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Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry

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Review of June Bug
Excerpt of June Bug

The Advocate

Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry

Reviewed by Rel Mollet

"Almost Heaven is moving and confronting, challenging and encouraging in both direct and subtle ways that will leave you pondering your response to the story for days to come."

“I believe every life has hidden sons that hang by twin threads of music and memory. I believe in the songs that have never been played for another soul.”

Raised to appreciate music at the feet of his mandolin playing father, Billy Allman is an introverted soul whose childhood in West Virginia is marked by the heartbreak of a natural disaster and family tragedy. Never quite fitting in at school, Billy seeks refuge from the torment of his classmates in his music and his talent is soon discovered by a teacher who hears him play the mandolin. Invited to practice with the popular Gospel Bluegrass Boys, Billy life is forever changed in ways that will impact the remainder of his life.

“Time hinders the human condition, but it does not touch me....They neglect what they say is important and strive for sand that so easily slips through their fingers.”

Charged with observing Billy Allman from his early years, the angel known as Malachi ponders the condition of the human heart and the sometimes incomprehensible decisions made by his human charge. Removed for a crucial period in Billy’s life at the bidding of his creator, Malachi attempts to discover what happened during that time to shatter Billy’s creativity and shun the people who care about him most.

“I feel like God has given me an idea to help people in my Jerusalem. It’s nothing earth-shattering but it is kind of risky...”

Dedicating his life to God’s work, Billy puts his skills to work building a radio station for the people of Dogwood from equipment he has collected over the years. His heart believes that playing gospel-oriented music will point people to things above. Consumed by his radio station, working 20 hour days, Billy forgets to eat and barely sleeps. Is he driven by passion of pain?

Chris Fabry is a thinking person's writer, reaching deeply into the soul of his characters, examining who they are and what drives them to reach for the impossible or causes them to give up hope. Beautifully rendered, Almost Heaven is moving and confronting, challenging and encouraging in both direct and subtle ways that will leave you pondering your response to the story for days to come. The slow pacing of the novel may be a detraction for some, but it suits the revelatory nature of the book, as Billy's inner turmoil, the community's journey and the thoughts of an angel are gently exposed. The angel Malachi's thoughts, interspersed throughout the story, proved to be a bit of a distraction as I read but not to the detriment of my engagement in the story. Cameo appearances by characters from Chris' brilliant novel, June Bug were delightful and readers will enjoy learning a little more of their journey. While not having the same draw for me as June Bug, Almost Heaven is a compelling read and courageously tackles a subject too often shied away from in Christian Fiction. To say any more would give away a key development in the story. I look forward to more fiction from this talented author.

Rel MolletRel Mollet is a lawyer, wife and mother of three young daughters and lives in Melbourne, Australia. Reading has been her passion since childhood. She is a Book Club Co-ordinator and has her own website ~ relzreviewz ~ dedicated to reviews and author interviews with the sole aim to support authors writing from a Christian worldview. She believes Sir Francis Bacon's (1561 - 1626) creed, "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body".