Author: Chris Fabry
Publication Date: 2010
**Special thanks to Glass Roads for providing a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.**
Almost Heaven is a good read, but not an easy one. Prepare your tissue box. Billy Allman can make radio equipment out of spare parts. He is a talented mandolin player who uses his skill to comfort his mentally ill mother. Billy’s life is interspersed with so much sadness, like bluegrass music itself. It is a hauntingly beautiful tune, the homesickness and sorrow singing through the novel. At times I really wanted to put this novel down, because of the constant trials of the main character. But I kept reading because of beautiful language such as this:
“I believe every life has hidden songs that hang by twin threads of music and memory. I believe in the songs that have never been played for another soul. I believe they run between the rocks and along the creekbeds of our lives. These are songs that cannot be heard by anything but the soul. They sometimes run dry or spill over the banks until we find ourselves wading through them.” (Fabry, 3).
The characters were portrayed very realistically. I can picture Billy Allman as a neighbor. I hurt deeply with Billy as he went through seemingly endless trials with unbelievable strength, but was brought to his knees by a painful secret from his past that he had never dealt with. In the end this book is a tribute to the ordinary lives of everyman in small town America.
It is also a portrait of the spiritual battle that goes on in the heavenly realms over each individual. Interspersed throughout the book were chapters by an angel who is sent to protect Billy. I was not sure what I would think of this, it was dealt with biblically. However, much of it seemed to be sermon and I would have preferred if the author had left out these sections.
All in all, Almost Heaven is an engaging read with characters that grip your heart long after you put the book down. I am now anxious to read June Bug after being introduced to little Natalie on the radio. In a few pages, Natalie has already grabbed my heart.