That being said, Flabbergasted is an interesting read and a family friendly one at that. It is refreshing to read a book that doesn’t treat becoming a Christian like joining a weird cult or as a fig leaf for a warped psyche. Given the bias and antagonism that much of our culture has towards faith Blackstone provides a nice counter-balance. He paints a picture of real people living real lives yet doing it in within the context of church and faith. Jay’s path to faith may seem a little trite at times but it is honest and sincere. Not everyone needs to go through a “dark night of the soul” to come to faith in Christ.
Blackstone has gone on to write a number of novels including two sequels to Flabbergasted. His latest book, Par for the Course, caught my eye because of its subject matter: golf and politics. I thought it would be interesting to see what Blackstone could do with two of my hobbies.
Here is the set up for the book:
In PAR FOR THE COURSE, Chris Hackett owns and operates Hack’s Golf Learning Center, an eccentric golf range in Charleston, SC. Chris jumps at the chance to step up his game when an attractive new student and political correspondent, Molly, suggests that Chris capitalize on the current, highly polarized, presidential election. This pitting of right versus left means even more income, plus a sharp new girlfriend, and soon Chris, his sidekick, Cack, and their unique golf range are the talk of the town . . . until someone takes the political insults too seriously. Will Molly stick around as Chris learns the true meaning of “playing politics”? And will Chris realize how much he wants her to?
Like Flabbergasted, Par for the Course has dating as a focus. And obviously Blackstone is still writing for a Christian perspective. But the faith element is largely missing from the story. Instead it focuses on Chris and his interaction with women.
The hook for the story, having golfers try to hit a specialized golf cart while Cack hurls partisan insults at them is interesting. And Blackstone handles the set up pretty smoothly – although, a plot line about a feminist speaker never really goes anywhere – and adds in some tension when the plan backfires with disastrous results. Before things turn ugly, however, Blackstone delivers some funny moments.
Chris is an interesting character in many ways. A nice guy who couldn’t quite make it as a professional golfer who really wants a family but lacks confidence when it comes to the opposite sex. Blackstone uses him to explore the discussion men have about relationships as well as the challenges of dating and career.
But like Flabbergasted, the question comes down to one of taste (I feel like a broken record on this point). If you are looking for lighthearted, squeaky clean, and slightly cheesy fare then you will probably enjoy Par for the Course.
If you prefer your fiction a little deeper and with a more literary bent then you will probably be disappointed. Blackstone avoids dark or difficult topics and wraps everything up in a nice happy bow. His style makes for a quick read and his main characters are likable if corny. But, IMHO, they require little of the reader and don’t make much of an impact.
To me they are Christian fluff, pleasant and family friendly, but fluff nonetheless.