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The Ambition by Lee Strobel

Posted by Sherry on 6/13/2011 in Adult Fiction, Christian Fiction, General |

Nominated for the INSPY awards in the category Mystery and Thriller.

Written by the best-selling author of The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator and many other nonfiction books of Christian apologetics.

A legal/journalistic thriller in the tradition of John Grisham, with more emphasis on the journalism and on Christians in politics than Grisham’s books.

The Ambition is not a subtly nuanced novel about ambition and its insidious effect on the Christian believer. That’s there to some extent, but this is a thriller: lots of action, plot twists, intrigue, and corruption in high places. Strobel is not Grisham–yet–but on the other hand, Mr. Strobel’s first novel does deliver a readable story with interesting and unpredictable characters. Since my main complaint about Christian fiction is its predictability, the depth of characterization in what could have been a action-packed story full of cardboard characters was welcome. The mega-church pastor/protagonist is neither a saint without fault nor a hypocritical money-grubber, although he’s suspected of being one or the other throughout the novel. The cynical reporter is cynical, but not unlikeable, and he doesn’t have the come-to-Jesus moment that we tend to expect for this kind of character in a “Christian” novel. By the end of the novel, reporter Garry Strider may be a bit more open to considering the claims of Christ and the church, but that’s all. And it’s OK. Strobel has left room for these characters to grow and change and perhaps surprise us some more in another book. Or maybe we get to finish the story in our own minds, not a bad way to end a book either.

I have a couple of complaints. Pastor-turned-politician Eric Snow seems a a little too eager to jettison his association with the church he helped to build without adequate motivation. If he still sees himself as committed to Christ and to Christianity, no matter how rusty and secondary that commitment has become, would he really agree to not even set foot inside church after his resignation from the pastorate? And Garry’s girlfriend who has become a Christian is a little too didactic and too unquestioning in her immediate commitment to chastity. “Not to be unequally yoked” sounds perfectly reasonable to me since I’ve grown up in the faith, but I’m not sure it would be so immediately understandable to a new convert who has been immersed in our culture or to her boyfriend.

Those are minor points, however. For a beach read this summer, The Ambition would be a good pick. It’s well-paced, intricate, and unpredictable. Thanks, Mr. Strobel.

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