Monday, May 04, 2009

Greg Garrett's Shame ~ Reviewed

Shame: A Novel
by Greg Garrett
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (May 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434767523

Book Description:

It's hard to appreciate the life you have when you're wondering about the one you might have had.

John Tilden's glory days are far behind him, and now it seems like all he has is the monotony of everyday living. He certainly thought there'd be more to it than his ramshackle Oklahoma farm and a mundane job coaching basketball at his old high school. He questions his fatherhood skills too: His oldest son won't speak to him, his younger son wants to quit the basketball team, and now his daughter wants to go out on dates. He loves his wife, but the marriage has settled into complacency.

With John's twentieth high school reunion approaching, he has agreed to play in an exhibition game with the old championship team. And his ex-girlfriend's back in town, newly single. What might have been now seems closer than ever.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Shame, go HERE.


I don't think my review can do justice to Shame. But I'm going to try. For starters, I was given the advanced reading copy via a pdf file and had to read it while attached to my computer. This is not my first choice, I like to be able to cradle a book and curl up wherever I chose. The computer is just not the same.

Even though this was an annoyance, I voraciously devoured this story.

The characters became so real to me that I wept. But before I wept, I wrestled along with the inner struggle of John, and the unknown that lay sprawled on his horizon and the ties that kept him at bay. There were moments, basketball details mostly, where I didn't hang on every word, but the struggles, the tension, the story of what-if and what-might-have-been and what's-the-point pulled on every one of my emotional strings leaving most of them taut and humming.

Garrett writes with poignancy and fluidity, words filled with visuals and other sensory experiences that paint scene after scene in the readers' mind. In Shame, he aptly tackles the common human conditions, the ones we all have to face, eventually. The things we try to medicate, drown, and subdue, the haunting specter of relationships and regrets, and the reality of whom we are being the sum of our choices.

Shame will be on my 2009 favorites list. Fans of authors like Tom Morrisey and Wally Lamb may want to look into it. Readers who can't handle slower moving narratives or introspection might want to read more reviews and a sample of the writing before purchasing. CBA only readers may balk at some of the scenes, this is PG-rated inspirational fiction. David C. Cook has been publishing novels that are real, gritty, envelope-pushing and thought-provoking, and they get a double thumbs up from me.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Bonus Review:

“…the past always seems to be sitting within easy reach of anybody that wants to pick it up.” (p. 30)

John Tilden is a character who chose to cling to his past and its mistakes, and he labored beneath the shame of his choices for twenty years, hence the title for Greg Garrett’s work – Shame. John Tilden is the main character and narrator of this story, and through his own mid-life crisis over “what could have been”, he explores his own thoughts and motives toward everyone in his life – his wife, his children, his sister, his parents – no relationship is left unexamined.

John is a farmer and a volunteer basketball coach living in rural Oklahoma. All outward appearances would indicate that even though he started his adult life on faulty premises, it would seem that everything has worked out just fine. On the inside, however, John labors beneath a load of guilt and shame that would crush anyone’s spirit no matter their circumstances. He doubts his faith, his marriage, his entire existence…and that, dear reader, makes for a dark story to read.

I think that Greg Garrett has explored something that is a real crisis for most people when they realize that they have in all likelihood completed at least half of their life here on earth. No one is free from regret or from wondering what their life might have been like had they made different choices. However, for those of us who have a personal relationship with Christ and walk with Him through every life circumstance, I think that there is always peace and assurance that we are not alone, and there is strength to lean upon when doubt, temptation and shame come knocking. John Tilden seemed to be lacking in this very vital area of his heart, and thus his story was difficult to endure.

The author chose to allow his characters to take the Lord’s name in vain some eight or ten times throughout the story which, while believable for the characters, was not something I’d expect to find in a story of faith. And while the end of the novel wasn’t completely devoid of hope, it did not ring true to me. The main character, John Tilden, never once displayed any true faith in Christ and His power to redeem his past or his future, so I find it hard to believe that he would face his future with anything remotely resembling hope or thankfulness. Perhaps the fact that he did eventually gain some perspective on his life was the only tiny evidence of faith or redemption at all. Overall, I felt no more hope for him at the end than I did at the beginning.

This was a dark emotional book to read, and I’m glad I no longer have to endure the regrets and shame of a man who refused to grow up. The message of this book portrayed an impotent God who is powerless to save and redeem, and that is a lie that ensnares many lives today. When reviewing Christian fiction, I prefer the story to reflect the truth of God's redemptive power and not a "higher power" that sits in heaven saying "hang in there.” I find little to recommend here.

Reviewed by: Kim Ford

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