HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Silver Birches: A Novel
Author: Adrian Plass
Cover Designer: Laura Maitner-Mason
Publisher: Zondervan, republished in 2009
Related website: http://www.zondervan.com (publisher)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Older, mature, well-grounded teens and adults
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Plass, Adrian. Silver Birches: A Novel (originally published in 2002 as Ghosts: The Story of a Reunion; republished in 2009 by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 49530). David Herrick, in his latish thirties, is a “traveling Christian speaker” who has recently lost his wife Jessica. After grieving for about six months, he receives a mysterious invitation to a weekend reunion of seven people who were all a part of the same youth group at St. Mark’s two decades ago. It comes from Angela Brook, a long forgotten acquaintance who was one of his wife’s oldest friends. His first reaction is to refuse, but she says that she has something for him from his beloved Jessica. Reluctant but curious, he makes his plans to visit Headly Manor, reputed to be haunted. When the friends gather, each one bears the weight of some special burden. Angela has been deserted by her husband Alan for another woman. Mike Ford has lost his faith because he feels that God has never shown him how much He loves him. Andrew Glazier is filled with anger and bile towards Mike. Jenny Thomas has never married and is afraid of life-long loneliness. Graham Wilson has insecurities about being a husband and father that leak into his faith. Peter Grange has a deep, dark secret that he has never told anyone else. And David is suffering from anger at God for taking his wife.
Angela tells them that the purpose of the reunion, besides renewing old acquaintances, is for each one to open up, be honest, and tell all the others his or her greatest fear. Will they have the courage to bare their souls? If they do, how will such revelations be received? And what does Angela have for David from Jessica? Adrian Plass is identified as “one of today’s most significant Christian author.” However, I first became acquainted with his name because from 2001 to 2006, Plass teamed up with Focus on the Family Radio Theatre in their original miniseries Father Gilbert Mysteries to provide the voice of the lead character, Father Louis Gilbert, a former London police detective who became an Anglican priest and now solves spiritual mysteries in the fictional Sussex village of Stonebridge. Doing some research about Plass, I came across this novel which sounded interesting. First, the negatives. In addition to some common euphemisms, people are said to swear, phrases like “Good Lord” and “My God” are used as exclamations, the “d” and “h” words are found occasionally, and some near vulgarisms (pi**ed off, bas*ard) appear. A few references to smoking and a lot of references to drinking wine, beer, brandy, whisky, burgundy, and other kinds of “booze” occur.
The book is not for children. Much of the discussion about fears involves conversations of a sexual nature, yet everything is considered within the context of Biblical morality. It includes a recollection of Mike and a girl named Amanda Nichols going skinny-dipping together at a church retreat, although nothing else happened. Unmarried Jenny would like to have sex but is still a virgin because of her desire to please God. Peter’s secret is that he is “gay” but has chosen to remain celibate. There is a passing mention of masturbation. Now, the positives. If one is willing to wade through all this baggage, there really is somewhat of a “Christian message” in the book about being attracted by temptation but resisting it, dealing with problems of the past, coping with tragic loss, facing one’s fears, and generally turning these kinds of irritations into pearls. It was not what I expected, and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, there are a number of things in it that I would not be comfortable recommending. On the other hand, it is an interesting story, and I found the conclusion fairly satisfying.