August 14, 2018, 286 pages
Genre: Christian fiction
BOOK BLURB Midheaven, Ken Kuhlken’s first novel, was originally published by Viking Press. The haunting story, set in and around the exquisite Lake Tahoe basin, is told through the mind of a precocious seventeen-year-old torn between her quest for God and her love for a man. In the early 1970’s, high school senior Jodi McGee turns from drugs and boys to Christ, but soon thereafter falls for her English teacher, Philip. As a result, tragedies test her will, her faith, and her sanity.
REVIEW: According to astrological charts, the Midheaven is the highest point in a birth chart that gives clues to our aspirations. It’s also known as the Medium Coeli, or MC, and is our reputation in the eyes of society, as well as the ways we go about earning it. When I read that definition, it instantly became clear why Kuhlken chose the title. It also helped me to clearly see and understand the internal tension between Jodi’s faith and her actions.
While some Christian fiction can be a little heavy-handed with preaching and/or giving testimony, this story is clearly not. Geoff, the character who first introduces Jodi to The Bible and encourages her to read it and give her heart to Jesus, comes across as a bit of a fanatic, and I was not drawn to his message or his way of being a Christian. I liked the fact that Jodi was able to step back from becoming a fanatic and was more open to embracing everyone, despite their sins or faults or lack of religious beliefs.
Contrasting Jodi’s way of living her faith with that of Philip’s mother, was deftly done, and I was rooting for Philip to be able to escape the strangle-hold of his mother and her rigid Christian beliefs. I just didn’t expect, or imagine, how that escape would take place.
This is a book of many layers – family relationships, spirituality, romance, poverty, drug use, gambling addiction, abuse, and emotional crisis – and the author doesn’t hold back on any of them. There are tender scenes of love so poignant it made my heart ache, then scenes of such terrible tragedies that my heart cried. Still, I enjoyed every character and every word in the book.
The descriptions in the book are just stunning in places, and firmly put the reader on the mountain or on the beach at Lake Tahoe. “The meadow is a quilt of snapdragons, crimson columbine, and wild daisies up the bank to the road.”
My only disappointment was that the ending was so abrupt. There was a hint of a satisfying ending to the book, but I wanted that hint to be a little more. Which it is in the next book. This is the first book in a trilogy, so I guess people who read trilogies or long series that don’t wrap up a story until the last book, are okay with abrupt endings. And if you are one of those readers, there will be nothing in this book to disappoint you.
For everything else in the story, I highly recommend the book.
BUY LINK (All outlets for the e-book)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Some of Ken’s favorites are early mornings, the desert in spring, kind and honest people, baseball and other sports played by those who don’t take themselves too seriously, most kids, and films he and his daughter Zoe can enjoy together. He reads classic novels, philosophy, theology, and all sorts of mysteries. On his blog, he offers some hard truths and encouragement about living as a writer. He has long been the author of novels, stories, articles, poems, and essays. Lots of honors have come his way, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship; Poets, Essayists and Novelist’s Ernest Hemingway Award; Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel and Shamus Best Novel; and several San Diego and Los Angeles Book Awards.Though he advocates beer in a video, he actually prefers Scotch.
He also posts regularly on his own blog, and sort of preaches for Perelandra College.
Do come back on Wednesday when Ken will be my guest.