Cross Roads: The Review

Cross Roads; Paul Young, 2012; FaithWords, New York, NY

As some of my readers may or may not know,  Young is the author of the amazing, controversial book The Shack. A novel that was rejected by the Christian publishing ‘world’ as too worldly, and by the Non-Christian publishing world as too ‘spiritual’.

Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard spot. Danged if you do, danged if you don’t.

Now for those handful of people who haven’t read The Shack, or don’t know what all the hoopla over publishing it is about, I’ll give you just a little background.

When Wm. Paul Young originally tried to pitch the book he was turned down because in camp “Christian” they thought his theology too controversial, and in camp ‘Other’ they thought there was too much ‘Jesus’ to be marketable. The fact that Paul tells the story of a man who has to come to grips with abandonment, injustice and forgiveness, seems to have escaped the wisdom of both camps entirely. Christian’s couldn’t get over the ethnicity of the characters (God the Father = Black woman, Holy Spirit = Asian woman, Jesus = plain White man), Others couldn’t get over that it had that much ‘God’ in it.

Do either of these camps ever listen to themselves?

Anyhow. Despite the rejection of publisher’s, several of Paul’s friends encouraged him to self-publish. So somebody put up the money for a run of Print-on-Demand, which was then marketed out of somebody’s garage. I’m not sure if it was Costco or Barnes & Noble who made the first move to buy the novel, but whichever outfit it was, had  more sense then the publishers that turned Paul down.

The reason for that little trip down memory lane is that this time around, FaithWords (a sub of Hachette Book Group- who by the by, ended up publishing The Shack in 2008-2010) didn’t even quibble about Paul’s tendency to tweak our theological undies…they just figured the guy/or God, knew what he/They were doing, and went for it.

So why should either of us care whether theological undies get twisted or not. Well I don’t mind the wedges, but there are some readers who do and before you waste any more time on my review, let me just say that if you are one of those who feel compelled to defend your theology with holy water, stakes and religious icons, then don’t read Cross Roads. Or maybe do. You never know. My own journey to religious freedom has been littered with hundreds of dead monuments….and often it was things like reading The Shack that helped kill them.

Now to Cross Roads. As for plot and story, I used up a lot of Kleenex. More than I would watching Bambi. Not only does Young hook you with the main characters arch of conflict, but he does it with a cast of loveable people who make all the porcupine quills of the man, Anthony Spencer, bearable. Seen from a bird’s-eye view, the story is warm, entertaining and brings the reader into several key issues about pain and abandonment, life and death that I think everyone needs to come to terms with.

Young address one issue that I’m going to suggest is far more important that his novel had time to deal with, and that is ‘Alzheimer’. Author Alexandria Szeman wrote a novel called Only With The Heart, that tells the story of a family dealing with this heart wrenching disease, that I think every person on the face of the earth needs to read. I take my hat off to Paul for touching on it. I hope someday he’ll think about writing a novel on it.

If I were to review Young on the technical aspects of the novel I would probably not be as generous. The one area I would give him a D- is the opening of the book. There is a free on-line program called Writing Sample, that authors can use to tell what grade level their writing to. In my not so humble opinion,  Young started out at graduate school level reading for the first chapter, then dropped back down to junior high school for the remainder. For me it created two different author voices, which I don’t personally care for.

As for the rest, like I’ve said umpteen million times before, I’ve read good plots with bad characters, and good characters with bad plots. What Cross Roads lacks in technique Young makes up for in passion, conviction and characters that, at the end of the day, make you hope you’ll be sent an invitation to join his cadre of friends. Which, in the characters own words, is what life and death are really all about.

On my readers review of 1-5 stars, I’m giving Cross Roads 4 stars for passion and 3 stars for  technical and making me cry so much.