Thursday, June 23, 2005

BOOK REVIEW - "The Jordan Tracks" by Stephen W. Wise

The following is a book review for Blog for Books, a ministry of Stacy L. Harp ...
The Jordan Tracks by Steven W. Wise; 224 pp. glossy paperback, AuthorHouse (vanity publisher)
For the small Midwestern town of California, Missouri, 1968 heralded another year when parents stared in dread at television screens sending images of soldiers mangled in Vietnam. Ernie and Christa Bates performed their daily toils, but never far from their thoughts was an only son named Aaron. The young man shared a strong Christian faith with his mother, and she prayed for him fervently, knowing that his prayers too were directed to God. But Ernie did not share their faith, could only invoke a spirit world that he knew existed, but did not trust. And while his son fought on soil half a world away, Ernie fought a grim battle in a world that he could not see.

I liked this book ... very much ... even though it begins slowly and has some plot predictability.

In a note to me, author Wise said, "I hope that the characters convey to you my belief The Holy Spirit works even within the darkest chambers of human souls." I believe this reveals the author's intent in writing the book.

Genre should have everything to do with the review of another's work. In the case of The Jordan Tracks it is doubly important, since the genre is Christian fiction with an underlying evangelistic message. I gathered from that message that Wise was more interested in reaching people for Christ than selling books ... but the selling of books must always be a hope for any author.


If I were a non-Christian reviewer I might find fault with some aspects of the story but I'm not, and I can't separate my faith from my review. That is not to imply the author should get a free ride when it comes to his character development or writing style or communication ability.

Wise does an excellent job of developing the Missouri personality. I know. My dad was a Missourian, the rest of the family was Kansan, and we were raised in Iowa. And my wife and I have a son who is a Missouri State Trooper; his wife and two grandchildren complete my qualifications as an expert on the people of the state.

Regarding development of the Viet Nam characters - likewise good ... not great but good. I graduated from high school in '60, I was a student at San Jose State during the war, and I lost a brother-in-law in Nam. And I've ministered to dozens of veterans with everything from PTS Syndrome to agent orange problems and combat injuries.

Wise's style is comfortable and the storyline transitions are smooth. Any book which brings me to tears on at least three occasions is a good read as far as I'm concerned. If you want a good, decent, Christian read each evening before you snooze - The Jordan Tracks is such a read.

I checked out a couple of reviews which did not care for the book. That's their right. But I felt there was an edge of flippancy in one case and haughtiness in another; this not a reveiw it's unfair and unprofessional.

Expectations have a lot to do with our reaction to things we read, let alone life.
  • If, when we read, we expect a Random House read from an AuthorHouse book we are certain to be disappointed.
  • If we buy a saga by an internationally known author, we may "expect" a top-of-the-heap read.
  • If, on the other hand, we have in our hand a self-published, low budget earnest effort to tell His-story, we should not be surprised when it is nowhere near the top of the heap and nowhere near a saga.
I see the same thing from church-goers on vacation. They leave modern, multi-staffed, multi-service, mega-barn churches in the big city, travel to a place with nothing but small town neighborhood churches with volunteer staff, and then spend all Sunday afternoon wondering why the little church was so disappointing.

Approached with mature and rational expectations this is a worthwhile read with excellent family and Christian portrayals.

Steven W. Wise, a graduate of the University of Missouri, is a Baptist deacon and a licensed real estate appraiser. He lives and writes his stories on a wooded farm ten miles north of Columbia, Missouri, with his wife, Cathy. Wise enjoys long walks in the woods, for there, with the wind whispering in the high boughs of trees, stories sometimes come.
The Jordan Tracks is his fifth novel, following Midnight, Chambers, Long Train Passing, and Chimborazo.
OTHER REVIEWS (negative) -
OTHER REVIEWS (positive) -

The book The Jordan Tracks was sent to me by Blog for Books as a gift from the publisher who donated the book for review.

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