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The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher
by Rob Stennett

Reviewed by Eric Wilson

"Rob Stennett gives us an often witty expose, told in a tongue-in-cheek style that never comes off bitter-sounding."

It's about time we see some Christian satire hit the shelves. Since the days of Christian renegades Steve Taylor and Daniel Amos, there's been a gaping hole in the church world's willingness to take a few stabs at the troubles within. Rob Stennett gives us an often witty expose, told in a tongue-in-cheek style that never comes off bitter-sounding. Perhaps that's where others have failed to get their message across, but Stennett avoids that pothole and rumbles forward on his fictional journey.

Ryan Fisher is a real estate agent, an opportunistic American who sees dollar signs when he spots raised hands on a Christian TV show. What starts out as a means of improving his business turns into a whole-hearted, even somewhat good-intentioned, effort to start a church and help others. His wife, Katherine, is a skeptic to start, but begins to see the benefit of community in those around her. Despite her own issues, including the unfulfilled desire to have a child, she stands by her man as he builds a mega-church on self-help principles loosely based around the Word of God.

All of this is good clean fun, so to speak. My expectations were raised a bit too high by the earlier reviews, and I didn't find the story quite as laugh-out-loud funny or spot-on incisive as expected, but it was an entertaining and easy read. With the same sort of broad and wild shots that Max Barry took at globalization in "Jennifer Government," Stennett points out weaknesses in westernized Christianity. He never tries to make the story come off as believable--in fact, it is so farcical as to be quite the opposite at times--but the title itself reveals the "almost true" nature of his tale.

Despite my slight disappointment, I liked Stennett's free-wheeling writing style and his refusal to dip into cynicism. I look forward to his next title, and hope this is part of a Christian renewal in the arts, a willingness to examine ourselves and our intentions with a view to finding an answer and a hope.

Eric WilsonEric Wilson is the author of twelve novels that explore Earth's tension between heaven and hell, the latest of which is One Step Away, a twist on the story of Job. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two daughters. Visit him online at his website.