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21 posts from April 2009

April 01, 2009

First Review of Scared - A Novel on the Edge of the World

Scared front cover

Thanks so much to Michelle Sutton of Christian Fiction Online Magazine.

About the book: 

Stuart Daniels has hit bottom. Once a celebrated and award-winning photojournalist, he is reeling from debt, a broken marriage, and crippling depression. The source of Stuart's grief is his most famous photo, a snapshot of brutality in the dangerous Congo. A haunting image that indicts him as a passive witness to gross injustice. 

Stuart is given one last chance to redeem his career: A make-or-break assignment covering the AIDS crisis in a small African country. It is here that Stuart meets Adanna, a young orphan fighting for survival in a community ravaged by tragedy and disease. What seemed like a chance encounter will forever change their lives. 

This sweeping, dramatic story explores the most vital social issues facing our world and offers a unique perspective on the tragedies taking place in Africa today. Readers will be encouraged to step out and help the "least of these." 

My review: 

Tears were flowing down my cheeks through a good portion of the book. I don't recommend reading this in public because you'd have a hard time getting past the lump in your throat to explain just what it was that evoked that level of emotion in you. I'm not exaggerating. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to be emotionally moved when you read Scared. The entire time I read this book I was in Africa right along with the characters. That's great writing. 

While the abuse and poverty were disheartening to experience through the story, the way people who loved God reached out with the little they had was truly uplifting. Evocative and intense, Scared cuts deep into your heart as you read along. Healing fills the pages, yet there are no easy answers given, and it shows how each day is a struggle for the people of Swaziland to even survive. That's why the orphans and the widows need people who care. I loved how Scared showed that many of the sick and dying were truly victims of AIDS through no wrongdoing of their own. This book should be an award winner for the message alone. Seriously. 

I've rarely experienced this level of realism in a novel, especially in the CBA. It's so realistic, it's downright edgy - but to the extreme. Like the Holocaust, there are some awful things that happen in this book. Unspeakable things. But it also shows how God holds those who suffer close to His heart. You see that in this book in a way that is rarely portrayed in Christian fiction. All of the ugly stuff is not smoothed over, nor is the God-given compassion. I was moved to tears so many times I lost count. 

When the people who were starving literally danced with joy when offered a meager ration of food, it really touched me. We have so much in this country, yet we are so ungrateful. Gratitude is definitely a missing element in most people's lives in the United States. We'd be so much kinder to each other if we were truly grateful for the gift of salvation we've been given, and for the many undeserved blessings that God has granted us. One way to thank Him is by showing love in action and not just in our words. 

Truly beautiful themes permeate this story and will stay with you long after you finish. Here's the bottome line... Scared portrays how the love and integrity of one pre-adolescent girl changed an entire nation. That left me breathless. Oh, and I'll never say I'm starving again. One caution, though. I'd be careful about reading this novel if you have a weak stomach or if atrocities like rape will give you flashbacks. It's graphic and harsh in some places, but sooo worth reading. I highly recommend it. 

Scared is published by Cook and will be released in May 2009.

Michelle Sutton