Well, as you might already be aware, I've been doing a lot - and I do mean a lot - of reading this year. Of course, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction but I've also been exploring other genres, too.
Lately I've found that I've been drawn towards books by American authors and have learned a lot about the history of the USA.
Glynn Young is the owner of an extraordinary blog Faith, Fiction, Friends, a wonderful mix of features, reviews, fiction, nonfiction and poetry and it was through this blog that I came across his book, Dancing Priest.
This is not like any other book I've read before. It falls firmly into the category of Christian Fiction, something I would normally avoid. However, this is a thoughtful, intelligent book which tells a fantastic story.
We first meet Mike, the priest of the title, when he is a university student in Edinburgh. This is where he meets Sarah, an American student. Their love story is simple, and affecting, and most importantly, believable. Unfortunately, events conspire to keep them apart, and one of those things is the issue of faith. But it's not just that; it's circumstances, and it's the very recognisable problem that faces all students when they finish university: Where next? Who with? How will I deal with being an adult?
Michael - as most people know him (only Sarah is allowed to call him Mike) - has his heart set on ministry in Africa but the Church has other ideas and sends him to a community church in San Francisco. His journey there is not straightforward and there is an ongoing, and at times dramatic, story of the other great passion in his life: cycling.
The threads of Michael's life seem quite disparate but are brought together plausibly and so our cycling priest finds himself in a challenging neighbourhood in the USA.
The characterisation is strong, and Michael's personality not only shines through, but also makes him eminently suitable for the career - or rather, vocation - of priest. Just because Michael is suited to the job though, it doesn't mean he finds it easy. The plot twists and turns, and at times the story gets very dark indeed, but of course the point is that while Michael thought that a mission in Africa would provide the challenge, he finds instead that there are equal challenges in a so-called developed world. Finding one's feet in the first job as a priest is as tough as any new job. I suppose I'd always assumed that those who were called to the ministry found it easy and natural. Clearly not, and it was interesting to see how those involved dealt with the problems presented to them.
Sometimes the differences between the British and the US education system are a bit blurred (in the UK we don't have Grade School, for example) and I wasn't as comfortable with the sub-plot concerning Henry (no spoilers though). But overall I found this to be an intelligently written, thoughtful book.
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