*Almost Paradise by Corabel Shofner

This funny but thoughtful novel takes Christian faith seriously as a factor in the lives of real people.

*Almost Paradise by Corabel Shofner.  Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2017, 293 pages

Reading Level: Middle grades, 10-12

Recommended for: ages 12-up

From the moment Ruby Clyde Henderson woke up in the backseat of a car, she knew something was up.  But, “it still didn’t hit me how much we were not home.”   Then she put a foot down to get out of the car and stepped into a birthday cake, which was on the floor.  The cake was hers, bought with her own money.  The car belonged to the Catfish, her mother’s no-good boyfriend, and Mother was just going along, the way she always did.

Ruby is peeved: nobody has the right to take her out of bed in North Carolina and put her a car headed who-knows-where.  But it isn’t until they get to Texas that the bad stuff really hits the fan.  Bad stuff includes a gun and a convenience store, and the cops arresting Ruby’s mom, even though she’s innocent.  The girl has only one place to go: Paradise Ranch, where her mother’s twin sister Eleanor—a woman Ruby didn’t even know about until then—lives a quiet life as an Episcopal nun.

I almost passed this one up: yet another story about a spunky southern girl with a colorful turn of phrase who overcomes quirky villains with the help of quirky southern allies.  But Ruby, it turns out, is worth hanging with.  All the above applies, but with a depth and understanding that slips up on the reader as the pages turn.  At first Sister Eleanor is as forbidding as Ruby feared, but once the usual adjustments are made the two find themselves getting along with a certain degree of mutual appreciation.  That’s where most novels of this sort would end—however, there’s the matter of Ruby’s mother in jail, and the matter of the loathsome Catfish, and the matter of the law and how its wheels turn.  Things don’t work out as we expect, and yet at the end, when looking back, it seems they worked out the best way possible.

It about faith and healing, and faith in healing—especially in our own power to heal.  As sister Eleanor concludes,

“You know, Ruby Clyde, people argue about the Bible all the time, making it serve their own agendas, but one thing is perfectly clear.  Jesus got up on that cross.  And instead of getting on a cross for others, we run around saying, Jesus died for me, me, me, but that’s a bit selfish, don’t you think?”

Cautions: Language (some colloquial uses of “Honest to God,” one “damn” that’s quickly corrected); brief gun violence (no blood); sexual sin implied

Overall rating: 4.75 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4.75
  • Artistic value: 5

Every Single Second is another novel for older middle-graders that takes Christian faith seriously while avoiding the label “Christian.”


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Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

1 Comment

  1. Meredith on September 12, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Thank you for this recommendation. I will definitely check it out. And, yes, we tend to be selfish about Christ, (possibly unintensionally). Jesus died for everyone. That’s a great quote with which you ended the review! God bless.

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