I have previously blogged about some spiritually and intellectually engaging books. To soften my image, I blogged about a DVD series. Now, to further soften my image, I’m reviewing a work of fiction, The almost true story of Ryan Fisher by Rob Stennett.
Here’s a quick summary from Amazon.com:
Meet Ryan Fisher. He’s young, energetic, and needs an edge in the real estate market. He’s found the perfect niche: Christians. His business doubles when he advertises in the Christian business directory, and he begins to think he could really cash in by planting a church. But when the church takes off, Ryan is in over his head.
First, some background on how I ended up reading this book (you can skip this paragraph if you wish). A couple of years ago, I went on a fiction hiatus. My source of books, the church library, has a fiction section that is comprised of over 50% of Christian chick lit (Amish novels and the like). When I learned how unhelpful reading such literature was (and after reading more than a few boring books), I shifted my focus to the Christian living section of books. A few months ago, I read a review of TATSORF, and it immediately appealed to my dark sense of humour (it is classified under ‘Christian satire’). And it is now book number 4632 in the Rome Baptist Church media library.
Thus, my expectations for the book were rather high. I wasn’t disappointed, though I think I may have enjoyed it more had I been more familiar with the American megachurch culture. For one, I liked Rob Stennett’s unusual writing style. The book starts off as a third-person summary, and then switches to a third-person narrative, complete with footnotes (!). The characters aren’t typical of a Christian novel* either, and the story is believable: maybe it’s even happening right now. I must add that even though Stennett pokes fun at the American Christian subculture ( the mannerisms, the music, the language), he never comes across as harsh and/or critical.
What didn’t I like? The length: 323 pages. It probably could have been a little shorter. I also didn’t like the pop-culture references, even though I got most of them (Stennett made more than one reference to Full House, for example). IMHO, I find that not only are pop-culture references very hard to decipher for readers from other cultures and from another time period, but they also have the added disadvantage of (out)dating a book, especially when used in copious amounts as was done in TATSORF.
My recommendation? If you want to have a little laugh at yourself, go ahead and enjoy TATSORF.
*What is a Christian novel anyway? Is TATSORF one? The author is a professing Christian, and the publishers deal exclusively with Christian literature. But the book makes light of Christians (some of whom may be offended by the depictions made), and its main characters aren’t even Christians (and act accordingly). A non-Christian could read and enjoy it, though they may miss all the insider jokes. Plus, you probably couldn’t use it as a witnessing tool. So, my evaluation is inconclusive…