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Strange WP Happenings

Strangest thing happened late last night as I was going through my WP reader. I “LIKED” several blogs, then all I could get were the same blogs over and over and over for many, many rolls of my mouse. Guess I’ll try again later today.

In the meantime, a new review will be appearing later today!

Have a blessed week.

All Things Bright and Strange by James Markert

Bill’s Review

I had started to read a previous James Markert novel but was unable to finish it due to its extreme violence in the first few chapters. For that reason, I had not planned to read and review All Things Bright and Strange. However, unbeknownst to me, my husband, Bill, after reading the blurb on the back was intrigued and began reading it.

I invited him to write a review; the following is his review:

All Things Bright and Strange, by James Markert, is set in the once idyllic post-World War I hamlet of Bellhaven, South Carolina. Many of its residents have borne the battles of the Great War, returning to Bellhaven painfully maimed.  Ellsworth Newberry, the protagonist, has returned from the war with a leg missing.  Worse, he carries psychological scars he nurses with alcohol as he ponders suicide.  Little Bellhaven is scarred by violence too.  An oasis of racial harmony in the Jim Crow era South, Bellhaven has been visited by out-of-town Ku Klux Klansmen, who burned and murdered.  One murder victim was Ellsworth’s wife, a cruelty worse by far than World War I.

Thus, the stage is set for Ellsworth Newberry to rise, heroically, like a Phoenix from the ashes of the burnt building in which his wife perished.  His rise to heroism is a page-turning, hair-raising tale of opposing occult, demonic spiritual forces.  Seething up from the ground beneath an innocent chapel in the woods, the spirits sooth and beguile Bellhaven residents, then bedevil them.  The plot is unique and exciting.  The characters are lovable, or quirky, or both.  The climax is triumphant, tearful, and redemptive.

James Markert is not the first Christian author to treat demons and the occult.  For instance, Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker often write of demonic possession.  Small wonder.  Jesus Christ, on the pages of the Bible itself, speaks to demons.  They recognize His voice and recoil from His presence.  Often the mission of demons in Christian fiction is to separate people from Christ with sin.  Then Jesus Christ saves them from sin, overpowering the demons.

Markert takes a more secular tack in All Things.  The target demons attack in All Things is tolerance, with which Bellhaven is richly blessed.  Though a small town, Bellhaven has a dozen or more churches, and they are not all Southern Baptist.  They run an unlikely gamut from Protestant denominations to a Roman Catholic parish, a Jewish synagogue, and a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses; all exist side-by-side in ecumenical harmony.  As demon possession insinuates itself, ecumenism dissolves and hatreds ensue.  The counter-attack, however, does not involve the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  Perhaps Bellhaven’s defense is more exciting. The righteous excoriate the occult with esoteric incantations.  Corporeal beings vie with incorporeal, which would be comical but for the suspension of disbelief Markert masterfully achieves.  But the resolution sought is restoration of harmony in the village.  Sadly, in my view, harmony with God through faith in Christ is little mentioned.

Cultural conservatives have a simplistic (though accurate) critique of the liberal worldview.  It observes that the only thing liberals will not tolerate is intolerance.  In college, I had a professor who was an unreconstructed son of the medieval Roman Catholic Church.  Being more of a Reformationist, I would challenge him in class about the intolerance of the Middle Ages.  Not defensive in the least, he would answer, “Bill, during the Middle Ages people thought what you believed mattered.” I have often reflected on his response.  Certainly, it is an awful sin to hate those who do not share our beliefs.  Sin that the devil surely exploits as he did in this novel.  But belief in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is paramount in importance to any other consideration in this life.  I wish that faith in Christ had not been trumped by mere tolerance in this exciting, entertaining, and otherwise excellent novel.

I received this book from the Fiction Guild. However, I was under no obligation to post a review.

Publisher’s Summary

In the wake of World War I in the small, Southern town of Bellhaven, South Carolina, the town folk believe they’ve found a little slice of heaven in a mysterious chapel in the woods. But they soon realize that evil can come in the most beautiful of forms.

The people of Bellhaven have always looked to Ellsworth Newberry for guidance, but after losing his wife and his future as a professional pitcher, he is moments away from testing his mortality once and for all. Until he finally takes notice of the changes in his town . . . and the cardinals that have returned.

Upon the discovery of a small chapel deep in the Bellhaven woods, healing seems to fall upon the townspeople, bringing peace after several years of mourning. But as they visit the “healing floor” more frequently, the people begin to turn on one another, and the unusually tolerant town becomes anything but.

The cracks between the natural and supernatural begin to widen, and tensions rise. Before the town crumbles, Ellsworth must pull himself from the brink of suicide, overcome his demons, and face the truth of who he was born to be by leading the town into the woods to face the evil threatening Bellhaven.