Saturday, July 27, 2013

Book Review: Time and Again, a new story 150 years in the telling

Time and Again is author Deborah Heal's contemporary look at time travel.  This is neither sci-fi nor the usual syrup of Christian fiction.  "Weaving History and Faith into Fiction" is Heal's mission and her gift. Shel has done her historical homework for the story's central Illinois setting.

Set in Brighton Illinois, a crumbling mid-western railroad town, the heroine "Abby" leaves her life of privilege to tutor the troubled "Merideth", as what begins as a college service project.  Her job is to save this young charge from being held back in school. The story weaves through adolescent bratty-ness, serious family issues, and coming of age for the tutor, young student, and mother alike. Positive values and the message that everyone is a work in progress flow through these pages without any character being dismissive or judgmental. The adventure of discovery comes through a surprising and contemporary portal, connecting 150 years of history to modern lives.  God is present and faith is celebrated in the lives of these characters who grow and develop throughout this well told tale.  Time and Again is clearly written and interesting as both  a story of fiction and a lesson in American history.  "Time and Again" is a good and safe book for pre-teen readers yet enjoyable to adults too.

 This is the first installment in a series and as such ends rather abruptly.  The author is not done with this story.   Thanks to the author for giving me a copy of her book in exchange for this review and trusting me with my own opinions.

The invitation to review this book came from an unsolicited email from Deborah Heal.  She read the review of another book that I had written and offered a copy.  I am clearly not the target demographic of this book.  The appeal of the book is more for young women.  Heal appeals to me through her marketing strategy.  Her website, , is comfortable and lacks pretense.  Her "Good Books" shelf and ethereal book club have many of my personal must-reads.  She is a writer with depth yet finds humor in herself  and lacks any artistic pretense.

This depth shows through in the historical facet of this novel. Her research, difficult to dig up in a small town, was thorough.  I am a 50 something pastor and history buff from the mid-west who lives in an old Texas railroad town and seldom reads a novel of any style.  I found a connection and  immediately knew these characters, right down to the little bullies and the guy at the snow cone stand.  I also appreciate that she does not over play the heroine by making her perfect. Everyone in the story grows up a little.

Too many books have trashy agendas. Along with a good tale, the book teaches manners, personal hygiene, loving less lovable parents, Finding Christ at a pasty and boring church even when no one is looking, and peeling away the layers of a small town to find treasure in the manure piles.  The story also teaches that in Christ you are not stuck where you are forever.

The story is overly romantic for my tastes and fairly predictable but I like the characters and I like the author.  She is not bound to a publishing house and writes what God leads her to write with boldness. She also has a clear mastery of the social media in this brave new world of publishing.  I appreciate how personal and generous her website it.  She is very open in sharing her journey as an author and encourages everyone to tag along with her.  I pray for her success and recommend this book and her future installments.