Up Close and Personal (by Jeff Lucas)

I’ve enjoyed Jeff Lucas’s non-fiction writing for some years now; he’s an American Christian who writes with humour and irony, asking thought-provoking questions and encouraging people to take God seriously. I read his first novel ‘Helen Sloane’s Diary’ a few months ago, and while it took me a while to get into it, I found it thoughtful and interesting, and enjoyed it more as I got into it.

So now I’ve just finished reading ‘Up Close and Personal’, which is the sequel. It is even subtitled 'What Helen Did Next' (evidently a parody on the classic 'What Katy Did Next'). As such, it is definitely best to read this after the first book, as it follows directly on; many of the same characters are included, and we learn more about Helen’s pain and slow recovery from the traumatic and shocking event that formed the climax of the first book.

In this novel, which again is written in diary form, Helen has to deal with her two closest friends getting married, her pastor and his wife moving away, and being on the selection committee for a new pastor. She also has to deal with an ex-boyfriend who has come back into her life, with a girl she visits as social worker, and also with a new and rather attractive surfer who she spots at the beach…

I found myself believing more in Helen this time rather than feeling as if the book was penned by a man (although, of course, it was). I didn’t plumb any depths of emotions with her, and I didn’t laugh out loud, but I enjoyed visiting her home and church again, I appreciated the irony in some of the caricatures, and I was pleased that there were so many plot resolutions to threads that were opened in the first book.

I read it over just a few days, finding it quite difficult to put down at times. I didn’t find it particularly thought-provoking, but it was, on the whole, an encouraging read about realistic Christians expressing doubts as well as faith, in an often difficult world.

Recommended, but only if you’ve previously read ‘Helen Sloan’s Diary’. Note that while the Amazon links above are for the paperback editions of this book, it is also available in Kindle form.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews

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