Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: A Twist of Faith

"A Twist of Faith" by John Donnelly is a book about change. Donnelly tells the story of David Nixon, who grows up in a broken home, engages in unhealthy behavior as a young person, has a dramatic conversion to Christianity in adulthood, and then engages in mission work in Africa. To be more specific, Nixon falls in love with orphans in Malawi and makes it his goal to help them. Like all strangers in a new place, Nixon quickly discovers that he must learn from the locals in order to do effective work. Context matters.

While this book features an interesting story, the writing is rather unremarkable. It skims over many important details that would have added depth and interest to the story. The broken home, unhealthy behavior, conversion experience, healing process, changing of congregations, etc. could have all been expanded and given more color. That would have provided more pizazz to the book - especially the first half. Instead, the first part of the book felt like a fluffy human interest story in a local newspaper. Details matter.

With that said, however, there were moments of powerful writing. For example, Donnelly described Dixon's initial frustration with the chief's rejection of his orphanage plan with power, emotion, and grit. It felt visceral and real. This level of honesty and passion, if used throughout the story, would have had readers furiously turning the pages. Instead, some parts of this book probably left some readers thinking, "What? That's it? Come on! There must more more to the story!" And there probably was more to the story. It's this extra stuff that would have taken this book from mildly engaging to wildly enthralling. Interest matters.

In the end, "A Twist of Faith" is a good book for anyone who wants an introduction to missional, Evangelical Christianity. It's a quick read. And it's told with compassion for Dixon's personal story of continual change. Transformation matters.

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