Monday, September 14, 2009

June Bug by Chris Fabry

publisher: Tyndale
rating: ***1/2

Let's get something straight----- you cannot market your book ( or have a publisher's weekly endorsement on the front ) as a contemporary re-telling of Les Miserables and not expect me to whimper until it is in my greedy little hands.

Save the Bible, Les Miserables has been the most profound and life-changing book of my life. I first read it at age 13 ( the Penguin unabridged Norman Denny translation) and have read it probably as many times as there are pages in the novel.

After I get said novel in my greedy little hands you should know that I will a.) spend the entirety of the novel with pencil brandished; post-it note near wrist finding unending parallels ( some probably unintentional) and b. ) that I will count it as a reading experience.

I was a little nervous. This is sacred territory for me. But Christy Award-winning Fabry


The eponymous June Bug and her father travel the American backgrounds in a worse-for-wear RV.

Parking at Wal Marts across the States, they revel in the glorious American geography. At One Walmart, June Bug sees an age-progressed photo of a child missing since the age of two. June Bug recognizes the photo of herself.

From there, stories intertwine and Johnson, the only father she has ever known, is forced to exhume the past.

Backstories of kind-hearted folks ( like the Wal Mart employee Sheila) and the restless pursuit of justice by a dogged Sheriff ( think Hugo's Javert) thread throughout a fable of grace and redemption. Pieces of the puzzle slowly meld together in fast-paced perfect narrative and the truth is eventually told: candlesticks, Christ and all.

Fabry (like Harper Lee before him) does an exceptional job of adopting the voice of a sweet, spunky child. He is more than a competent writer, he is a natural storyteller who reminds me a lot of Dale Cramer ( a favourite of mine). Les Miserables is a daunting book to undertake and my apprehension was eased somewhat when I discovered that Fabry's book is not so much a re-telling as a nod to the gargantuan book's theme of Grace. An homage, per se, to one of the greatest Christian stories ever told.

At first read, I thought there was a tendency for the novel to seep into "propaganda" type territory: the Iraq war; the unparalleled heroism of the American man when held up to the rest of the world; the overt patriotism turning every corner. But this in itself mirrors Hugo: whose novel is very much an exhibition of his love for France: in its highs and lows. The military motif and the need to better oneself through national service is not unlike Valjean's role in the National Guard at the July Revolution of 1832.

I am near-finished Dogwood and am absolutely thrilled to add this writer to my roster of perennial favourites.

I enjoy Fabry's quick and easy story telling; his candid shots of real life in all of its gritty grace and humanity; and his strong narrative.

I really liked the TitleTrakk review of this book and invite you to visit Chris Fabry at his blog
or at his official website

1 comment:

Chris Fabry said...

What a great review! Thanks for getting the "nod." I read the unabridged too, though not as many times as you! I agree this is sacred ground. Now, I want to read one of your stories. Thanks for your opinion.