Thursday, July 8, 2010

A "Noted" Review: Not so Awkward

McCord, Jeff. Awkward Grace. Kingsport, TN: Twilight Times Books, 2008. 224 Pages. Paper. (N)

A first novel is an enormous undertaking. It could easily be a trainwreck, or at least "awkward." Awkward Grace is a compelling novel of Christian compassion in practice.

How would Burundian refugees fare in eastern Tennessee? Ben, a Christian layman and his congregation welcome Mevin and his brother, both from Africa.

I was uncomfortable with a couple aspects of the book. First, the way characters early in the book talk of God "speaking" apart from His Word. This borders on what Martin Luther called "enthusiasm," a misunderstanding of the work of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace. I understand that the author has a Christian confession of faith and that this is likely one area of doctrinal disagreement. I don't want to see emotion or "feelings" become a substitute for genuine religious experience. Second, I was disappointed in the portrayal of the pastor of Ben's congregation. As a pastor, it is hard to find a pastor portrayed in a positive light in much literature and even Christian literature. Perhaps the author could tell us another story in the future where a faithful and mission-focused pastor could be the "hero" for once. I liked the start he made in this regard. near the end of the book.

Two strands early in the novel are naturally and logically woven together once an aircraft lands in Tennessee. The rest flows along as an interesting and unified narrative.

Jeff McCord does well at character development for a first-novelist. Conversations sounded natural. Actions were believable, but I may reserve judgment on the "Moonshine Brothers." :)

I don't believe in doing "spoilers" in a book review of a novel. Font and page size make for easy and enjoyable reading of a pleasant book.

Perhaps the truly inspirational part of this novel of love and godly work in Christian vocation could be how it inspires its readers to meet the needs of their neighbors in this world with the love and mercy of Christ.

"In his seven years as a newspaper columnist, Jeff McCord has published somewhere in the neighborhood of two hundred columns. He started out writing for "The Rogersville Review"--Tennessee's oldest active newspaper and along with his wife currently writes a column for the "Kingsport Times-News." McCord published his first essay, "Manhood and Kaptain Kangaroo" in 1994 and has been publishing essays and short stories ever since. A native of Sandy Springs, Georgia, Jeff McCord now resides in Kingsport, Tennessee with his wife and three children. Awkward Grace is Jeff McCord's debut novel" (publisher's website).

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.