Turns out reviewing books online is not quite as cut-and-dried as I imagined. You’d think that the internet allows you to critique someone from the comfort of your computer with impunity. You’re bullet-proof, right? Immune from any of the unpleasantries of giving your assessment face to face.
My perspective changed with my review of The Long Way Home by Andrew Klavan. Though I generally enjoyed the novel, I did express that his writing was a bit bland compared to his many crime thrillers.
The day after I posted my opinion, the author began following me on Twitter. Awkward! I was reminded of the very public nature of the internet (I know, I’m a slow learner), and the importance of communicating in a humble, God-honoring way, even if I’m separated from the person by thousands of miles of fiber-optic cables.
You might ask, what does this have to do with your review of this book, Dave? Well, I happen to know the author of the book The Unfinished Gift. Dan Walsh is the pastor of a Florida church that is related to the church I’m a part of, and though I wouldn’t pretend to be friends, we have run into each other many times at conferences and retreats over the years. Reviewing his book could make things a bit uncomfortable the next time I see him somewhere.
Fortunately, this shouldn’t be a problem because The Unfinished Gift is good. Very good. (Huge sigh of relief.)
The story takes during World War II during the winter of 1943. Seven-year-old Patrick Collins has just endured the death of his mother in a automobile accident, and he goes to live with his grandfather Ian until his pilot father can return from the war in Europe. Complicating matters further is the fact that the Ian has been estranged from Patrick’s father for years, and the boy has never met the bitter widower.
Walsh writes with nostalgic warmth about the time period in a way that recalls the novels of Nicholas Sparks. I found myself fully immersed in the story, and appreciated the portrayal of redemption, forgiveness and love that the author deftly unfolded.
Most importantly, The Unfinished Gift reveals the transforming power of faith, and the sovereign hand of God in the lives of people who are often wholly unaware of his ministry in their lives. Walsh conveys these truths in a way that is compelling and consistent with the arc of his story; never heavy handed or preachy.
The author has a sequel, The Homecoming, slated for publication in June 2010. The main area of improvement I might hope for in his second work is the addition of more dialogue. Most of what is revealed about the characters in the first five or six chapters of The Unfinished Gift is interior monologue, rather that conversations or interactions between characters.
If you like Christian fiction, you’ll love The Unfinished Gift by Dan Walsh. And I’m not just saying that because I might see him at a conference. Or because he might start following me on Twitter.