Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chris Fabry's "June Bug"

I think I’ve decided to stop reading the blurbs publishers put on covers of books.

I noted this in the review I posted this morning over at Amazon, but when I first saw this one on the cover of Chris Fabry’s June Bug, my mind went on autopilot: “Fabry’s retelling of [Les Miserables] is a stunning success.” I say my mind went on autopilot because, as I began reading it, I immediately began to look to the connections to the Victor Hugo novel.

It’s understandable. When you seen the Broadway production of Les Miserables two or three times; when you’ve saved the Susan Boyle rendition of “I Dream a Dream” to your favorites on YouTube; when you’ve listened to the soundtrack enough to sing along even with the more obscure songs, well, you know you have a case.

And that became a problem with reading June Bug. Because it’s not a simple retelling of Les Miserables. There are similarities, to be sure, but June Bug is a separate work in its own right, and it’s a terrific story. I bought the book because I had read Fabry’s Dogwood over Easter weekend this year and loved it, particularly with how he posed an immediate problem for a novel published by a Christian publisher: A man’s in love with a woman who’s married with three children.

I stopped reading June Bug and started over, determined to read it for its own merits and ignore trying to figure out how Fantine could be Dana or that the sheriff wasn’t anything like Javert. And where, by the way, was the street revolution?

I’m glad I did. June Bug is a great story. Fabry gets inside the heads of his characters and lets them speak in an authentic, believable way. That’s no small feat when you consider the characters range from a grieving grandmother and a local sheriff to a former Navy SEAL and a 9-year-old girl. And the story has a hook similar to Dogwood – the little girl was kidnapped as a toddler, and the man she calls “Daddy” seems anything but a kidnapper. As you see where the story is headed, you begin to fear what’s going to happen to the father. And you wonder, how is this going to be resolved?

It’s a great story. Don’t let allusions to Les Miserables confuse your mind about it.

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