Stephen Gallup's Reviews > Cross Roads

Cross Roads by William Paul Young
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's review
May 17, 2016

it was amazing

Here’s an audiobook with narration that's just about perfect. Roger Mueller doesn't overdo the accents (British, Native American, Black). He doesn't call attention to himself at all. But he has a rare ability to add life and dimension to the story, and especially to deliver emotion like the best of actors, and consequently I enjoyed it much more than would have been possible in print format.

Tony Spencer is a financially successful but embittered and broken man, who has long since driven away everyone who cared about him or even could tolerate his presence. That much is established in a lengthy opening section of the book that relies exclusively on summary. The absence of drama during his introduction is so absolute that I had time to begin wondering whether this was bad writing (mere "telling") or an early example of a new literary style (which would actually feel like a throwback to the nineteenth century). I now think it works reasonably well, because Tony lives on the surface. He avoids thoughts that hurt him. He avoids so much that the narration has to be at arms' length.

Then Tony experiences a crisis that lands his comatose body in a hospital ICU, while his consciousness finds itself wandering through an unfamiliar landscape. He meets people, one of whom claims to be Jesus, but is pretty sure the whole experience is the product of past psychological programming or random neuronal activity. There could be no other explanation, because he firmly believes that there is no life after death.

If there were life after death -- that would be horrible. Then he would be held to account for all the hateful things he has done.

The people he meets in this new realm are exceedingly patient with him. There's a great deal of talk, most of which felt rather un-Biblical to me. It's not so much that anything said violates my understanding of Scripture but rather that I'm startled by the persistence displayed in bringing Tony around to the truth. Yes, God is not willing that any should perish, but on the other hand one's best hope of having God draw near is to diligently pursue Him first. Despite having run in the opposite direction for years, Tony now learns that "Love will never condemn you for being lost. But Love will not let you stay there alone."

To paraphrase and repurpose an oft-heard expression, he's not interested in salvation, but salvation is interested in him.

Up till this point, the story closely resembles my memory of Young's earlier book, The Shack . Some of the dialog in Tony's in-between realm felt tedious to me. Other reviewers disagree as to whether that part is preachy, but it's certainly didactic. But then the plot becomes more interesting. As the frustrated father of a disabled son, I liked Tony's opportunity to experience the life of a boy with Down Syndrome. And I truly enjoyed the sequences involving the nurse, Maggie, which brought to mind that classic Patrick Swayze film.

From that point on, I loved this book. I sensed the concept was challenging for the author to sustain, but he introduced enough changes and wrinkles to keep me guessing. The encounter with Bluster and Swagger and other personified forces made me wonder if Young had ventured all the way back to seventeenth century literature for inspiration. In any event, he engaged with me. I have my own "temple."

This was a very good book for me to encounter at this particular point in my own trajectory.

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Reading Progress

May 17, 2016 – Shelved
May 17, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
May 20, 2016 – Finished Reading

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