David Martin, a young man in finance working his way up, is driving from Dallas to St. Louis for a homecoming weekend at his alma mater. From there, he’ll spend a few days with his parents in his hometown of Farmington, about an hour south of St. Louis. But as he enters Missouri on the interstate, he has to take a secondary road, and along that road he meets, or almost meets, a cow. He does swerve off the road and discovers he has four flat tires.
A local man driving by gives David a lift into the small town of Spring River. He gets his car towed but getting four replacement tires for his Mercedes is going to be difficult if not impossible over the weekend. David’s going to miss his homecoming. What he finds in Spring River is a town whose surrounding farms are going to be sold by an unscrupulous banker, a priest in the local Catholic church, and a young woman named Sarah Nichols.
David quickly sizes up what is happening with the banker, does a bit of research, and then has to let the townspeople believe he’s trying to get control of the farms himself. Everything is going to go extremely well or it’s going to go extremely badly.
Published in 2015, Return to Paradise by Tim Speer isn’t a typical kind of Christian novel. David is Catholic, one who’s serious about his faith. He’ll have discussions with both the priest and Sarah Nichols about his faith and what he believes; Sarah is herself a Baptist. Second, the imagery is subtle, but this is a story about redemption – the farmers get caught in a financial vise partly of their own making and partly because of the banker; there’s no way out except by the young man who comes to town. Third, there’s not a lot of deep romance that can happen in a long weekend, but there’s enough to suggest that one’s going to happen.
Speer is also the author of Seventy Times Seven, a novel published in 2016. He lives in Midland, Texas.
Return to Paradiseis a charming story, simple, straightforward, and enjoyable. It’s the story of a young man who decides that if he’s serious about his faith, he has to live it.
Top photograph by Bunny & Norm Lenburgvia Flickr.