UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Light Places
Light Places Light Places

Andrew Rees
ISBN 9781597817455 (1597817457)
Xulon Press, 2006

Category: Fiction
Subcategory: Inspirational

This is a book about a book — or, to be more precise, about one man's encounter with a book, the New Testament. Gary Foster is a 21st Century family man — early forties, two young children, easy-going relationship with his wife, steady job — who has an indifferent relationship with the church: it's there when you need it or want it for kids' baptisms, for Christmas and the like.

But now he's laid his hands on a dog-eared, secondhand copy of the New Testament and curiosity has got the better of him: what is it about this book that led to its previous owner reading it almost to the point of destruction?

It turns out to be a modern language translation, the Good News Bible, and as Gary starts to read it he finds himself hooked — drawn into the story, its questions and implications. He realises that the New Testament writers weren't just telling a story or recording history but setting out to persuade their readers to follow Jesus.

Light Places is a light and gentle read that has something in common with the ancient writings that it explores as well as the contemporary novel it wants to be. Stylistically the book leaves a certain amount to be desired — it's never entirely clear, for example, whose voice we're hearing: that of the author or that of Gary, as the author switches back and forth without warning between telling his story and telling us about the story. Gary's discovery of the biblical world and its characters emerges against the background of his own domestic situation but the transitions give the feeling that this is a stage set rather than an integral part of the story: the book would have clearly benefited from the deft hand of an editor to help draw the storyline and the concept together more smoothly.

More careful proof reading and typesetting would also have helped: punctuation is peculiar, spaces, for example, inserted before question marks and exclamation marks, leading to repeated instances where these are carried over by themselves to a new line, effectively becoming the start of the next sentence rather than ending the sentence they belong to. Xulon Press are a digital print-on-demand publisher and bill themselves as a company that "make Christian book publishing fast, easy and affordable". It's unfortunate that their copyediting services, however, are an added fee-based extra rather than part of the standard package — this policy does little to inspire confidence that books from Xulon will be of a consistent literary standard.

These are relatively minor niggles, however, and whilst they do disrupt the reading experience, one thing is abundantly clear: that's the writer's enthusiasm for his subject matter. This is a message that deserves to be heard, a powerful story of a man, a Bible and a journey into faith. The concept behind Light Places and the story that emerges are excellent, an enjoyable read with a challenge to allow scripture to speak into and transform our lives. I look forward to seeing a more polished version in due course.

Phil Groom, July 2006

Phil Groom is this site's Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He's a freelance blogger, writer and web developer who spent ten years managing the bookshop at London School of Theology alongside eight years writing web reviews for Christian Marketplace magazine before he came to his senses and went independent. You can find him on facebook or follow him on twitter @notbovvered.

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