A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being given the book A Name Like Thunder, written by my friend Lee Goff. It’s the first book of the Thunder Trilogy, a series about God’s relationship with his modern followers. I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect. Because Lee is someone I’ve known for some time and have a lot of respect for, I was terrified that I wasn’t going to like the book and unsure of what I’d do should that happen. People who know me know that I have very demanding tastes when it comes to fiction and can be a real snob about reading. I don’t have much time on my hands to devote to reading, so if I’m going to read something I want to feel like it really adds something to my life. I have friends that read over a hundred books a year and I used to be able to read like that. These days, aside from schoolwork, I only have time to read about as many books as I can count on my fingers and I want each and every one of them to be memorable.
That’s why I was mortified when just thumbing through the book I saw grammar and punctuation errors. Those things are my kryptonite. I reminded myself that I really owed it to my friend to try to look past it and enjoy the read anyway, and I am oh so glad that I did.
As snobby as I am about fiction in general, I am even worse when it comes to things written by Christians. I don’t want to be preached at by anyone but my preacher, I don’t want to have someone else’s doctrine “snuck in” under the radar, and I really hate it when I can feel writers pulling punches and dipping what could be powerful moments into dopishly saccharine dialogue. There have been some books (especially the romances) where I found myself screaming “PEOPLE DON’T TALK LIKE THAT! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED! WHAT IF AN ANTHROPOLOGIST FOUND THIS BOOK AND THOUGHT THIS IS WHO WE REALLY WERE?” So when my dear Christian friend writes a novel, my first impulse is to never read it so I can keep on respecting him.
A Name Like Thunder is a different kind of Christian novel. The fact that it is written from a Christian perspective is undeniable from the first sentence- the story is introduced by an angel and each chapter is headed off by one of the angel’s dialogues. Yet the author focuses on telling a story instead of preaching to the reader. The story he tells is about a normal couple who have their faith tested by a string of circumstances. They make the kinds of decisions normal people make, doubt their faith, and doubt each other just like any other couple. I found myself very quickly getting attached to Len and Liz, the main couple. The fact that the story bounces around over the course of several years helped with that, as well as the fact that hanging in the background was the knowledge that a very physical and imminent danger was coming nearer. The truth is, the author is a masterful storyteller. He writes compelling and believable dialogue with characters that act as if they were culled from real life. The messages in the story- that couples were made to compliment each other, that life is precious, that God is waiting in the wings with your salvation if only you would ask for it, that your calling is not dictated by your righteousness in the moment but your ability to respond to God’s call- are all very apparent, but you aren’t beat up by them. The God that the author writes about is a God that is sadly overlooked in much of Christian dialogue. It’s a God that longs for the holiness of his servants and loves every life unconditionally and passionately, and longs to use even the most broken for His glory.
A lot of the writing reminded me of shades of Stephen King, if Stephen King were writing for a Christian audience. The characters love a good barbecue and they love to make love. Friendship is fierce and binding, and evil is most definitely evil. Even though not too much happens right off the bat you find yourself getting drawn in deeply, and once the story winds up for the end the book is almost impossible to put down. (As evidenced by my kids trashing the campsite while I obliviously held my breath and tried to read as fast as possible.)
I would even suggest this book for a non-Christian to read, as it might illuminate some things about faith and belief in God that you might not get anywhere else. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about A Name Like Thunder is the way it quietly defends the idea of a Christian who isn’t close-minded, bigoted, or insular. I would strongly suggest reading Lee’s books, or at the very least say hi to him on Facebook.
A Name Like Thunder gets 4.5 thunderous hurrahs!
***This review is not paid for, sponsored, or coerced in any way.