Friday, December 11, 2009

The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry - REVIEWED

Christina Berry is a name I will be searching for along the spines of many books to come! I just finished reading her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, and I admit…I was intrigued the entire length of the novel! I’ll confess, I sort of guessed at a couple of parts in the story, and I guessed correctly, but the writing, the way she pulled you from one scenario to the next, well I just couldn’t put the book down!

Listen to this line, “I pictured my heart, a pea-sized pebble rolling around in the cavity of my chest.” (p. 16) Throughout this entire tale, Christiana Berry portrays the pain and angst of broken lives, broken spirits, broken bodies in a way that vividly displays the images into your heart and mind in unforgettable ways. She begins with the premise of a husband leaving his wife, but not in the way that you’d expect. Then she creates a scenario of a broken man returning to life with no memory of his prior existence. As the details unravel, one shock after another surfaces in the lives of Craig and Denise Littlejohn until you can’t imagine what will come up in the next chapter!

The great thing about all of this is that Christina Berry makes all of the details work. I mean, I actually understood why Denise did the things she did after Craig was injured. I understood what drew her to Samantha and why she was willing to shower such grace upon the life of a man who had done nothing but throw her away. In many ways, this is a sad story because it is a true reflection of the depravity that often exists within a marriage and the painful rending of family that takes place over time. More importantly, this story is a powerful reflection of grace from so many different perspectives that you can’t help but pause and consider relationships in your own life and wonder how you might be able to exhibit a little more Christ-like love yourself.

I thought the passage on pages 234 and 235 between Denise and Pastor Miles beautifully displayed the way Christ forgives our sins and how the marriage relationship is a reflection of that grace and mercy. As believers, we are all called to love and forgive others in a way unlike the rest of the world. Often the pain of that effort seems overwhelming. The Familiar Stranger is a story filled with twists and turns, unexpected outcomes and painful revelations, but all along the way it is a brilliant portrayal of grace.

Like I said, I will be looking forward to more stories from Christina Berry’s pen! The Familiar Stranger is a spectacular beginning!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: (from the author's blog)

Mother and foster parent, I carve time to write from my busy schedule because I must tell the stories that haunt my every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) I hold a BA in Literature, yet love a good Calculus problem, as well. My debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, releases from Moody in September but is available online at and, or in local bookstores, for pre-orders. The book deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A member of Oregon Christian Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Redeemed Writer's Critique Group, I love taking words out of my head so it's quieter in there. Stop by Ashberry Lane to read updates on the progress of my novels.

Please come back tomorrow for an interview with this fabulous debut author!!


Mocha with Linda said...

This book made me ache. And smile. And sigh. Such a beautiful story of grace and forgiveness.

Andi said...

While I haven't finished this book yet. However I have one comment to make. As someone who has just gone through the painful process of divorce because of infidelity. Forgiveness is a process. It doesn't just happen one time. It is something you deal with daily, hourly, and sometime minute by minute.

Christina Tarabochia said...

Kim, thank you so much for posting such an amazing review! It gives me chills.

Linda, what a wonderful comment.

Andi, I'd love to hear what you think when you finish. I hope I captured the process and struggle. Of course everyone experiences it differently, but I was in edits on this when I divorced over infidelity and I didn't change a thing that I'd written before it, except to add the scene Kim referenced as my editor suggested.

Edgy Inspirational Author said...

I, too, loved this book. Made me cry and the works. Books that make me cry are few and far between. :) That's a good book.

Pat S-W said...

I loved the story told in The Familiar Stranger. I think this book is about forgiveness and learning to trust God. I know that forgiveness takes a long time but we cannot find it in our hearts to forgive without the strength and help of The Holy Spirit. Thank you for taking us through the process of grace and demonstrating how we can learn to trust in the face of unknowns!