Thursday, September 6, 2012

Still Life In Shadows by Alice Wisler

It's been fifteen years since Gideon Miller ran away from his Amish community in Carlisle, Pennsylvania as a boy of fifteen.  Gideon arrives in the Smoky Mountains town of Twin Branches and settles in at the local auto mechanic's garage. He meets a host of interesting characters -the most recent acquaintances are Kiki, an autistic teen, and her sister Mari. Known as the "Getaway Savior" he helps other Amish boys and girls relocate to life in modern America.

One day the phone rings. On the other end is his brother Moriah calling from Florida. Of course Gideon welcomes his brother to stay with him and offers him a job. But Moriah is caught in a web which ends in his death and forces Gideon to return to the town of his youth, with his brother's body in the back of a hearse and Mari and Kiki at his side. He must face not only the community he ran away from years ago but also his own web of bitterness. Will he be able to give his anger over to God and forgive his father?

This is the first book that I have read by Alice Wisler.  Alice was nice enough to provide this copy to me to give me a chance to see if her books would be welcomed by men readers.

Gideon has run long and hard away from his past, but he still manages to hang on to a piece of it by helping Amish kids relocate from their Amish world to modern America.  Gideon becomes involved in the life of autistic Kiki due to damage she had done to his gas station.  In the process, he becomes involved in her sister, Mari.  Out of the blue he gets a call from his brother, Moriah, who wants to come live with him.  Gideon learns that Moriah's reasons for moving in weren't clear and honest, as he finds Moriah is into drugs.  As the tension between them grows, we find out the reason Gideon has run away from his family for so long.  When Moriah is found dead, Gideon now must return to the Amish life that he had left behind.  What happens when he confronts his dad over issues from their past?  Is forgiveness in his future?  Take the time to buy this book and find out!

Ms. Wisler has created a very mysterious, yet likable character in Gideon.  He has so much hidden  in his past, but yet he appears to be open to sharing his experiences with Mari.  The story that Ms. Wisler has created is very believable and one that keeps you interested from the start.  There is so much depth to her characters, that you end up rooting for them as the story progresses.  This book is heavy on forgiveness, it was to me, the main theme that ran throughout this book.  The forgiveness that Gideon had for Kiki, for his brother, his father and even himself.  As he notices later in the book, "the Almighty's arms are wide and merciful enough to forgive even the most guilty of creatures".

Is this a "guy's book"?  There isn't alot of "action" in the book, but this is a story that all men need to read.  Between the emotions that Gideon is trying to hide, and the history that we find out between him and his dad, this story reminds us that we need to be more open with our communications.  As I read this book, I reflected on my own relationship with my dad.  I have been blessed to have a very close relationship with him and I know that I am who I am because of my relationship with him.


Alice was born in Osaka, Japan in the sixties.  Her parents were Presbyterian career missionaries. As a young child, Alice loved to walk down to the local stationer's store to buy notebooks, pencils and scented erasers.  In her room, she created stories.  The desire to be a published famous author has never left her.  Well, two out of three isn't bad. She's the author of Rain Song, How Sweet It Is, Hatteras Girl and A Wedding Invitation (all published by Bethany House).

Alice went to Eastern Mennonite University after graduating from Canadian Academy, an international high school in Kobe, Japan. She majored in social work and has worked across the U.S. in that field.  She taught ESL (English as a Second Language) in Japan and at a refugee camp in the Philippines.  She also studied Spanish at a language institute in San Jose, Costa Rica.

She has four children--Rachel, Daniel, Benjamin and Elizabeth.  Daniel died on 2/2/97 from cancer treatments at the age of four. Since then, Alice founded Daniel's House Publications in her son's memory.  This organization reaches out to others who have also lost a child to death. In 2000 and 2003, Alice compiled recipes and memories of children across the world to publish two memorial cookbooks, Slices of Sunlight and Down the Cereal Aisle.

The Judge by Randy Singer

When a brilliant billionaire is diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, he realizes that all his considerable wealth cannot prepare him to meet his Maker. But he has an idea that might: he will stage the ultimate reality show. With his true agenda hidden, he auditions followers from all the world’s major religions, inviting them to the trial of their lives on a remote island, where they must defend their beliefs against spiritual challenges. 

Oliver Finney, a feisty old judge with his own secrets, is chosen to defend Christianity. As the program takes a strange twist, he quickly realizes he is trapped in a game of deadly agendas that may cost him his life. With Internet access monitored, Finney sends coded messages to his law clerk, Nikki Moreno. Aided by a teen crypto-geek, Nikki soon discovers the key to understanding Finney’s clues in an apologetics book Finney wrote and must race against time to decipher the mysteries contained in the ancient words of Christ before her boss dies defending them.

What would happen if you took a selection of people from all of the world's religions and put them into a "Survivor" like setting?  You would get the makings of a book by Randy Singer, of course! So this billionaire is getting ready to die and he's found out that being rich doesn't provide him with any additional insight into what happens after we die.  In the search for this information, he comes up with the ideal to bring together people from all different religions to a remote island where they will "battle" it out against each other to see who has the best answers for the afterlife.  For the Christian perspective, we have Judge Oliver Finney.  Judge Finney is a cigar-smoking curmudgeon who never dreamed in a minute he would be picked for the show, but we know that demographic studies can't be wrong!  As the show progresses, Judge Finney starts noticing that things may not be exactly as they seem.  The judge begins passing crypted notes back and forth with his law clerk, thanks to a book on cryptology  that he had written.  As the stakes appear to be getting higher and higher for the contestants, Judge Finney begins to feel a sense darkness and dread.  Will this be the end of Judge Finney?  Does he help the billionaire with his thoughts of the afterlife?  Buy a copy and see how this one ends!

I have been a fan of Randy Singer for a long time.  I even hosted Mr. Singer for a book signing / discussion several years ago.  Anybody that reads John Grisham would love any of Randy Singer's books, and this one is no different.  Randy always shares his knowledge of the judicial system through his books.  This book, though, allows us to not only see the inner workings of a case against Christ, but he rolls in the whole reality tv show craze that the entertainment world is abuzz about.  I always come away from his books feeling like I have a little bit more knowledge of the judicial system, and that isn't always a good thing.

Is this a "guy's book"?  If you're into law and justice and reality TV, then you would enjoy this book.  Do you have to be a "guy" to like it?  Nope, this book would be enjoyed by everyone.


Randy graduated from Houghton College in 1978, married Rhonda Pursifull that same year, and began teaching and coaching at Houghton Academy, a local Christian boarding school. After five years of teaching and coaching, he left the front of the classroom to take a seat in the back, pursing his dream of going to law school. Three years later, he graduated second in his class from William and Mary School of Law. 

Following law school, Randy began an active trial practice at Willcox and Savage, a sixty lawyer firm in Norfolk, Virginia, eventually becoming head of the firm's litigation section. After thirteen years with the firm, and several more years working with a mission board and cable television network, Randy decided that a recession was a good time to start a new business. He formed his own firm—the Singer Legal Group—in 2009, specializing in civil litigation and business/ministry consulting.

About ten years ago, Randy began pursuing a passion to write. Tapping into his courtroom and ministry experience, Randy pens legal thrillers designed to entertain his readers while confronting them with biblical truths on controversial issues. His first novel, Directed Verdict, was published by WaterBrook Press in October 2002, and won the prestigious Christy award for the best Christian suspense novel that year. Just last year, Randy was named a finalist, along with John Grisham and Michael Connelly, for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the American Bar Association and the University of Alabama Law School.