Reviewed by Sheryl Root
A Bigger Life by Annette Smith
"...an amazingly well written story."
The trademark of well-written literary fiction is compelling characters whose struggles, both internal and external, truly become the story. After reading A Bigger Life, I’ve added Annette Smith to my list of favorite authors in this genre that already includes Charles Martin and Lisa Samson. This is an amazingly well written story, and if I hadn’t known better I would have thought the author was male, since Annette writes Joel’s first person point of view so naturally.
Joel Carpenter has a good life—a wife he loves, a job he enjoys, and a baby on the way. While their marriage has been going through some stressful times with his wife, Kari, attending nursing school, Joel is confident their marriage can withstand it. When Joel makes a poor, careless choice, the results of that choice end his marriage. Now he finds himself a single dad, sharing custody of his three-year-old son, Colton, with Kari.
Joel has never stopped loving Kari, and would do anything to make things up to her so they could be a family again. They have managed to be polite friends for Colton’s sake since both want their son to feel loved and secure. However, the devastating news Kari receives that becomes the catalyst for change in their relationship is not what Joel wanted. As both Joel and Kari walk through the challenging times ahead with the help and support of their friends, they each begin to understand the true meaning of love and forgiveness.
The large cast of secondary characters include Abe, Joel’s co-worker and friend who is on a spiritual and marital journey of his own; Sean, a recovering alcoholic whose wife recently ran off with the youth pastor from church; and Alice, a hair client of Joel’s who is a nice Baptist lady in her forties. Each person contributes something special to Joel’s life, and all are written with wonderful depth and authenticity. No cardboard cutout characters here!
To me, what puts Annette in the same category as the above mentioned Samson and Martin, is how each writes such realistically human characters, full of sin and weakness, yet never fails to weave a thread of faith, hope and grace throughout their stories. This is what allows them to tackle difficult topics such as divorce, addiction, and serious illness, while leaving the reader, after turning that last page, with a feeling of hope rather than despair.
I find it very difficult to believe that Annette has written several books before A Bigger Life and yet this is the first I had heard of her writing. I plan on making up for lost time. Her previous Ruby Prairie series has now been added to my to be read list, and I certainly hope there will be more books from Annette to look forward to in the future. Run, don’t walk, to the bookstore to pick up a copy of A Bigger Life. You won’t be disappointed!
Sheryl Root is Partner Database Manager at OneHope, a non-profit organization whose mission is to reach every child with God’s Word. She’s also a writer and a reader of everything she can get her hands on … books, blogs, magazines. In other words, she’s both a data geek and a book nerd. She loves to be able to support Christian authors and spread the word on great books and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, a wonderful community of published and yet to be published writers. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sheryl_Root.