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"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Providence by Chris Coppernoll

Providence: Once Upon a Second Chance by Chris Coppernoll


Jack Clayton is a devout Christian, who has spent most of his adult life working to help the poor. He collected the stories of the people who blessed his life, published those stories, and finds himself on a best-seller list with a bossy publishing agent who demands a personal memoir... A memoir Jack doesn't actually want to write because of a misspent youth in which he hurt a lot of people.

I had trouble with the book. The writing was straightforward and easy to follow, but in the beginning Jack felt a bit bland. His character develops a bit more, after he's agreed to write his memoir and his character starts to become more flushed out. But then I feel like the story was wrongly titled, Once Upon a Second Chance...I felt like it could also have been named, Self Flagellation for People Who Blame Themselves for Everything.

Jack starts his memoir as he's graduating high school, leaving for Providence College with his best friend Mitchell. He thinks about what a jerk he was to his mother; after his parents divorce and the loss of his sister Ruthie, he and his mom didn't have much of a relationship. Someone should have told him, its okay to hate your parents, most teenagers do...Also relationships are always double sided. His mother could have reached out before he was on his way out the door; they're both responsible for  that animosity.

Shortly after arriving at school, he and Mitchell meet Erin and Jenny. Mitchell and Erin are very much in love. Jack becomes besotted with Jenny; she's beautiful and she knows what she wants. The problem is, Jenny is also clingy and naive. She wants Jack to be the man she's always wanted... Not the eighteen year old from a broken home that he actually is. He blames himself for the eventual failure of the relationship; I blame Jenny. She's almost as selfish as he is--Because she knows what she wants, it never occurs to her that he might want different things.

Then the horrible ordeal with Mitchell. It sounds like survivor's guilt more than actual fault; sure getting into a car with a drug dealer is never a great idea, but they were supposed to be going to a party. Neither Jack nor Mitchell knew where they were actually going. If we have to blame someone, why not Brian? Why not the guy with the gun?

And then the God stuff. Okay, it's Christian Lit, I understand there is going to be a lot of God talk. My problem is with some of the views promoted. First with Jenny wanting Jack to be a certain way and then with Mitchell post-conversion carrying on in her absence: Basically, If you don't believe in the Lord and God's Divine Plan you're a loser and should convert immediately to save face. Then take Jack-Now who has found God and compare him to Jack-Then and I think it is unbelievable how many mishaps Jack takes credit for versus how many blessings he attributes to God. Either God's got the Plans or he doesn't, right? So either God intended for all the bad to happen and it isn't all on your shoulders... or if the bad is your fault than the good things must have something to do with you too.

The Christian viewpoints that were expressed really well were: help the needy and the power of forgiveness. And it's a shame they were only touched on, instead of embraced, because I'd rather have read that story. The story of how he helped people and how he learned to forgive himself for bad choices. Taking time off from helping people to write a memoir and rediscover himself, didn't do much for me.

I'm rating this as a 3, but I think this would probably be a 4 or 5 for the right person.

Rating: 3/5

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