One of the fun things about owning a Kindle (or any e-reader for that matter) is the free books. Publishers offer books for free in order to introduce you to an author or series in the expectation that you will then purchase the latest book(s). Being a cheapskate fugal shopper I frequently download free books for my Kindle and Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry was one of the latest.
Here is the publisher’s description:
Billy Allman is a hillbilly genius. People in Dogwood, West Virginia, say he was born with a second helping of brains and a gift for playing the mandolin but was cut short on social skills. Though he’d gladly give you the shirt off his back, they were right. Billy longs to use his life as an ode to God, a lyrical, beautiful bluegrass song played with a finely tuned heart. So with spare parts from a lifetime of collecting, he builds a radio station in his own home. People in town laugh. But Billy carries a brutal secret that keeps him from significance and purpose. Things always seem to go wrong for him.
However small his life seems, from a different perspective Billy’s song reaches far beyond the hills and hollers he calls home. Malachi is an angel sent to observe Billy. Though it is not his dream assignment, Malachi follows the man and begins to see the bigger picture of how each painful step Billy takes is a note added to a beautiful symphony that will forever change the lives of those who hear it.
A great deal of the Christian fiction I come across is just plain bad (although to be fair maybe I haven’t sampled widely enough) and let’s be honest some of the books that are free on Amazon are free for a reason. So the first thing to say here is that Almost Heaven is not one of those books that you simply don’t want to finish. In fact, I was so interested in the opening chapter that I just kept on reading it (something I rarely do when I download a free Kindle book).
There are parts, however, that drag and the plot just seems stuck at times. The opening sequence really drew me in, and the later part of the book has some exciting and well done action scenes, but the middle part struggles as Billy Allman wrestles with the tragedy in his life and the angel Malachi seeks to find answers.
In fact, I am not sure the plot device of Malachi really adds much to the story at all. Sure, it provides some spiritual and outside descriptive narrative but it mostly slows the plot down. And to be quite honest, I didn’t find the apologetics aspect of Malachi all that convincing.
But again, Fabry does a nice job of weaving in Christian ideas and characters into a novel in such a way that they seem natural and an integral part of the story rather than forced or awkward. This is to be applauded.
Overall Almost Heaven is a touching and well drawn portrait of faithfulness through suffering and the value of commitment despite the odds.