Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Good Book from a Familiar Name

I have a book to tell you about that's generated a little bit of controversy in the reviewing community. But first of all, if you are not aware (I wasn't until I read the book; I've never been one to swoon over the latest Hollywood hunk), the youngest of the Baldwin brothers, Stephen Baldwin, turned his life over to Christ several years ago. I was so encouraged and blessed by his testimony here:

He has written a couple of books, and has just come out with his first novel, written in conjunction with Mark Tabb. Take a look at the info below and I'll discuss it and the controversy in my comments at the end.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips

FaithWords (November 5, 2008)


Stephen Baldwin
Mark Tabb


STEPHEN BALDWIN - actor, family man, born-again Christian - makes his home in upstate New York with his wife and two young daughters.

Equally adept at drama and comedy, Baldwin has appeared in over 60 films and been featured on such top-rated television shows as Fear Factor and Celebrity Mole. He has his own production company that is developing projects for television and the big screen. These days, however, his role as director, co-producer and host of Livin' It - a cutting-edge skate video is bringing out his white hot passion for evangelism.

Writer and communicator Mark Tabb calls himself an “internationally unknown author.” Although his books have been published around the world, he is best known for his collaborative works. His 2008 release, “Mistaken Identity”, written with the Van Ryn and Cerak families, hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list for two weeks, and remained on the list for over two months. He and actor Stephen Baldwin teamed up on their 2005 New York Times bestseller, “The Unusual Suspect,” and with their first work of fiction, “The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips,”


Even years of experience haven't prepared Officer Andy Myers for this case---

When Officer Andy Myers met Loraine Phillips, he had no interest in her son. And he certainly never dreamed he'd respond to a call, finding that same boy in a pool of blood. Even more alarming was the father standing watch over his son's body. Myers had never seen a man respond to death-particularly the death of a child-in such a way. When the father is charged with murder and sentenced to death, he chooses not to fight but embrace it as God's will. Myers becomes consumed with curiosity for these strange beliefs. What follows is the story of the bond these two men share as they come to terms with the tragedy and the difficult choices each one must make.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips, go HERE


This was a compelling book. The controversy stemmed from those two words above: strong language. Some were offended by it and felt it was unneccessary. Although I certainly don't enjoy such language, I felt that the authors were trying to realistically portray the life of a hardened and bitter police officer who becomes completely obsessed by the God-given peace of Gabriel's father. I also considered the types of individuals to whom Stephen Baldwin primarily ministers. To be honest, I don't think he wrote this to target the sweet blue-haired lady in the 3rd pew of the local church or the carpooling Christian mom. But the biker, the surfer dude, and the motocross racer with the tattoo just might connect with Officer Myers and be stirred by his transformation. It goes back to what I posted on Tuesday about Angela Hunt's novels and the desire to place them where they might be read by an unbeliever.

The publisher of this book released the following statement to the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance (CFBA):
Normally, it is not the policy of FaithWords to include foul language in our fiction titles. The Death and Life of Gabriel Phillips has dialogue which reflects the heart of the main character. His transformation and ultimate conversion to Christ throughout the book is key to the story and the author’s intention was to make that transformation clear. We apologize if this inclusion offends our readers. We are committed to publishing fiction that depicts the power of Christ’s love in even the darkest life and situation.

Just to ease your mind, the "strong language" warning might lead you to believe there are words in there that aren't! No f-words, the word cr-- is used instead of sh--; most of the cursing involves d-m-, h--l, and God's name, which of course is the most disturbing. I'm certainly not saying this doesn't constitute strong language (and I absolutely understand folks' sensitivities to this in a Chrsitian book) but channel-surfing on TV or a trip to a sports event can fill your ears with much worse. And reading it, I was able to skim over it and not feel as immersed as if I were sitting in the midst and hearing it.

It's a fine line, but sometimes I think as believers we can become a Christian version of David the Bubble Boy from the 1970's, insulating ourselves so much and being so horrified by anything "worldly" that we lose our ability to minister to the very ones we need to reach. Seems like Jesus Himself was criticized for hanging out with some pretty shady characters - I bet their language wasn't the best when they first started being around Him!

Read this book and decide for yourself. And then consider giving it as a gift to a tough dude (or dudette!) that wouldn't set foot in a church.

And if you disagree with me, that's fine, too! That's the beauty of grace and love among believers!

ADDENDUM - Please know that none of this is written in a dogmatic or harsh sense. I have struggled with this as well, and I certainly like staying in my cocoon! And this is a book for adults and not one I would give to my teenager without serious discussion. Thanks for listening to --er, reading!-- my thoughts.

Happy Thoughtful Reading!


View blog reactions


Mel said...

ohhhhh this one sounds good...i can see where the language might be controversial, but i also know many struggle with that issue.

Cathy Davis said...

I'm in - I work in a law firm and my bubble is constantly invaded by horrific language (who knew professionals had such bad potty mouths??)!! Also, my husband is a soldier and though he tried to tame his language, it doesn't always happen.

Thank you for delicately addressing the issue.

Glad you're doing better :-)!

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

I would be very interested to read this one...


Beverlydru said...

Great review. You expressed your thoughts beautifully. I'm not a little blue haired lady so I want to read this. : )

One of my problems with alot of Christain fiction has been it's often syrupy sweet and unrealistic. I think it's getting better.

boutcrazy said...

I loved his Livin' It stuff. He's trying to reach people where they are and show they where they could be. Isn't that what it's all about? Thanks for telling me about this book.

Lisa writes... said...

Oooooooh, I'm intrigued...

And I'm with Beverlydru: I have little patience for syrupy sweet, picture perfect, platitude permeated fiction!