Reviewed by Lisa Lickel
Beyond the Farthest Star
by Brock & Bodie Thoene
"...a poignant and beautiful novel about dreams lost and found and how choices don’t have to be permanent."
Secrets and skeletons, dreams and dysfunction have nowhere to hide when a former boy wonder, preaching protégé and his family accept a last-ditch call to tiny little Leonard, Texas.
Adam Wells was groomed to be the next Billy Graham by his driven father. Maurene, whom he married right out of high school, and their beautiful daughter, Anne, who they welcomed later in the year, changed his life. Although not the Billy Graham of the next generation, Adam pursued his call to a church in Montana. Eventually he tore his wife and daughter away to a more prestigious church in California where a downward slide led to the inevitable pit at the bottom.
The book (the title of which refers to a time when Anne had been happy) begins with a scene introducing elements that take place near the end of the story.
Each member of the Wells family acts out his or her disappointment in self-destructive ways, and when Adam is desperate to stay in the pulpit upon being asked to leave his church, he moves his family again to Texas. As Anne tries to settle in to a new high school, she meets a group of boy wanna-be country singers and convinces them to try her heavy-metal punk music. The leader, Stephen, reaches out to the hurting Anne, encouraged by his grandparents who had raised him after his mother’s death. Another boy in the group, Kyle, is living a nightmare with an abusive father, and has only his best friend, Stephen, to lean on. When their relationship is threatened by Anne, Kyle also becomes desperate to keep Stephen’s attention and focus on his dream for the band.
Adam not only brings his problems with him wherever he goes, he also incites them. When he urges the community to set up a crèche at Christmas time on public property, a former senator finds his reason to jump back into the limelight. He burns the crèche and causes a media circus.
Adam is not the only one in turmoil. Maurene has received a message from a former high school classmate, Clayton, who claims to have business nearby and wants to visit. The whole charade turns on a dime when the shady Clayton shows up despite Maurene’s secretive warning telling him to stay away. The depth of his deception and Kyle’s despair come to a head on one explosive night before Christmas.
I could feel the movie reeling in my head as I read the novel. The Thoenes are long-time writers who expertly build character and setting upon turmoil and sensation so that I felt as though I was part of the story. The sympathy of both the good guys and the bad guys made me sorrow for all the broken families, and the rising tension kept me turning pages. Although the authors gave a hint at an outcome with their opening scene, I couldn’t tell exactly how the situation had developed until near the end.
General fiction in the manner of Lisa Samson’s family dramas, Linda S. Clare, or Cynthia Ruchti, Beyond the Farthest Star is a poignant and beautiful novel about dreams lost and found and how choices don’t have to be permanent.
Lickel lives in Wisconsin with her high school teacher husband in a 150-year-old
Great Lakes ship captain's house. She is active in more than one historical society,
belongs to writing and reading clubs and is the editor in chief of Creative Wisconsin,
the magazine of Wisconsin Regional Writers. A graduate of the Christian Writer's
Guild, she has written newspaper features and magazine articles, radio theater,
and authored several inspirational novels. Find her online at http://lisalickel.com,