Wednesday, December 29, 2010
John Herrick's "From the Dead"
And Main Street Books (photo at left). How we always end up at a bookstore is beyond me.
We know the owner; she and her husband live in our suburb of Kirkwood and he and I once took a class together at Washington University. (He’s a lawyer but he’s still a nice guy.) We had a good visit and then I wandered around the book store, one of those bookshops that have almost disappeared off the face of the planet. It’s a general bookshop with a large children’s section (the owner is a published children’s author).
Yes, I found a few things. And I found what looked and didn’t look like Christian fiction. Intrigued, I bought it.
From the Dead by John Herrick is the story of Jesse Barlow, a 29-year-old would-be actor who left his hometown in northern Ohio to seek fame as an actor in Hollywood. In 11 years, he’s managed a few bit parts, but his job at a photography shop tells you he has yet to meet the success he craves. He lives with his girlfriend, Jada Ferrari (one cool character name), and they maintain a lifestyle of alcohol, pot and chasing after fame. Jada has become the more successful of the pair, and she pays most of the bills. Jesse is increasingly doubting what he’s doing and himself, and is caught in a downward spiral as his desperation grows. One night, he attempts suicide, and almost succeeds.
From the Dead is a well written and engaging story. It moves, and moves quickly. I could tell I was caught when I'd be forced to put it down to do something like eat dinner.
But to return to the question I had when I first picked it up, is it or isn’t it Christian fiction, the answer would have to be both no and yes.
First the no: As good as this story is, it would not – could not – be published by a Christian book house. It has strong language, including four-letter words, especially in the first, Hollywood part of the novel. And there are some suggestive if not graphic sexual scenes.
Then the yes: I don’t think I’ve read anything in popular novel form as good as this in describing a journey of faith. Jesse is the prodigal son; this novel is a kind of retelling of the parable of Jesus. This is a story mostly about what happens when the prodigal son returns, and it is not all easy sailing.
I finally decided to stop worrying about whether it was “Christian” fiction or not and accept that From the Dead is simply a good story. Its greatest appeal may be to prodigal sons (and daughters) like Jesse, and we have all been there at one time or another, in one way or another. And the simple message of this simply good story is this: there’s always hope.
More information: John Herrick's web site.