Tuesday, August 9, 2011

BookTuesday: Courageous

Today’s book?

Courageous by Randy Alcorn, based on the screenplay by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick. Here’s the cover and Amazon.com link:

Courageous: A Novel

To clarify (or unclarify): this is the novelization of the screenplay for the upcoming movie from Sherwood Pictures (Sherwood Baptist Church) that has the same name, Courageous. As such, it has a few automatic drawbacks. The author of the book, Randy Alcorn, is constrained to the vision and ideas of the screenplay. That’s not all bad, but it’s also not all good.

Within those constraints, however, here's a quick rundown on the book form only. I haven't seen the movie, though I likely will. In the interest of preserving suspense, I'm going to try very hard and dodge any form of spoiler in this review. Hopefully it doesn't come out too generic!

The book opens strongly, with one of the main characters returning to Albany, Georgia to work with the Dougherty County Sheriff's Department. He's immediately thrust into action to deal with a carjacking….his own!

The story then shifts to provide basic character establishment. Working through these opening chapters, I was pleased with Alcorn's treatment of the material. The interweaving of the personal lives of characters with their professional lives paced well. In talking with real law enforcement personal, it does seem that many law enforcement people have two families: the family at home and the family with badges. Alcorn depicts well the love that, though not always expressed well, exists in the main characters for both of their families.

The story, as a whole, was reasonably predictable. There are bad guys. There are good guys. There's a bad guy that realizes he should be a good guy, and a good guy that turns out to be a bad guy. There's chases, fights, life and death. It's a police story, and it plays out much the same as ordinary life: sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not.

However, this isn't written just to entertain. It's written to drive home a point. That point starts when a couple of the characters start to take their faith seriously: first at home, and then on the job. Alcorn does not play this for subtly or nuance, but comes straight to the point. It's a point worth coming straight to, as well.

The main story line moves at a good pace working towards the conclusion, which is good, because it is, as I said, predictable. Alcorn does not waste pages just to get you to the same point you knew was coming. This helps the book be a good read.

Within the main story, there are a couple of side lines introduced, including one that is abundantly clear about the power of prayer. Another is about teen love, another about bringing in new deputies to the sheriff's department.

In a bit of the small-town feel that this book reflects, one that it shares with the movie-making team, characters show up from both Facing the Giants and Fireproof. I didn't recognize anyone from the film Flywheel, but Sherwood and the Kendrick brothers apparently wanted to reuse a few familiar names. It wasn't bad to do, although it's not quite as well-played as the Pizza Planet truck or Ratzenberger's voice in Pixar films.

Finally, the book presents a well-harmonized racial picture among the main characters. I've been in small Southern towns all my life, and I've rarely seen the type of smooth relationships between races that appears in this book. I think part of that is the effort of presenting the "ideal" in a film and book intended to challenge men to be the ideal. What pleased me with this was that Alcorn did not fall into the trap of making one ethnic group always right and the others always wrong, though it was clear that the know-it-all, have-it-all folks had more to learn than some of the poorer folks.

A brief content warning: this books deals with some serious situations. It's not a fluff read, and should not have been. That being said, not all situations resolve happily. There's enough realism here to balance the idealism. Just be prepared. I'm certain the film will contain similar elements, so don't just blindly think this won't have tension.

I highly recommend this book.


Note: free book from the publisher in exchange for the review.

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