Friday, July 3, 2009

Book Review: Scared: a Novel from the Edge of the World

I have an “Author” friend. He just released his 4th book, his first novel. Tom Davis is his name. He’s a former Youth Minister and was one of the men that helped “steer” the 2007 World Race that I was a part of. I’ve known about his most recent project, SCARED: a Novel on the Edge of the World, since those “Race” days.

I excitedly pre-ordered my copy from Amazon before I left the States for Ukraine. In May, I noticed an opportunity to download the novel in PDF from the publisher so I’ve had the book in digital form for a couple months. I had been putting off reading it just because I don’t like reading 300+ pages on a computer screen. There’s nothing like curling up with a paperback, right? But I stayed in a comfortable hotel last night and with no English Language programs on TV I read SCARED. I’m glad I did. Today I’m ordering 5 copies for my church!

It’s about the plight of orphans and the plague of AIDS in Africa- in the tiny, beautiful country of Swaziland, in particular. Our Western mindset would have us believe AIDS is a homosexual disease. Thinking like that releases most of us from worrying about it because we don’t fall into a behavior category that puts us at risk. AIDS in Africa is no more a homosexual disease than the Potato Famine was a French Fry problem!

It’s complicated. Regardless of where it came from or how it started- there are forces at work in much of Africa that exacerbate the problem to Biblical proportions. Ignorance and lack of Education, lack of adequate healthcare and in more instances- just non-existent healthcare, myriad customs and traditions among myriad people groups that hinder communication, corrupt governments and all-talk-no-walk relief organizations, the kind of extreme poverty that we see on late night infomercials but have become anesthetized to, and then there are spiritual forces that can’t be easily explained to a Western thinker.

This is a biased book review. I admit it. I know Tom and I know his heart. His 2nd and 3rd non-fiction books (Confessions of a Good Christian Guy, Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds) were sort of run-of-the-mill to me. His first book however, Fields of the Fatherless, established him as a voice for Orphans. SCARED is Tom’s first novel and I think establishes him as a real-deal writer who makes a difference in the world. With the exception of the main character, photojournalist Stuart Daniels, SCARED reads like the front-page of today’s paper, or maybe more accurately, like the blogs of missionaries I know who are at this moment working in Swaziland.

I was gripped by it the same way I am when I read one of John Grisham’s novels set in Memphis, New Orleans, or all across Mississippi. Part of Grisham’s appeal to me is that I know these places, these names. The same was true for me reading SCARED. It’s set largely in Swaziland and I know these places. I know these names. I know these faces. So does Tom. Intimately. God is using his organization, Children’s Hopechest, to care for and keep alive thousands of orphans in that tiny country, raising them to be God’s answer to the crises in Africa.

I read the novel last night in one sitting. It is fast-paced and heart-breaking. It doesn’t preach; it simply tells a gut wrenching story convincingly. There’s courage and cowardice, humanity at its worst and at its best. There’s redemption and hope and inexplicable, unconsolable loss. I cried. I felt gritty-dirty. I felt anger. I felt like I could be fulfilled if I were in Swazi right now holding and feeding an orphaned child.

Read this book. When you turn the last page-stop and pray. Then immediately do something with your wealth- find a way to give- there are suggestions in the back of the book. Go to my friend Seth Barnes’ blogsite and click on the “Swaziland” tab. If you’re not affected by these stories then please see a doctor. You have a heart problem.

This won’t be a spoiler…another novel is in the works featuring the main character on assignment in Russian exposing the international child-sex trade. Children’s Hopechest has been there many years. Tom know’s whereof he writes about.

4 comments:

Vickie (Clinton's sister) said...

Clinton, we're ordering a copy as soon as I get off here. I can hardly wait to read it, and since Momma and I both got teary-eyed from your book review, I know it's going to be a heartbreaker... the AIM blogs always are... love you... praying for you, too...

Karen said...

Will definately read it. Thanks for the review.

Tina said...

If you sat and read the whole book on your computer in one sitting, it must be amazing! Miss you and praying for you often.

Vickie (Clinton's sister) said...

We got our books today... and although I'm just a few pages into it, I'm already wanting everybody I know to read it... thanks for the recommendation, Clinton...

loving you and praying for you always...