I just read 'ALMOST HEAVEN'. Fantastic! I don't read much fiction, but this sounded similiar to a message I have been dabbling at writing for the past two years. In the middle of your story, I didn't think I wanted to finish 'going there', but I am glad I did. It is the way life really is: good people AND bad people out here in the world and they're with us whether we like it or not. Our Faith gets us through. Well done, Chris. I hope I can write half as well a book as you have, with your message to the world that each life is worth the breath they take.
First sentence: Becky Putnam stepped onto Billy Allman's front porch, a camera strung over one shoulder and a reporter's notebook in the other hand. This was my favorite book during the week that I read it. For those of you who shy away from Christian fiction (too preachy, too sappy, too ... whatever ....), this one will make you think twice. Yes, God is in here, and Billy has a deep reservoir of quiet faith (he has to; he goes through some very difficult and trying times), and there is an angel, a questioning angel named Malachi, who watches over Billy as well. Malachi is called away from Billy during what we (and he) later find is a particularly rough spot in his teenage life, and he mentally battles with devils who try to work on his doubts. He finds himself questioning why God would call him away during a period of great crisis in the life of the one he is looking out for, and even why so many trials happen in Billy's life. Billy loses his older and much-loved brother Harless to the war, making him an only child. On Billy's 10th birthday, he and his family go through a terrible flood, the Buffalo Creek disaster, where the dams gave out, causing "a wall of water that deposited bodies in trees". While trying to outrun the flood, they realize that their neighbor and her children have no way to get out. Alexander, Billy's father, parks the car on a hill and runs down to the neighbor's trailer, where his family sees him snatched away by flood waters while exiting with children in his arms. Billy ends up in Dogwood, West Virginia. Billy has great electrical skill and a natural ability. He is also a musical prodigy of sorts, having managed to grab his father's mandolin while escaping the flood, although he keeps his talents under wraps until a teacher at the high school catches him playing. Another family tragedy makes him rather friendless, but one girl, Heather Blanch, who lives in a nice house and wears nice clothes, is the only one that talks to him. This rather sad, one-sided friendship circles through the novel. After some time, and a stint playing with a traveling gospel band, Billy returns home to care for his aging mother. Here we have a finely-drawn chronicle of dementia/Alheimers, the sadness, craziness and loss that it brings. We also find Billy working towards his dream, as he feels called to start a bluegrass radio station out of his home. With lots of begged, borrowed, inexpensive, and salvaged parts, and a whole lot of sweat, he makes his dream a reality. The audience is small, and the station doesn't have a distant range, but Billy pours himself into it, running it by himself with small stretches of sleep and only his dog for company. With the disappearance of his friend Callie, a postal carrier who carries an unrequited torch for him, Billy uses the radio station to broadcast for help. He gets a clue from a little girl named Natalie, and what follows is a harrowing. heartbreaking, edge-of-your-seat tale. Excellent writing, teamed with so many losses and trials, will keep you turning the pages. This is an extraordinary story about an ordinary man with exceptional gifts. I absolutely loved it. QUOTES I believe every life has hidden songs that hang by twin threads of music and memory. I don't know if the death of my father triggered it, or if it was going to happen all along, but somewhere in the long trail of her DNA, something came loose like laundry from the clothesline. Some people think that when you begin telling the stories, it's like a dam breaking and everything behind it just spills out and keeps flowing until the lake of memory is dry. It's not that way at all. It's more like poking and prodding at a backup along a creek. You have to pull at some sticks here and a jumble of leaves and trash over there and get the water flowing, and pretty soon there's something else that stick and you have to work on that awhile.
WOW! This book took my on an emotional roller-coaster ride that left me feeling breathless and totally satisfied. I found myself at times laughing, crying, and scared out of my wits. This is far from your average Christian fiction book, and has left a definite impression on me. An impression that I will not forget in a long, long time.
Billy Allman is the perfect example of God's purpose. Billy shouldn't have been around, but he had a purpose in life. God needed him. We don't always see things when they happen, and question why they happen, but as life goes on and you look back, you really do see how things all fell into place. Billy's story proves this.
This is one book that needs to be read. If you have ever questioned your purpose for being here, why things happen, or wonder what the bigger picture is, this book is for you. If you just want to read a fantastic and heartbreaking, yet heart-tugging story, this book is for you. If you want to be inspired, this book is for you. It's a book that really and truly can make you feel that there is a real reason we are all here.