Chris Fabry brings a flair for description to his writings. Some might call it luck that he has such a talent. Perhaps this skill results from his experience as a radio personality and the necessity to create word pictures for his listeners. I prefer to think of it as a God-given gift that he has nurtured. Whatever the source, he employs it well in “Almost Heaven,” the third volume in the Dogwood series.
Like the previous books, “Dogwood” and “June Bug,” the stories revolve around life in the small town of Dogwood, West Virginia. Fabry’s protagonist, Billy Allman, has suffered loss and pain, while surviving through the bounty of the hills and kindness of neighbors. He works toward his dream of a building and operating a local Christian radio station. Unknown to Billy, his efforts come under the scrutiny of Malachi, a messenger from Heaven and chronicler of events.
Between Billy’s reminiscences and Malachi’s observations, the reader sees a life rich in spiritual meaning even as it seems impoverished by worldly standards. Familiar characters from the earlier books weave through the fabric of the story, although a first-time visitor to Dogwood won’t suffer. (It may, however, make you want to go back and read the first two books – you won’t regret acting on the impulse.)
An elegance of language adorns the book. Billy opens his story by noting “My life has been filled with my share of dirges and plainsongs.” Billy describes a period of turmoil as “…my soul hydroplaning on the back roads of memory…” (p. 299) and the glories of autumn as like an explosion in a paint factory “…and all of that paint fell on the trees…” (p. 33). The beautiful words are delightfully appropriate for a character who lives so close to nature and music.
Malachi notes “I serve this God of details. This God of commas and exclamation points. A God of questions…” (p. 364). We see the hand of this God throughout “Almost Heaven,” from the deep faith of Billy Allman to the way God uses him to touch the people around him.
“Almost Heaven” offers a deceptively easy reading experience. Although it delivers a well-told story, it also carries deep truth within its pages. Fabry has written another winner.
Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry
Published 2010 by Tyndale Fiction (www.tyndalefiction.com)