Book Review: Behind The Stage

Behind The Stage, by Anne Sanders

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

I generally dislike ranting at the beginning of book reviews, but for me the proper slotting of books into genres is of the utmost importance in setting my expectations of the book.  This particular book was slotted into the genre of Spiritual Growth & Christian Thought, when what it was instead was a mediocre novel with its main story as a somewhat bungling minister with too much personal drama in his family life and a person who isn’t the most observant when it comes to anything other than the headcount of his congregation, which dips a bit as he gets involved in a set of self-inflicted crises that conveniently pit him as a “Christian” voice against his intolerant new Floridian parishioners just outside of Tallahassee.  Again, this is not a bad novel–rather it is mediocre, not strikingly good enough to be worth reading again or warmly recommending, but not bad enough to be one of the best worst novels ever [1], but I was not looking for a novel at all, but rather a nonfiction book about the life of a pastor.  My expectations were not met, and that is what is most disappointing about this book, that its author simply could not get its genre right.

Having spent sufficient time, I hope, dealing with the problem of genre analysis on this book, it is worthwhile to examine the content of this uninspired novel.  At the hart of this novel is Josh, a minister sent by his church from his home in Seattle to a small church just outside of Florida’s state capital, where the pastor immediately sticks his foot in his mouth by opposing the removal of an openly homosexual political leader because he does not consider it Christian.  From there the novel examines the life behind the stage of the minister as his wife gets pregnant and deals with postpartum depression and is then diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as one of his parish families struggles with the death of their daughter in an accident, as a couple in his congregation struggles with marriage counseling after the husband is found having an affair with the minister’s daughter.  The details of the plot are incredibly melodramatic but unlike some similarly overly convenient novels [2] that I read from time to time, the prose is stale and nearly lifeless, giving no adornment or sense of enjoyment or emotional turmoil to the text.

In many ways, this novel is like a Michael Bublè cover of a good novel, in that the material provided is full of drama, perhaps even too much so, but the performance is so monochromatic that any life or verve in the proceedings is flattened to the emotional level of the Flight of the Conchords discussion of foreplay.  The premise of the book is reasonably sound, in that it is worthwhile to examine the private lives of ministers and reflect upon their personal and family struggles, but the author simply does not have the talent as a writer to make this novel emotionally gripping or give it more excitement than reading out of the phone book or listening to muzak on the elevator or in the grocery store.  Material this potentially interesting deserves suitable treatment.  In many ways, though, the inability of the author to write a compelling novel and the inability of the author to place the book in the proper genre where it might be appreciated on its own exceedingly modest level are similar errors, and that is not knowing what one is doing, or who one is aiming the book at.  The author thought she was writing a novel merely as a cover for her own liberal version of love and acceptance of others and avoiding judgmental attitudes, and placed the novel based on her agenda not on the form she used to convey that agenda in print, an error that demonstrates to the reader that this novel fails both as a novel and as a good example of Christian thought.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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5 Responses to Book Review: Behind The Stage

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