Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Sinner's Garden by William Sirls

Sirls writes what would be called “magical realism” in the secular market. I'll call it “spiritual realism.” There are the regular happenings of life in this novel and then some unusual happenings. God speaks to a teenager through an iPod. A garden of flowers, divided into four patches, mysteriously appears across the canal one day.

The story centers around Judi who had been an abused wife, her teen aged son Any who is facially scarred from a boiling water incident when he was a toddler, Judi's brother Rip who has recently finished his prison sentence, and Heather, Judi's good friend and Rip's one time girlfriend.

Rip's life was changed in prison. He found God there and now he is trying to do right by his life. His nephew Any is a cynical young man. He doubts God could really exist – not after what happened to him. He is cold toward his mom despite Judi trying desperately to reconnect with him. And hovering nearby is Heather, a policewoman. She still wonders about her father's murder. He was a policeman too and his death by shooting was never sufficiently explained.

When a mysterious garden appears near Judi's home, it seems to set in motion a series of changes in people only God could bring about. Andy begins to hear God speak through his iPod. Someone begins going through town, breaking into homes. But instead of stealing, the mysterious person leaves something the homeowner needs.

There is a bit of a mystery going on too. Andy, under the influence of God speaking through the iPod, says some confrontational things to a leader in the local church. And when Rip realizes what he has seen earlier, it looks like the mystery surrounding the murder of Heather's father might just be solved after all these years.

This was an interesting novel to read but I feel it had problems too. The “spiritual realism” sometimes seemed a little too quirky for a novel dealing with the issues of restoration, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Would God really speak prophetically through a teen who doubted His very existence? Also, the spiritual emphasis is on God, and nothing was ever said about Jesus. Some were admonished in the book to “believe,” but it was belief in God (in general) and not Jesus specifically. I think there could have been a clearer spiritual message in this novel.

I'm taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read additional reviews here.

William Sirls has known the ups and downs of life. Once a senior vice-president of a major investment firm, he was incarcerated in 2007 for wire fraud and money laundering. There he learned many more lessons than he ever imagined. He lives in southern Michigan. Find out more at

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 416 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book through the Litfuse Publicity Group for the purpose of this review. The views expressed are my own.

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