Reviewed by Heather R.
A Mile From Sunday by
"Jo Kadlecek has created a wonderfully real character that readers will want to follow anywhere."
Meet Jonna Lightfoot McLaughlin, religion reporter for the Denver Dispatch. With her many-faceted personality that lives up to her Christian, Native American, and Irish name, McLaughlin's wry yet hopeful take on religion's place in modern life is realistic and refreshing. Though she's always on the lookout for good news about the Good News, the religion beat often disappoints her with not just bad, but really bad news. Is this totally unexpected however? As C.S. Lewis reflects in the novel's opening quote: "Of all bad men, religious bad men are the worst."
Writer Jo Kadlecek explores this phenomenon of religious bad men in the first book in her Lightfoot Trilogy from NavPress. Called "A Mile from Sunday," this chapter in McLaughlin's life takes place in the mile-high city, which is the perfect place to explore religion with Denver's eclectic mix of New Age crystal gazers, Buddhist longsufferers, and Christian do-gooders. McLaughlin has lots of material for her beat, but Jonna is much more than Kadlecek's philosophical mouthpiece; she's a fun, mixed up, sincere, and intelligent twenty-something reporter with equal amounts timidity and boldness that keep her safe and serve her well in the sometimes dangerous world of religion reporting. She's also the youngest sister of brothers Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and the child of spiritually seeking parents who ended up in the fold of Jesus - and named their offspring accordingly.
Jonna manages to find good and bad news in her city and reports on both - though of course it's the really bad story that gets Page One coverage and an ongoing series that catches the eye of a big city New Orleans editor. But her thorough investigative reporting manages to expose the sad secrets behind Into the Fields Fellowship and its warped way of fulfilling its promise of "a place to belong." Meanwhile back at the office, Jonna keeps receiving calls from God. Her soothing and solid editor, Skip, tells her to bring in the police, and as the plot thickens, she's glad she did. And on the other side of town, a Catholic lawyer dreamboat is running a center for kids that gives Jonna the good news she's after - professionally and personally.
Kadlecek fills Jonna's life with fascinating stories and equally compelling characters, and brings all these elements together in surprising yet satisfying ways. Readers will be alternately afraid, amused, and alarmed but always entertained by Jonna's unpredictable life. And to think this is just the beginning. In "A Mile from Sunday" we get to know oldest brother Matt in Denver. In the second book, "A Quarter After Tuesday," we'll follow Jonna to New Orleans where brother Mark lives nearby. Kadlecek promises that Book Three takes Jonna to New York - and what are the odds that we'll meet brother Luke there?
In any case, Jo Kadlecek has created a wonderfully real character that readers will want to follow anywhere. Religion reporting never looked so good.
Heather R. Hunt is a business editor in Connecticut. For fun she reads, writes, cheers on the Red Sox, and enjoys tennis and cycling. She also co-leads a local tea party and enjoys holding government officials and media outlets accountable. Check out her blogs, The View from Stonewater and Connecticut for Sarah Palin.