An Invitation to Forever (book review)

An invitation to forever

(Book review)

A visit to any Christian book store can be quite eye-opening to brothers and sisters more familiar with ecclesial libraries and the bookstands at combined ecclesial events.  One key difference is the heavy emphasis on the genre of Christian fiction which seems to represent a high proportion of the stock in the average Christian book depository.  As these concerns and the publishers which supply them usually are commercial, profit-making businesses it is clear that there is strong demand for such works.

The Christadelphian community has produced a limited number of fictional works since its earliest times: Bro Roberts wrote fictional works in the nineteenth century, while in the twentieth century Sis Catherine Macdonald produced, Beside the Brook, and Bro Will Watkins penned Round the Year, both charming stories aimed at young people.  Sis Debbie Wood, a sister in the Unamended Fellowship, wrote a series of historical novels about ecclesial life in America from the days of Bro Thomas to the early years of the twentieth century.

One Christadelphian turned to historical fiction to write about the time of our Lord and the apostles.  In 1982 Sis Sue Knight wrote a short novel, The Torch Bearer, about the life of Paul.  Since 2006 a trilogy set in the time of our Lord and the apostles has been produced: A Time to Hear appeared first, followed by A Time to See in 2009 and A Time to Speak in 2012.

A few writers have used fiction as a means of preaching the gospel message.  Older Christadelphians will recall with pleasure the book Preaching the Truth by Bro William H Brown.  Later Bro Alan Eyre wrote the book At Last: True Christianity which was based on the real-life experiences of seekers for the Truth in the Caribbean.

In recent years another writer, a Canadian sister who uses the pen name Anna Tikvah, has authored a series of novels which tell the story of a range of people who come to a knowledge of the Gospel.  The first in the series, In Search of Life, was published in 2003.  This was followed in 2007 by Who Are You Looking For?  In 2012 the third book in the series was published.  An Invitation to Forever takes up the story where the second book left off, with all the activity in this volume set in Nova Scotia.

The central character in this book, Sandra Carrington, is a young woman who has endured considerable difficulty in her short life.  As the book opens Sandra is all alone outdoors on a cold, damp, misty evening staring out on a dark and foreboding bay despairing for the future.  In the first two pages she briefly considers whether life is all too challenging and contemplates ending her life.

Some have been critical of the way the book opens but the setting described in those first two pages and the despair Sandra is experiencing is central to the storyline.  As the story progresses, time moves on from winter into spring and then high summer.  The lengthening days, the growing warmth and the clearer skies are a metaphor for what unfolds in Sandra’s life.  She still experiences many difficulties, but slowly the light of the Gospel begins to shine into her life; she begins to feel the love of God and Christ; the fog which has clouded her thinking begins to lift; where there had been despair hope takes hold.

Sandra, once so alone in the world, develops a network of people around her who care about her and love her for who she is.  It is not surprising, then, that the final chapter returns to the word picture of the opening pages and contrasts the despair at that time with the glorious hope now embraced which, in an ironic reversal, will see water used to put to death her former life and bring new life.

Several characters from the earlier books, in particular Peter Bryant and his family, reappear in this latest work.  While Sandra’s story is the primary plot, the story of Peter’s family and their exploration of the Gospel is a strong sub-plot which, of course, entwines with the main plot.

The author has an engaging and accessible style.  Her friends in Nova Scotia have helped her to capture the scenery and atmosphere of that beautiful part of the world.  As well as including much dialogue in the story a feature is its inclusion of the musings of the key characters as they seek to make sense of what is happening.  Many readers will relate readily to this as they recognise mental processes they themselves have experienced.

One incident records the conversation of some of Peter’s Australian friends who have come to his wedding in Nova Scotia.  Perhaps obvious only to an Australian, the writer is not entirely successful in reproducing the Australian vernacular in that place.  In the same chapter the scene opens in the afternoon but suddenly bounces back to the morning.  These minor imperfections aside, readers will enjoy the fast pace and human interest in the novel.  Young readers in particular will be attracted to the story given that many of the key characters are in their twenties.

As Sandra discovers the Gospel message the book incorporates discussion of the promises and key first principle doctrines.  It also incorporates the substance of a presentation Sandra attends on Israel’s place in Bible prophecy.  These factors make the work especially suitable for Christadelphian young people and for interested friends.  An appendix includes considerable information on reasons for believing the Bible and on first principle subjects, in particular the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

An Invitation to Forever is available through Amazon and is recommended heartily.  Proceeds from sales of the book are donated to Agape in Action, a Christadelphian charity active in several third world countries.

 

Geoff Henstock


This review was first published  in the August 2013 issue of the Testimony

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