Double Helix by Sigmund Brouwer

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Double Helix is likely the most controversial novel I have ever chosen to add to the wish list. It is both a brilliant work of art and a puzzling entanglement of fact and sensationalism. Brouwer is obviously a talented author who is not afraid to let his passion shine through his writing. For example, this novel attacks the immoral and inhumane side of genetic research, and strives to make the reader believe in the author’s cause. Brouwer does not care what other people think of his opinions on genetics, instead he plows fearlessly forward through a dark tale about what is done in the name of genetic research. This novel’s biggest flaw is that Brouwer becomes so caught up in his action-packed tale that he nearly forgets to give the reader hope. Thankfully, even though it is rushed, he ends the wild ride in a sweet moment shared between two people who have seen it all and survived. Therefore, through much deliberation, I have concluded that this novel could make an excellent pro-life mini series that could be featured on an on-demand streaming site. For example, those who have read this novel know that the main character is a man with a colorful past who cares about justice for the oppressed. His chance encounter with three escapees of a genetics laboratory will force him to either condone or fight against the inhumanity of their situation. His eventual love interest is a woman whose husband has just committed suicide after being exposed to the horrors of “The Institute”. She is left confused and hurt, and eventually finds a way to deal with her grief through pursuing those who contributed to his death. Throughout the duration of the story both of these characters find themselves making pro-life decisions by giving shelter to children without a home, protecting these same children from their oppressors, and literally facing down death to save the lives of these and other children who are being exploited in the name of science. It would take an extremely talented screenwriter to see past the darkness of this story to find the light, but I firmly believe that it can be done. As previously mentioned, Double Helix would best be translated to the big screen through a mini series that focused on the three main pro-life points of the story that are outlined above. Granted, the novel would take dedicated editing, and the gritty action scenes would need significant toning down before the real writing could even begin….but….it is possible. We here at Box Office Revolution would like to see someone recognize psychological suspense/thriller novels for the potential that they have, and translate that potential onto the big screen in a way that brings glory to God.

 

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The Lineage of Grace Series by Francine Rivers

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In this series of novellas, Francine Rivers delights readers with her perception of the stories of five important women in the line of Christ. While this series is not as groundbreaking as some of her other novels, it is poignantly different than many novels in the Biblical fiction genre. Rivers has never been afraid to make her characters flawed and human, and this series is no exception. I particularly liked that in the novella about Mary the mother of Christ she did not make Mary out to be holy and perfect. Rather, Rivers painted her as a human character who loved God with all her heart, but who also became impatient in waiting for His plans for Jesus’ life on earth to be fulfilled. The series points out the strengths and weaknesses of each woman, and shows how God can use anyone for His divine purposes. In Unveiled, Rivers tells the story of Tamar, and woman who suffered much at the hands of Judah and his sons. Tamar is forced to marry Judah’s firstborn, a man she does not love, while she is still a teenager. Her inability to to produce an heir makes her the subject of ridicule at the hands of Judah’s tempestuous wife. When her first husband is struck down by God for his insolence, Judah gives her his second son. This second husband proves to be more crafty than the first, but no less repellent. When God strikes down her second husband for his disobedience, Judah refuses to obey God’s law and give her his final son. As Tamar waits on Judah to act, she grows impatient and righteously angry. In Unashamed, Rivers tells the story of how God used an unlikely source, a female prostitute named Rahab, to further the lineage of Christ. Rahab aids Joshua’s spies by hiding them from their pursuers, an act that saves not only her life and that of her family from God’s judgement, but also grants her freedom from slavery. Rahab goes on to bear a son named Boaz, who is known for marrying Ruth and continuing the line of Christ. In Unshaken, Rivers tells the story of how God brought beauty from the ashes of Ruth’s life and blessed her abundantly for her service to Him. Ruth has just suffered the death of her husband Mahlon, and shares her mother-in-law Naomi’s grief over the death of her own husband, and that of her sister Orpah, who mourns Naomi’s other son Chilion. In despair, Naomi decides to return to her homeland, and invites her daughters-in-law to join her. While both sisters initially join Naomi, only Ruth commits to the entire journey. In Israel Ruth is cruelly oppressed by locals because of her Moabite heritage, yet, she finds joy in God’s provision of her basic needs. Ruth will go on to marry the wealthy kinsman redeemer Boaz and bear a son named Obed, who continues the line of Christ. In Unspoken, Rivers tells the tale of how Bathsheba and David receive the consequences for their decision to commit adultery one dark night. Rivers holds both parties responsible, instead of painting Bathsheba as innocent, as some authors have done. In the novel, Bathsheba suffers the loss of her firstborn son as a result of God’s judgement. Yet, she is blessed with other children after she and David repent of their sin. God chooses Bathsheba to bear David’s successor, Solomon, who continues the lineage of Christ. In Unafraid, Rivers tells the well-known story of how a humble woman named Mary submitted to God’s will for her life, a decision that altered the destiny of humankind. In this retelling, Mary is depicted as a simple woman who follows God with her whole heart and is faithful to her husband. Mary trusts God’s plan, yet often becomes impatient as Jesus grows up, each year hoping that Jesus will declare his sovereignty and that God will save His people through his only Son. Mary must learn throughout her life that God knows best and that when she submits to His will, she will be blessed abundantly. This series is definitely worth a read and would make an excellent Christian miniseries. The characters in the novels are well-developed, and it is my opinion that the screenwriters’ job would be easy with this series, as Rivers is very descriptive in her writing, and has already included additional dialogue for smaller character roles. I look forward to the day when filmmakers will recognize Rivers’ novels and bring them to the big screen.

The Refiner’s Fire Series by Lynn Austin: Fire by Night

Fire by Night (Refiner's Fire, #2)

Lynn Austin’s talent as a writer shines in this second installment of the Refiner’s Fire series. The book is aptly titled Fire by Night, and can be considered as a historical epic, as it weaves true events together with fiction to create an engaging read. The novel deals with subjects such as the civil war, socialites, average Americans, respect, conflict, grief, perseverance, nurses, soldiers, turmoil, and how two people’s lives can be intertwined by Providence to influence the world for the better. The opening chapters of Fire by Night introduce the reader to the two main characters, a wealthy young socialite named Julia, and a young woman from a rural community named Phoebe. Julia is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Her parents want her to marry well and raise a family, and while Julia does not want to hurt them, she has dreams of her own. Julia wants to be a nurse, something unheard of in women of her social standing. Her family is completely against this dream, and tries all the harder to persuade Julia otherwise. Eventually Julia strikes out on her own and, through a few well-placed alterations of the truth, becomes a nurse. She finds that caring for wounded soldiers is both fulfilling and exhausting, but in the end, Julia is certain that nursing is what God has called her to do. There’s just one problem, Julia is unintentionally falling in love with a cantankerous doctor who does not return her affections…or does he? Similar to Julia, Phoebe is also faced with a difficult decision. All of Phoebe’s brothers are going off to war, and, being a tomboy herself, she feels that she should be allowed to go. Her strong will at last drives her to a decision, she will disguise herself as a man and join the ranks of those fighting for freedom. The disguise proves effective, and it does not take long for Phoebe to earn her place among her comrades. However, Phoebe will soon learn that concealing her identity is nearly impossible, especially when one finds themselves on the firing end of a rifle…..Will Phoebe be discovered? Will Julia be able to come to terms with her true feelings…and continue to fulfill her calling? To answer these questions, read the book! This book would make an excellent part two of an Inspirational/Christian miniseries. However, as the characters in this novel are unrelated to those in the first, it could also make an excellent standalone historical epic film. Maybe Christian filmmakers will discover this series……and maybe they will continue to make simplistic films with little meaning……I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The Leper by Sigmund Brouwer

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Sigmund Brouwer is a talented author who has written many books for varying age groups that cover a wide variety of topics. At times he writes meaningful and thought-provoking fiction, while at other times it seems that he is trying too hard to appeal to the sensationalism of society. It is the opinion of this writer that Brouwer should write fewer books, as it is better to have a few landmark novels, than a large quantity of crowd-pleasing tales. However, all opinions aside, Brouwer has made a permanent, positive mark in the word of teen fiction, and has tried harder than many authors to reach this age group. In The Leper, Brouwer demonstrates his amazing ability to craft a timeless tale containing lessons for every generation out of a singular painting by Ron DiCianni. Set in 19th century England, the novel deals with subjects such as veterans, disease, the church, hypocrisy, pride, humility, estranged families, solitude, compassion, hope, and sacrifice. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the main character, a man named Nathaniel who is returning from his military post in India. Nathaniel feels that he has to sever contact with his wife and children, and create a story to explain this decision instead of telling the truth. His shame is so great that he feels the truth would crush those that he loves. Nathaniel has leprosy, which he contracted while on duty in India. He arranges for ninety percent of his salary to be sent to his wife and children and locks himself away in self-inflicted solitude. Nathaniel’s despair becomes so great that one night he finds himself standing on the edge of a dock in preparation to end his life. A cry in the dark will distract him from these dark thoughts, and change his life forever. He discovers an abandoned baby girl tangled in some discarded fish netting on the shoreline. The child will renew his purpose for living, and give him light in his dark moments. However, Nathaniel eventually realizes that seclusion is no life for a growing child, and decides to turn her over to the care of the local church, where his brother happens to be the clergyman. The exchange does not go as planned, and Nathaniel soon realizes that his brother cares more about avoiding exposure to leprosy than the well-being of others. Will Nathaniel survive his disease? Will Nathaniel’s brother see past outward appearances and look beyond his selfishness? What will happen to the child? To answer these questions, read the book! I think that, in the right hands, this novel could be built upon to make an excellent Christian drama film. This is because it is based on Biblical principles and has ample characters and varied content that a filmmaker could use to create a more complex plotline. Finally, as with all other novels in this column, we here at Box Office Revolution long and hope for the day that exceptional Christian novels such as these will be brought to the big screen.

The Refiner’s Fire Series by Lynn Austin: Candle in the Darkness

Candle in the Darkness (Refiner's Fire, #1)

Lynn Austin has always been a talented Christian author, but in the Refiner’s Fire series her talent and passion really shines, captivating the reader and attaching them to her novels forever. All dramatic descriptions aside, this series is likely her best, matched only by her Chronicles of the Kings series. In this trilogy, Austin takes a gritty and honest look at slavery, and includes enough historical content to make the tales believable. The first novel, titled a Candle in the Darkness, deals with subjects such as slave owners, upper class white families in the civil war era, abolitionists, political pressure, duty, honor, war, grief, total surrender to God’s will, broken families, broken relationships, maltreatment of individuals, and more. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to Caroline Fletcher, a shy and somewhat awkward young girl who is meeting the expectations of her family by taking classes at a prestigious school for white Southern girls with rich families who usually own slaves. Caroline has never been very good at making friends her own age, instead preferring the company of her family’s slaves. She finds comfort in and learns Biblical truths from a elderly man named Eli who lives in her family’s slave quarters. His friendship helps her through school and other childhood milestones. Caroline is continually torn between family duty and her own beliefs throughout her entire life. As a child, she witnesses the heart-wrenching pain of her nursemaid, Tessie, when her father sells Tessie’s son Grady to new owners. She cannot help but feel that selling and mistreating individuals is wrong, but does not know how to help the situation. Caroline’s cousin Jonathan is the only person with whom she can speak openly about slavery. By the time Caroline becomes a woman, she is able to see flaws on both sides of the argument about slavery. Her comrades in Philadelphia preach abolition, but seem to personally know few, if any, people of African descent. Her relatives in the South are entirely for slavery, and refuse to hear anyone else’s opinion on the matter. These factors, among others, lead to the Civil war. During this time, Caroline will find that she must fight to put God before those that she loves. Her entire world will be torn apart, and she must decide to follow God no matter the cost, or follow the crowd. To find out what happens to Caroline, read the book! I think that the Refiner’s Fire series would be a prime candidate for a Christian miniseries, as it has the depth and heart to be as good or better than the famous Anne of Green Gables miniseries. Ah, someday Christian filmmakers will recognize the potential found in Christian novels such as these.

And the Shofar Blew by Francine Rivers

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And the Shofar Blew is a thought-provoking novel by Francine Rivers that is built around the framework of the Christian church. The novel examines just how easy it is for a pastor to lead his members astray in the pursuit of growth. It also takes a convicting look at how the actions of the church members can affect an entire community in a negative way. Jesus said that His followers should be the light of the world; they should be doing everything they can to influence the world for the better, not join the crowd. This book takes a look at what happens when Christians follow only the good feelings and never get to the heart of the matter. In spite of it’s many good qualities and Biblically-based content, I found the first one-third of the book to be less than engaging. However, I was impressed by the way Rivers’ built on the simple beginning and formed flawed characters at every turn. The novel deals with subjects such as the church body, pastors, generational sin, family patterns, every person’s inner need for parental approval, spiritual blindness, selfishness, pain, grief, struggle, death, life, and the healing power of God’s never-ending love for us. The opening chapters of And the Shofar Blew introduce the reader to one of the three main characters, an older man named Samuel Mason. Samuel is weary of spirit, yet his mind is full of ideas. He and two other men are watching a church that they helped to build and nurture slip from their hands. Their original pastor has become consumed with his health problems, and can no longer shepherd their small flock at Centerville Christian Church. Unfortunately, the congregation numbers have been on the decline for some time, and Samuel feels that if they do not act fast, the church will close it’s doors and never reopen. After discussing his plans with the other elders, Samuel begins to look for a new pastor. He finds an excellent prospect in a young man named Paul Hudson. Paul is everything that any small church would want in a new pastor, he has it all, a popular TV preacher for a father, a flawless resume, and the perfect little family. There’s just one problem, and it is one that will not be apparent until much after he is hired; Paul feels that he will never be enough for his father. While this feeling is justified to some extent, Paul must learn to find his worth in Christ alone, which is easier said than done. Samuel hires Paul as the church’s new pastor, and at first, everything goes well. The congregation grows and becomes more diverse, Paul’s sermons are Biblically sound and convicting, and his sweet, musically-talented wife Eunice and adorable son Timmy do much to brighten up the drab walls of Centerville Christian. However, it is not long before Paul allows his work to take first place in his life. He forgets all about Eunice and Timmy, and begins to do whatever he feels is best for the church….even if that means driving away those who could have helped him to see the light. Samuel Mason tries to offer words of wisdom, but is brushed off by Paul at every turn. Meanwhile, Eunice bears the burden of Paul’s insults and careless behavior. Yet, she is not perfect either, and almost allows temptation to lead to sin in her weakness. However, unlike her husband, she runs into the arms of her Savior before it is too late. Will Paul recognize his faults before it is too late? Will he ask God for forgiveness and begin to repair broken relationships before he loses all that he holds dear? To answer these questions, read the book! I think that this novel could make an excellent drama film that portrays the inner workings of the church, including the skeletons in the closet. I would like to see someone make a movie that is at least similar to this plot, but, like always, we await the glorious day when filmmakers will use the content they already have to truly make a difference.

Leota’s Garden by Francine Rivers

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Leota’s Garden is yet another masterpiece by Francine Rivers, who is a truly gifted writer. The novel weaves together the Biblical principles of forgiveness, unconditional love, and reconciliation together to form a beautiful story about how God can bring beauty from any circumstance in our lives. It also teaches the valuable lessons that God can be found even in the mundane activities of daily life, and that He cares about everything that we experience. Rivers has characters of all generations in this novel, thus making it appealing to adults and teens alike. This is personally one of the most creative novels I have ever read; there is something about the way Rivers writes that paints a beautiful picture of God’s love and sovereignty in every story she creates. I am proud to say that she remains my favorite author to date….not that I’m biased or anything….;) The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to the main character, Leota Reinhardt. Leota is a sad and lonely old woman who cannot see God’s purpose in her life at the moment. Her husband died and has left her alone for some years now, her family is, for the most part, selfish and broken, and her neighborhood is full of seemingly suspicious characters. She exists inside her small house, living off of monthly Social Security checks and hoping that someday she and her daughter Eleanor can be reconciled. On many occasions she considers hastening her path towards death, but every time the Lord gives her a reason to keep living. Leota longs for God to bring someone her way to ease her pain and give her purpose. She will discover that God will bring many people into the remainder of her life, but the first one is not at all what she expected. Corban Solsek is a prideful, arrogant university student attending an elite school with only the smartest students. He feels that he knows everything he needs to know about life and that no one should tell him otherwise. Corban is working on a term project about nursing homes. He sees no reason why the elderly shouldn’t be out of sight, out of mind, and cared for by unattached individuals who could care less if they live or die. This sounds bad, but he is truly ignorant in the fact that he is wrong….about many things. Corban has it all, an apartment, a girlfriend to share it with, and no boundaries in any area. His professor is less than impressed with his ideas and assigns him to volunteer for a service that assists the elderly with things such as grocery shopping, driving, and the like. Corban is assigned to Leota Reinhardt….and his perspective will be changed forever. These two characters dominate much of the novel, but Leota’s daughter Eleanor and granddaughter Annie also have recognizable input. Rivers does an excellent job of weaving together the lives of four seemingly dissimilar individuals, and shows how God can work together all things, even the most dire circumstances, for good. To find out how, read the book! A Christian filmmaker could go multiple directions with the novel, they could make it an epic about Leota’s life, and downplay the subplots of the other characters, or they could make it a drama film similar to Do You Believe?, but with hopefully better editing and quality control efforts. In conclusion, this novel is a must read for any Christian fiction lover, and an excellent source of quality content for any prospective filmmaker.

An Irish Christmas by Melody Carlson

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Melody Carlson has written several Christmas novels over the years, and unfortunately, most have fallen into the typical feel-good category that popular demand insists upon. In short, I would not recommend most of her Christmas novels unless you want to read a book with a simple, romance-based plot and a happy ending. Unlike some of her other Christmas novels, An Irish Christmas attempts to create flawed, real characters that have realistic lifestyles, and succeeds in some ways. While I do not condone some aspects of the novel, such as Carlson’s continued lighthearted view of alcohol consumption, I am sure that many readers will find this novel interesting. An Irish Christmas deals with subjects such a biological fathers, secrets, lies with good intentions, Ireland, Irish customs, mothers, sons, healing, truth, and the relationship between parent and child. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to a middle-aged woman named Colleen and her adult son Jamie. Twenty years after World War two, Colleen is still holding onto secrets that have been kept hidden for far too long. Her husband’s recent death has taken a toll on the stability of her emotions. Colleen now finds herself lonely and uncertain as to what the future holds. Her relationship with her son Jamie has been a bit strained as of late, and she wonders if he is really happy. Jamie is an artistic young man who has been pursuing his musical career under the alias of attending college. For two years he has kept up appearances, but now things are going awry, and he feels that the only way to find meaning in his life is to join the military. When he announces this plan to his mother, she decides to take Jamie to Ireland for the Christmas season, with the hopes of dissuading him from leaving, and of rebuilding their relationship. While they are they Jamie and his mother will finally discover one another’s secrets. Will the truth tear them apart or draw them together again? To answer this question, read the book!;) While the novel is fine at face value, I feel that Carlson could have included more aspects of the Christian faith in the story. I felt like I was reading an inspirational novel, rather than one in the Christian genre. For this reason, and others like it,  I feel that, as a film, this novel would likely be little better than another installment in Hallmark’s bottomless bin of Christmas movies. Therefore, it would take a talented filmmaker indeed to discover the potential in this novel, and to improve upon the plot to create a worthwhile Christian film. However, I do believe that it is possible, after all, look what the creators of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader film did with a slow-paced book!

Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Maya Stark

The final Diary of a Teenage Girl series by Melody Carlson is about Kim Peterson’s cousin, Maya Stark. I personally found that the Maya Stark series is the most commonplace of the entire series. When compared to the Caitlin O’Connor series and the Kim Peterson series, this one comes up somewhat short. I wonder if Carlson wrote this series because she wanted to create an extension of the Kim Peterson character. I think that these three books would have been better if Maya was a independent character, instead of being tied to old plot-lines, as the teen girl idea can become repetitive. However, this final series is still a good read that I would recommend to most teen readers. The Maya Stark series deals with subjects such as parental drug addiction, loneliness, fear, changes, preferences, life challenges, independence, betrayal, surrender, and how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. The first novel, aptly titled A Not so Simple Life, introduces the reader to the tumultuous life of a teen girl named Maya Stark. Maya Stark has grown up with a has-been Hollywood star for a mother, who also happens to be a drug addict; not to mention an absent father figure who is always touring and doing concerts. Because of her mother’s unreliability and unstable finances, and her father’s noncommittal role in her life, Maya has learned to make it on her own. Maya’s mother has neglected her schooling, so Maya has been home-schooling on her own. Maya experiences a major life change when her mother is arrested for drug possession, among other charges. She hides in her home for a time, then gives up and decides to go live with her cousin, Kim Peterson, and Kim’s dad, who is also Maya’s uncle. At first she finds it hard to adjust to the Peterson’s lives, as they have many different practices from her own. For one thing, they’re Christians, and for another thing, they do not seem to care about the environment, which is something that is important to Maya. Yet another area of conflict is that Maya is set on being a vegan, and the Peterson’s are the exact opposite of this lifestyle. She finds solace in exploring different career options, even dabbling in modeling for a time. However, she discovers that none of these activities fill the void inside, and begins to be more open to the faith of her relatives. In the remainder of the series, Maya becomes a Christian, makes new friends, comes to an understanding with her father, and strays farther away from her mother after she secretly empties their shared bank account. As relationships progress and life moves forward, will Maya remember what matters most in life? Will she cling to Jesus through all of life’s twists and turns? To answer these questions, read the books!;) This series may or may not be a good addition to the miniseries concept I have mentioned in previous posts. I wonder if the miniseries would even be affected if this series was edited out. I suppose that the writer could at least include this character in scenes from the other series. Nevertheless, we continue to wait for the day when filmmakers will recognize the potential found in select Christian novels.

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