Sunday, September 29, 2013

review of Clear Winter Nights

Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and what Comes after (Multnomah Books, 2013) by Trevin Wax is a fun read, with lots of “WOW” moments. You’re reading along, enjoying the story, and suddenly theological truth is staring you in the face.
This is the story of a 22 year old college student, active in his church, who everyone assumes is going to enter the ministry, following in the footsteps of his grandfather. Then life happens to him, skeletons in his family are revealed, and the resulting crisis of faith leaves him wondering if his faith is real.
Admittedly the plot is a little hokey at times, a little too pat, but even when the scene is predictable, Wax manages to get his points across.  Young Chris ends up helping care for Grampa after a stroke leaves him needing assistance. A snowstorm ensures that they have time alone for some catching up, and as is often the case, those who know us well can see right through our attempts to mask the pain. Pastoral care at its finest ensues, and along the way Chris has to examine his beliefs, his attitudes and values, and ultimately his faith.
Every time we adapt to the notion that we’re reading a novel, we discover that we’re holding a volume of theology. Sexuality, substance abuse, relationships, death, and so many of the ‘big questions’ are addressed in ways that don’t require a degree in theology to understand.
I’m torn as I try to rate this book: is it great literature? Probably not. Is it a complete theology? No. Did I enjoy reading it? Definitely yes.  If I was in the t-shirt or bumper sticker business, this book would provide whole seasons worth of material. And one of the things I liked best about the ending is that enough of Chris’ questions weren’t answered. Either so the reader can use the attached study questions to help him draw his own conclusions, or hopefully because in the not so different future we’ll be reading about another season in the life of Chris, a young Christian man who struggles with the same issues as most of us.
When Clear Winter Nights first appeared on the list of books available for me to review I passed on it, since I tend to be drawn to different types of reading material, but something prompted me to request the book, and I’m glad I did. Just when you think you’re curled up in front of the fireplace with a good book, King Jesus appears and shares another of His eternal truths.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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