Glass Road is a public relations firm dedicated to representing Christian authors and artists. I joined their reviewer’s list for Christ Fabry’s newest novel, Almost Heaven. This morning I and other bloggers from all across the country will be featuring this heartfelt, poignant story in a special blog tour.
Here’s how the publisher describes this book: Billy Allman is a hillbilly genius. People in Dogwood, West Virginia, say he was born with a second helping of brains and a gift for playing the mandolin but was cut short on social skills. Though he’d gladly give you the shirt off his back, they were right.
With spare parts from a lifetime of collecting, he builds a radio station in his own home. People in town laugh. But Billy carries a brutal secret that keeps him from significance and purpose. Things always seem to go wrong for him.
Malachi is an angel sent to observe Billy. Though it is not his dream assignment, Malachi follows the man and begins to see how each painful step Billy takes is a note added to a beautiful symphony that will forever change the lives of those who hear it. (from Tyndale House)
Here’s my take: The story is told from two perspectives, Billy’s and his guardian angel’s. I loved the voice and personality the author created for the angel, whose name is . . . well, let him tell you in his own words:
“I suppose you will want to know my name . . . I have considered using the pseudonym such as ‘Clarence’ because I’m aware of your films that depict bumbling angels. If you must have a name for me, simply call me Malachi, for it means ‘messenger,’ and that is what I was created to be.”
The chapters where I could see Malachi reacting to events helped me appreciate the spiritual struggle of the main character even more. For his part, Malachi, who has performed many missions for his High Commander, finds that Billy’s life touches him in a way no other human’s has. He says,
“At every turn, the Creator has endeavored to lead and guide His creation into Truth and Knowledge, but in the corner of those turns has been the enemy seeking to detour humans and cloud their thinking, twisting the good things the King has offered into diabolical traps.
I believed before this task that I knew the whole story. I believed I understood the Creator and His ways . . . However, observing this one life . . . is causing me to reevaluate the concept of The Plan and how each life is used in the grand scheme.”
At one point, when tragedy after tragedy seems inevitable, Malachi confesses, “It is said that angels long to look into the things of salvation, and that is true. But sitting beside
that man, wondering what future lay ahead for the boy . . . I breathed in the utter despair and anguish and senselessness o f humanity. It made me glad that I am not a man.”
As the story progresses, we learn there is a purpose in all things, whether we initially see that purpose or not. We get a hint of the author’s theme in the words of Billy’s mother. She assures him that “God doesn’t trust just anybody with so much heartache. The world has not yet seen what God can do with a man who gives both halves of a broken heart to Him. And I don’t doubt that a man like that can change the world . . . or at least a little part of it.”
This book made me cry several times. First because of the sorrow portrayed, and then because of the beauty. And the way the author summed up Billy’s initial losses truly touched my heart:
“For when the dream of his life failed, Billy was set free. He was released to run in the playground of God’s will.”
If you like an eventful story with a deep spiritual thread, this book’s for you. I will caution you about one aspect. The publisher describes Billy’s secret as brutal, and it is. But there are no graphic scenes. Everything in the book is handled appropriately.
Summary: However small his life seems to him, from a different perspective Billy’s song reaches far beyond the hills and hollers he calls home.
About the author: Chris Fabry is the host of Chris Fabry Live!, an hour of spiritual encouragement from his backyard radio fence. The program challenges listeners to think biblically about their spiritual journeys. Chris is also the author of the Christy Award-winning novel Dogwood, and his latest fiction release, June Bug. He and his family live near Tucson, Arizona. You can learn more about Chris by following this link to his website.
A picture of another favorite angel, Clarence, with George Bailey! (Note: in Almost Heaven Malachi and Billy do not interact.)