Saturday, August 07, 2004

"Growing Up" Features Blossoming Platitudes

Callaway, Phil. Growing Up on the Edge of the World. Harvest House, 2004.

In a lot of ways, Terry Anderson is just your typical twelve-year-old Christian boy. He's seeking answers, love, and money, generally found, respectively, in Sunday school, his best friend's older sister, and stray nickels he finds on the sidewalk. However, when Terry suddenly finds thousands of dollars of money hidden away, almost literally, just under his nose, he weighs the Christian response against the knowledge that his mother is very ill and his family could use the money. Soon Terry is busy keeping his family well fed, buying small gifts for himself and those he loves, and supplying his schoolmates with bubble gum.

Unfortunately, the rich setting and warm style of the story and characters do little to compensate for the shallow characters and platitudinous ending. As Terry proceeds through the story, battling guilt and pride, somehow everything miraculously comes together, leaving the book glowing with idealism and surreality as the story closes. Callaway's insistence on overwhelming grace and forgiveness overlooks the facts that actions have consequences and that we humans live in a sadly imperfect world. While Callaway's singlemindedness in these respects is admirable, it nonetheless detracts from the story as a whole.

Overall, fortunately, the book is an amusing and lighthearted read, filled with tender moments and humorous glimpses into life in a small town, where, as Terry complains, everyone on the street not only knows him, but asks about his mother. Perhaps the most vivid characters are Terry's two older brothers, striving, like Terry, to do what is right in the face of surprising adversity. Similarly, Terry's mother, gentle but rock solid in her convictions, proves a foundational element of the book when all is said and done.

As far as today's Christian fiction goes, this book is not bad, but this should not be a standard. Held up against the ranks of great fiction, this book is disappointing mediocre.

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