around David Ponder, a husband and father who finds himself as a traveler on a time-travel adventure which includes seven stops.   Each one involves interaction with a historical character who teaches him one of seven principles.    Unfortunately for my British, Australian and Canadian readers, I have to mention that three of these are figures from American history.   Perhaps that was unavoidable, or maybe it’s just my need to reconcile with the fact that the Christian book market is the U.S. market.

The principles are good, solid, self-help principles that you can expect to find in the psychology section of any bookstore.    They are however, not solely Christian principles, to the point where it begs the question, ‘Is this a Christian book at all?’   (Those with longer memories will sense the echo of the question from the ’70s and ’80s, ‘What makes a CD or a cassette Christian?’)

The result reminds me of what one might come to expect from a book by Robert Schuller — either Jr. or Sr. — and certainly those who criticize the lack of Christology in some Christian publishing would have sufficient ammunition with this title, should it ever cross their path at all.

I read it in preparation for reviewing The Noticer, which a number of bloggers are all reviewing on the same day, April 27th.   That book just arrived yesterday.    It will be interesting to see if the Christian connection or Biblical connection in that title, published some seven years later, is more or less apparent.

If you know someone for whom the present economy has truly taken the wind out of their sails, this is a good bet.    If you’re looking for something that takes an albeit contrived fictional premise and uses it to stimulate theological thought, then consider the David Gregory title or that bestseller from the last year that everybody’s talking about.

Note: If we mention that “other book” by name, it will be picked up in the web crawl, and so strong are opinions on it that we’ll have to close comments on this post. So we just didn’t mention it.

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