Sunday, February 18, 2007

Book Review - Abiding Darkness

It is rare for me to come across a book that makes me fall in love with it. The first book in The Black or White Chronicles, Abiding Darkness, is that rare find.

The CFBA is featuring the second book in the series, Wedgewood Grey, later this week, but I wanted to feature the very excellent first book in the series.

John Aubrey Anderson is a retired airline pilot who grew up in the Mississippi Delta. An old writing adage is "write what you know". Now if we all listened to that, we wouldn't have any historical, sci-fi, or fantasy fiction. But in Anderson's case, it is a wonderful thing that he does. He recreates the Deep South of the 40's and 50's in such a way that I feel like I grew up there (instead of the intermountain West).

The story revolves around Amanda Allen "'Missy" Parker, a spitfire 7 year old who is special and knows it! Missy lives by Cat Lake, and along with her older brother Bobby and their black friend Junior Washington, they embark on typical adventures of childhood. Typical, until dark forces conspire to destroy the local community and disrupt eternal plans by striking Missy Parker.

This sets off a tale of suspense that will pull you into its world and touch you with tales of heroism and tragedy. Anderson is masterful in drawing out scenes of tension, keeping the stakes high while slowly developing the material for all it is worth. The key incident of the book spans chapters, but at no time does he seem to be prolonging it artificially. It gives the effect of savoring the action, not being cheated by having it come to a head too quickly.

Part of the secret of his success comes from the delightful people and characterization he creates. His characters are rich and vibrant. The dialogue of the South comes across realistically without being forced. If I can create just one literary character that approaches the vitality of Missy Parker or Mose Washington, I will be well-pleased.

Anderson succeeds in one other area that takes Abiding Darkness from enjoyable to transcendent. He speaks on matters of truth and sacrifice that are deeply moving. I am not an emotional guy, but he had me in tears on the bus ride home from work one day. The next day, I was laughing out loud (my fellow travelers might think I'm a head case, LOL!). I don't read read fiction to be uplifted in my spiritual life, but this tale has affected me in more than just an aesthetic way. The amazing thing is, all of this comes naturally in the story. The characters are real, so it is real to see them share their faith. To me, it almost always seems appropriate in how these truths are brought out.

No work is perfect. The main weakness I discerned in his writing was a habit to move around in point-of-view (POV) characters within a scene - sometimes I had to read back a paragraph to find who was thinking/doing something. One of his scenes of faith discussion loses the veneer of being there in the story and almost becomes preachy.

Overall, I am highly impressed with Abiding Darkness. As another reviewer wrote, it is the type of book you want to immerse yourself in, but you read slower as you approach the end so you don't have to leave then denizens of Cat Lake. If you enjoy qualilty storytelling, read this book. If you aspire to write, get this book and study it. It will be time very well spent.

Check back later this week for my review of Wedgewood Grey and a further discussion of the writing of John Aubrey Anderson.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like an awesome book. I'll have to see if I can find it up here. Thanks for telling us about it.