Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Review - And If I Die

As promised, I finished John Aubrey Anderson's latest book, And If I Die. I missed the last blog tour, but since I've blogged extensively about his first two books, Abiding Darkness (August, 2006), and Wedgewood Grey (February, 2007), I thought a continuation was in order. Plus, it's my blog, so I can do what I want.

Anderson continues the story of the battle between light and darkness that weaves in and out of generations in the South. The first book focused on the young white girl Missy Parker, and how she survived several encounters with demonic forces. The second book shows her black "almost daddy" Mose Washington provide protection for a young boy named Bill who loses his mother tragically and how Mose becomes his "Pap" to protect him from the same demonic forces.

The story shifts in a large part to Pilot Hill Texas, where Mose and Bill are in hiding while Bill attends college and works on his new passion of bull riding. They are only 15 miles from Missy Parker Patterson and her philosophy professor husband. This eclectic family knows that Bill has a special calling, but his resistance to all things spiritual frustrate their efforts to keep him safe from a powerful evil looking for revenge.

Missy has always been a stubborn girl, and growing into a beautiful woman has not really tempered her at all. When she hears a voice calling her to "Be ready," her stubborn refusal threatens a generation of work.

(It gets harder to write a good synopsis for a series without giving away a lot for prior books!)

And If I Die continues this touching and well-written story. Anderson has a real talent for bringing out the color of Mississippi and Texas, drawing the reader into a world that resonates with authenticity. I think my single most favorite line out of a book this year is the following exchange as a California kid tries Missy's iced tea:
When everyone had a glass, Griffin took a sip and exclaimed, "It's sweet!"
"Oops, sorry," Missy laughed. "It's a Miss'ippi thing, an' I forgot to warn you. Would you rather have something else?"
He took another sip, licked his lips, and pronounced, "Never again. I can't believe I wasted my youth on unsweetened tea."

As the series progresses, Anderson works to keep the inevitable patterns from becoming too predictable. We learn more background information of one of the major characters, still in a entertaining way that serve the story. He also continues to bring spiritual truth into the story in pretty natural ways.

Finally, the characters are attractive and draw you in to investing in what happens to them. Missy was missing to a degree in Wedgewood Grey, but she carries more of the load in the new book. She still is the most engaging character to me, although as an adult she has less of the learning curve she initially did. Anderson still has a hard time sticking to one viewpoint in a section, which can occasionally be confusing concerning who is thinking or speaking, but for the most part it is easy enough to discern.

Being third in the series, And If I Die rests on too much background to be read as a stand alone. My recommendation is to buy all three and enjoy a great read in a fascinating world. Even though his website only lists three books, my understanding is that it is a 6 book arc. I'm eagerly waiting for the next installment. I'm pretty confident he can maintain the tension and interest for that many books, but time will tell.

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