Sunday, June 30, 2013

When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

It is hard to describe this novel. It is part parable, part fantasy, yet all drama.

Tom, a psychologist in the city, moves his family to a small town in the country. His daughter, Leah, is very shy and stutters and is alienated from others her age. She has an imaginary acquaintance, the Rainbow Man. He sings and reveals to her pictures she is to paint and people she is to see. When her first painting contains winning lottery numbers, the town adores her. But then succeeding paintings are not so uplifting and the town turns on her and her parents.

This novel has much in it to think about and discuss. There are the characters, like Reggie, the pastor who has devoted his life to his faith and ministry. He is angry that one would even think God might speak through an agnostic little girl. There is Barney who testifies God loves him when he wins the lottery but when his wife dies a few days later, testifies that God is cruel. There is Tom, Leah's father. He is a troubled man, unable to cure his own ills even as he helps others.

There are many questions originating within the storyline. When we say “God loves us,” what do we really mean? Does he love us when He has us win the lottery as our business is dying and medical bills are mounting? Does He love us when He allows your wife to die? Does God love us when we put in our coins of good works and out comes our reward? Does He love us when we put in the correct change but the machine doesn't deliver?

There is nothing like adversity to reveal the true character of people. And this hick town of Mattingly has it's share. A disgruntled Barney thinks about the “rottenness that lurked just beneath the goodness of his town.” (266) And during a town confrontation with Leah, “In that moment the townspeople's brittle facade of community and kinship was peeled back to expose the beasts that lurked beneath it.” (297)

There would be much to discuss about this novel. What does it mean to believe? Would God speak through an agnostic child? Are events planned by God and are they inevitable? What do we do when God acts in a way we were certain He would never do? What do we do with the mysteries of God that we do not understand? As Christians, should we deny or accept a move of God when it is foreign to our expectations? When we call something magic, what does that mean?

Coffey is a fine writer. This is a novel with a good story on the surface and many underlying truths and questions below. Not all of the Christians we experience are wonderful people. They are real, with faults and problems. And as is often the case with God, not everything is as it seems. As for Tom and so many others, I guess that is why they call it faith.

There are discussion question so this would make a very interesting book for a reading group.

Billy Coffey writes books that combine Southern charm with a vision beyond the ordinary. Billy lives with his wife and two children in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 330 pages. Check out the publisher's product page and watch a book trailer.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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