A review of 3 new fiction titles

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A review of 3 new fiction titles
Reviews, by Anne Rogers, from the Together magazine

Up From Dust by Heather Kaufman

Up From Dust takes the story of Martha and, while carefully remaining truthful to Bible accounts, tells a story of what might have been in terms of her life.

The joy of Martha’s baby sister Mary’s arrival is destroyed by the loss of her mother, resulting in Martha’s sudden increase in responsibilities as she helps to care for her siblings. Martha struggles to feel noticed or loved – until she meets her father’s new shepherd, Uri. Life is complicated enough without the arrival of the disturbing new Rabbi, Jesus of Nazarath.

Heather Kaufman is a fantastic find in the area of biblical fiction. This book is meticulously, thoughtfully and thoroughly researched, and Kaufman beautifully weaves biblical elements into her storytelling.

What I love about good biblical fiction is that it gives more than a simple new retelling of the Bible stories we know. It brings the reader into them, to walk alongside the people, see what is happening and feel their experiences. At the end of the book there are some insightful author notes, which explain various decisions she made about the telling of her story, with related Bible references.

Up From Dust is the best Bible-times book I’ve read for a very long time. I was totally engrossed in this beautiful and compelling novel, and finished it with a sense of renewed wonder of Bible events.


The Perfect Companion by Jo Sheringham

Maggie is a very ordinary person. Isolated by her responsibilities as her mother’s primary carer, her weekly escape is to a service at the nearby cathedral. Then one morning something changes as the Canon speaks the words of the final benediction. It seems there’s suddenly a ‘thin space’ between heaven and earth for a moment. It’s brief, but it will have a powerful effect on Maggie, the Canon and several of those around them.

The book is written with depth and resonance. Through the lives of the characters, we see how ordinary people called by God to be intentional about living out their faith can make a difference in their own lives and those of others.

I found myself caring very much about what happened to Maggie, and how her experience in the cathedral changed her despite very challenging circumstances.

Jo’s other characters are rich and encourage the reader to care, too. I enjoyed reading the Canon’s path, and wonder what will happen to the Dean!

The Perfect Companion is a gentle book of the ebbs and flows and ‘ordinary-ness’ of life, which is totally relatable, and also a book which lightly touches the reader with a call to live out their own faith in a more intentional and considered way.


Saving Grayson by Chris Fabry

Grayson Hayes is raging against his worsening Alzheimer’s Disease, and his wife Charlotte is struggling to cope. In Gray’s increasingly fractured memory, one thing stands out and keeps appearing in his dreams: a young woman falling from a bridge into a river below. Why did she fall? Was Gray involved? He becomes obsessed with returning to his childhood home to try to put the broken pieces of his memory back together. But going home will bring many more questions before we, the readers, find out the truth.

Grayson is a man who is often hard to like, particularly early on when he expresses some nasty opinions to his travel companion, Josh. It’s a graphic and painful portrayal of life for someone with dementia, and for those who love them.

This book feels authentic and powerful. It’s often beautiful, with haunting sadness in several places. Cleverly written, we see things happening and don’t understand why for some time, which perfectly reflects the situation Gray is in.

Alongside moments of despair, regret, anger and desperation are elements of forgiveness, grace, restoration, and the love of God which is not dependent on the trappings of a person’s life. In Grayson’s legal pad is written, ‘You are not important because of the stories you tell or the mistakes you have made or the successes of your life. You are important because you are loved.’ Amen.

Good novels dealing with this area of mental illness are few and far between. This one is highly recommended.

Together Magazine

Together is the Christian resources magazine for the UK, with stories of what God is doing across the church today, book reviews and publishing industry news. Subscribe now at www.togethermagazine.org.

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Saving Grayson (Paperback)
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Saving Grayson (Hard Cover)
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The Perfect Companion (Paperback)
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Up From Dust (Paperback)
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