Randy Alcorn, Safely Home, Recommended

Randy Alcorn is widely known for two or three of his non-fiction books - The Treasure Principle, Heaven, and Money, Possessions and Eternity, but I want to recommend his fiction. The first book I read was Deadline - brilliant.

That got me hooked on Alcorn's fiction - and I was delighted with this book, Safely Home. Different because it takes you to China. Ben is a backsliding Christian business executive whose company is likely to expand into China. And when he gets his opportunity to go to China himself, he has somewhat mixed feelings about meeting up again with his former college roommate. As the story unfolds readers discover his roommate had become a Christian while they were students together. The back cover blurb says, "Twenty years after college, the men are shocked at what they discover about each other." I found this book a good follow up to The Heavenly Man, and reviews tell me that there are parts of China where the sort of persecution this book describes is very real, and the descriptions, true to life.

We find that Ben's friend, Li Quan, on returning to China, was persecuted for his faith, and the only job he can get is as apprentice to a locksmith. And we get glimpses of what it was like as they got up in the middle of the night and cycled with their child still asleep to secret Christian meetings.

I think this book should be read by every Christian - for a glimpse of life in China. We used to say "behind the Bamboo Curtain" - now, because people travel more freely to China as tourists, perhaps we have been lulled into believing that all is okay. I have spoken about this book with several who have worked in China. I think this book enlarges my understanding. This book prompts me to pray.

Another feature I like in Safely Home is that there are scenes slotted in to the story every now and then that show you the martyrs - (seeing then as we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses?) - martyrs obseving Li Quan from the heavens, willing him on not to yield or deny his faith. Amazing. Thought provoking.

You might as well know that, looking for a short cut in preparing this review, I looked these books up on the internet.

I was amazed at the mixture of comments. Everything from, "This book is the best" - through to "This book has no literary quality whatsoever."

As I thought about this and as I wondered what qualified these reviewers to praise one book highly or condemn another, and by what sort of yardstick they measured fiction, I remembered the mixed reviews also garnered by The Shack. And the Harry Potter books, and the Dan Brown books, and so on. I have sometimes chatted with OMF editors about the Harry Potter phobia, and I believe it's a phobia felt more strongly in the US than in the UK. But whether in the US or the UK or the Philippines, I believe some of the hysteria is somewhat misguided. These books are just fiction.

Do you remember all the criticism about The Shack? But many of us liked it until we were told we should be shocked by it. IMHO - The Shack wasn't meant to be tested as a theological book. Just as I would say The Da Vinci Code wasn't written as a historical book nor was it written as a book to undermine the Catholic or Protestant faith. And while I believe Randy Alcorn and the Thoenes did their historical research to make their works true to life - I am recommending these books to you as FICTION. I'm not saying these books are quality literature, although I hope you will find lines that are worth savoring, that somehow "taste good" while you read. I'm hoping too you will find images built for you in well-chosen words that will stir your imagination, and, or should I say, broaden your experience and understanding. But I am recommending these books as books that entertain, and allow you to put life on hold. I don't believe we need to measure all books against some sort of theological scale, or even literary scale, or historical scale. I think if a book causes you to shed a tear - that's pretty amazing. Or if a book moves you to vow that if you were in your hero's shoes you would try to do the same brave deeds, that's amazing too. Or if a book moves you to pray, these are good things. These are books which have the potential to enlarge your life.

(c) 2009 by Lindy Hope for Christian Writer's Fellowship