About the book: In the small Lake Erie township of Benning, someone is at work cultivating a supernatural garden . . .
Andy Kemp's young life has been as ravaged as his scarred face. Disfigured by an abusive father, the teenager hides behind his books and an impenetrable wall of cynicism and anger.
As Andy's mother struggles to reconnect with him, his Uncle Rip returns transformed from a stint in prison and wants to be a mentor to the reclusive boy, doing everything he can to help end Andy's pain. When Andy begins hearing strange music through his iPod and making near-prophetic announcements, Rip is convinced that what Andy is hearing is the voice of God.
Elsewhere, police officer Heather Gerisch responds to a late-night breaking and entering in one of the poorest homes in town. She soon realizes that the masked prowler has left thousands of dollars in gift cards from a local grocery store.
As the bizarre break-ins continue and Heather pursues the elusive "Summer Santa," Andy and Rip discover an enormous and well-kept garden of wildflowers that seems to have grown overnight at an abandoned steel mill.
Soon, they realize who the gardener is, and a spree of miracles transfigures this small town from a place of hopelessness into a place of healing and beauty.
Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/s9RuK
Meet the author: Over the course of his life, William Sirls has experienced both great highs and tremendous lows---some born of chance, some born of choice. Life lessons involving faith, grace, and forgiveness are evident in his writing. The Sinners' Garden is his second novel. His first novel, The Reason, was published in 2012. William makes his home in southern Michigan.
Learn more about William at: http://WilliamSirls.com
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First, let me begin by saying Mr. Sirls is a good, solid writer. You can't help but care for his characters and wish the best for a couple of them and want to smack some sense into them a few times. In his biography, he is very clear that he comes from a less than pristine background and it shows in his storyline, plot, and development. Using a Robin Hood type of hero, the reader is forced to wonder several things. Is it right for the Summer Santa to break into peoples' homes to leave them much needed gifts? Or should the police seek to apprehend this person who evidently wishes to harm no one and be a blessing to as many as possible while remaining anonymous?
While this story overall was very good, there were a couple of things I wondered about and struggled with. I realize that many, (dare I say most?) Christians seem to put God in a box and have Him dancing around on a string like a Marionette puppet instead of allowing Him to be the Creator like He is. This novel doesn't do that. The characters hurt; they cry, they struggle handling real situations in the right way, and to Mr. Sirls' credit, they don't always get what they want. A huge plus in my opinion. One of the main characters has been in prison and has turned his life around. Another main character receives messages from God through his iPod and relays them to others - some are happy about it, others not so much. Here's where I start to wonder about a few things. Would God give messages that could be construed as prophetic or judgmental to a boy who isn't even sure God exists let alone have a personal relationship with Him? A boy who, at the beginning is hateful and hurtful to his mother? Yes. This is fiction, and it should be read as such. But that really stuck out to me as off and I wouldn't feel right just saying, "hey, this book is a good read. You might enjoy it" to my reading friends.
The second thing that bothered me probably wouldn't bother as many people, so bear with me for a moment. The preacher in this book seemed to talk in circles most of the time instead of leading his members; perhaps because he didn't want to seem preachy? When I pick up a Christian fiction novel, I want to encouraged to be a better Christian. I've not found one that I've thought was too preachy, but I have found some where there needed to be more direction and leading. This is one of them. The way Rip interacted with Andy was good, that's not the part I'm talking about. I felt the preacher should have led his members a little more than he did. The most important message the book had - the part of being saved by grace - didn't roll around until almost the very end of the novel. I was disappointed in that.
Leaving book reviews is highly subjective. What one reader deems as a good book without flaws, another doesn't for various reasons. Mr. Sirls is a good, solid writer with a unique plot and storyline, and his characters are so real, they could be your neighbors. There is no swearing - another huge plus in my opinion. When Christian fiction starts sounding like all the secular books out there, I won't read them anymore. There are no sex scenes, and the novel is written in a clean manner by a man who has been on the opposing side. Kudos to him for that.
*My thanks to Thomas Nelson publishers for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required they be positive.*