Clear Winter Nights, by Trevin Wax
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by WaterBrook Multnomah Books in exchange for an honest review.]
This particular book, written by a Christian minister in Middle Tennessee , is marketed as “Theology in Story,” and that is a fair way of describing this book’s contents, which are a deep theological and philosophical conversation between a grandfather (retired pastor Gil) and his searching grandson trapped in his own doubts and righteous indignation (Chris). At 150 pages, this particular novel, which begins with Chris in a period of crisis where he is not sure about education, about his desire to work in the ministry of a church, and where he calls for a break in his engagement with a lovely and faithful fiance named Ashley. The rest of the novel takes places over several days when Chris is taking care of his grandfather, who has suffered a stroke and is deeply lonely after the death of his longtime wife.
The book as itself manages to deal with topics such as grace, open-mindedness, God’s moral standards on sexuality (particularly relevant to our times), and the hypocrisy of Christians through history. It is to the author’s credit that the book itself does not shrink to discuss the failings of Christians throughout history even as it presents the obligations of Christians to live according to the Bible’s commands. Specifically, the book presents a mostly baptist perspective, and looks at the statements of “King Jesus” and not necessarily the whole corpus of biblical law (absent is any serious discussion of the Sabbath, for example), while including a few hymns, a paen to the need to respect all human beings, sinners of whatever stripe, as beings created in the image and likeness of God, and some high praise for Augustine’s Confession.
Like many novels of this stripe, there will be some people who appreciate its obvious apologetic aims and others who will think the plot and dialogue a bit too tidy and neat. Nevertheless, for its topical relevance in the lives of many believers familiar with broken families and problems of trust, this book ought to have some appeal. Given that many young people retain a moral worldview based on the claims of Christianity but are upset over the widespread hypocrisy and moral laxity of many churches, this book’s aim to seek a robust faith that is grounded on both grace (both from God and with each other) as well as righteousness ought to strike a strong chord with its intended reading audience.
One aspect of this novel that is highly worthy of commentary, given my own writings, is the fact that this particular novel plays on the concept of the “dark night of the soul.” The struggle for genuine faith in a world of corruption and sloth is a serious struggle that many believers face. This novel is merely one of a series of works, both fiction and nonfiction, that seek to challenge believers about their faith and its practice in a corrupt world, looking at the obligations for graciousness and righteousness, a difficult balance to maintain. Nevertheless, for those who wish to attempt that balance between faith and practice, between loving God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves, despite the bad examples around us and the slanders we face, this book should provide some encouragement.