Almost Heaven is a novel by Chris Fabry, who is such a good storyteller (Dogwood, June Bug) that I would have read it even if there had been a picture of Barney the dinosaur on the cover.If I had known that I was about to read a book about a mandolin, an angel, a radio station and a lovelorn mail man, I don’t know if I would opened the cover (an angel?). But then,
And I wasn’t disappointed. Not one bit.
Almost Heaven is the third of Fabry’s “Dogwood” novels. The basic story lines are unrelated; what they have in common is the setting – a small town in the author’s home state of West Virginia. Dogwood is a love story about a young man who goes to prison for an automobile accident that killed three children and then tries to rekindle a romance with his girlfriend, who is now married (yes, this is Christian fiction; trust me). June Bug is a retelling of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, but it is also a story that stands on its own.
It would have been easy for this story to slip into melancholy or sentimentalism, but Fabry blends it with a strong undercurrent of optimism and faith. What results is a story of how God uses “the least of these” – people who are broken, often in multiple ways – to accomplish remarkable things.
Fabry, the author of children’s books with Jerry Jenkins (he of the "Left Behind" series fame) and co-author of Coming Back Stronger with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, has written a remarkable series with these three “Dogwood” novels. They each contain enough interesting twists and turns to keep the reader fully engaged (and sometimes tense).
But most of all there is a tenderness that suffuses these stories, a tenderness for family, people and place.