Friday, September 18, 2009

The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry

The Familiar Stranger

The Familiar Stranger
by Christina Berry

Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
First Released: 2009

Author Website

Source: Review copy from publisher

Book Description from Publisher Website:
Craig Littleton's decision to end his marriage would shock his wife, Denise...if she knew what he was up to. When an accident lands Craig in the ICU, badly burned, with fuzzy memories of his own life and plans, Denise rushes to his side, ready to care for him.

They embark on a quest to help Craig remember who he is and, in the process, they discover dark secrets. An affair? An emptied bank account? A hidden identity? An illegitimate child?

But what will she do when she realizes he's not the man she thought he was? Is this trauma a blessing in disguise, a chance for a fresh start? Or will his secrets destroy the life they built together?

The Familiar Stranger is a contemporary Christian fiction novel. I suspect most people will thoroughly enjoy the novel.

The characters were sympathetic enough characters, but the only ones I really bonded with were the kids. This may partly be because I've never seriously dated or been married or had a loved one in a bad accident so I couldn't personally relate to the stress the adults were going through.

The world-building was okay, and the pacing was very good. In the first half of the novel, a noticeable amount of dialogue (including inner dialogue) felt unnatural to me--and I'm not talking about when awkward dialogue might be expected. In the second half, though, this problem disappeared and the writing was excellent.

The reason I couldn't fully enjoy this novel is that there were two serious logic problems, one behind the events that led to the accident and one behind the subsequent confusion. Without these events, the story falls apart and would never happen. The author didn't convince me that a man as savvy at deception as Craig would bother with the given course of action when a very obvious (though perhaps not to the author since no one in the book pointed it out) and simple action would have achieved the same objective. And, major spoiler, The police say they will use fingerprints to ID the dead man. The author never explains why these fingerprints didn't correctly ID the dead man.)

[Added Sept. 24, 2009: After carefully re-reading the "major spoiler" section in question, I realized I was supposed to make an assumption which I hadn't. Ignore the above "logic" paragraph and go with: I didn't fully enjoy this novel, though, because there were two or three "mighty convenient" things that happened at critical points in the story to make it end up where it did. I would have liked for these points to have been fleshed out to make them more realistic and probable.]

The characters were Christians living out their faith. The novel wasn't preachy, but there was a large amount of God-talk and praying. Non-Christians probably wouldn't enjoy this book. There was no sex and no bad language. If you overlook the logic problems, it's a good, enjoyable book. Overall, I'd rate it as good, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
His [point of view]

I wrapped a towel around my waist as Denise stalked into the bathroom. Avoiding her eyes, I wiped a clear spot on the steamy mirror and studied my reflection. A caged man, a Houdini, stared back at me. Bound inside a straitjacket, locked in chains, submerged in a tank, I could taste the metallic tang of the key hidden in my mouth. If I held my breath longer and waited for the right time to rip my shoulder from its socket, I would escape my stifling life.

"Did you wipe down the shower, Craig?"

What harm would happen if once, just once, I left droplets on the glass doors? I bit back my retort. "Of course, honey."

"Good." She peered into the brushed-silver mirror hanging above the white marble countertop--a bathroom that had cost me a month's wages--and added another layer to her lipstick. "Need to hurry if we're going to be on time."

"I'm not going." I said it as if I didn't care one way or the other what she thought of my bombshell.

"What are you talking about?" Her shoulders tightened into unnatural stillness.

I rubbed the scruff of my neck and scrutinized my image. A few wrinkles around the eyes. Two slight recessions on either side of the hairline. Not bad for a guy of forty-six.

"Craig, the deacons' meeting is right after the service and you've missed the last two. Are you trying to sabotage your position?" Her reflected hazel eyes drilled into me.

For a second I thought of giving it all up, going to church with her and the kids, acting as though that was all I has planned for the day. Then the image faded and a pair of deep brown eyes replaced hers. No, I wouldn't be setting foot in a house of worship this Sunday, or ever again.


Christina Berry said...

Debbie, I appreciate you taking the time to review the book here and post the reviews on amazon and cbd. Thank you, especially, for "hiding" your spoiler!

I'll have to reread my copy and see if we didn't cover that ... ;) And I'm glad you enjoyed the kids!

Genre Reviewer said...

Christina Berry,

Thank you for being so gracious about the review. I'm looking forward to reading your future books because I liked the way you handled the struggles that the characters went through. And I probably should have pointed that out in my review.

If you did answer the ... problem in the novel and I somehow missed it, please e-mail me the page number. I would want to correct my review and apologize.

Genre Reviewer said...

I hereby state that Christina Berry is an awesome, gracious person. She sent me a nice e-mail which pointed how she had indirectly dealt with the "major spoiler" logic problem I pointed out in my review. I'll state again that I agree what she had in the novel would probably satisfy most people. :)

Christina Berry said...

I hereby state that Debbie is an awesome, gracious person. The ironclad rule is to never discuss a review with a reviewer--or so I've heard. I'm new to this, but that's what I've heard.

Anyway, I think it was wonderful of you to dialogue with me about the logic. Very cool!