Friday, March 21, 2008

J.M. Hochstetler's One Holy Night ~ Reviewed

One Holy Night
By J. M. Hochstetler
Published by Sheaf House
ISBN: 978-0-9797485-0-9

Back Cover:

As on that holy night so long ago ... in a world torn by sin and strife ... to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss ... there will be born a baby.

Frank McRae stared at the television screen, raw images of war exploding in his head long after the news had finally ended, replaced by an inane sitcom. The grainy black-and-white video of battle-weary troops slogging through the sodden rice paddies and shadowy jungles of Viet Nam ate away at his heart like sulfuric acid.

There was nothing left of his life now but the bitterness and the pain that were tearing him apart. The silence in this house that had once been a cherished home, rich with happiness and love, was deafening. Always another war. Always more purposeless killing, senseless dying, and fractured relationships that couldn't be put back together again. Where was God in all of this? What kind of God would tear from a man those dearest to him? The Bible spoke of a God of love and mercy, but for all Frank could tell, God remained indifferent to suffering. When one needed help the most, God turned his back. Surely the Bible was nothing but a hollow myth....

What Frank didn't know was that God had in mind a miracle. Once more, as on that holy night so long ago, a baby will be born and laid in a manger—a baby who will bring forgiveness, peace, and healing to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss.


Set in the sixties, One Holy Night offers so much more story than the title infers. Hochstetler's writing enables you to suspend disbelief and enter the 60's, that era of awakening from small-town innocence to the awareness all is not right with the world. The author is a master at building complex characters that will steal your heart. This poignant tale of forgiveness and healing is a far cry from predictable. And it definitely wasn't what I was expecting, but so much more.

It's a tale of Frank's family as they journey through sickness, unbelief and war. His son, Mike, struggles with not being there for his mom, Maggie, in her battle with cancer. Mike's letters from the battlefields in Viet Nam reveal some of war's stark reality. Big sister, Julie, shares her mother's faith along with her pastor husband, Dan, but despairs over her dad's lack and her brother's uncertainty.

The faith journey is a realistic one. I loved how Hochstetler portrays Julie questioning God. Too often writes give us plastic icons, bearers of strength and platitudes. Not so in One Holy Night. But how they deal with the hurt is something I could relate to. And isn't that what we want in inspirational fiction? I give One Holy Night a very high recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

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