Just Shy of Harmony by Philip Gulley


Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

4 Stars

Illustrated book cover has a warm tint and shows some streets, hills, and townsfolk in a small townJust Shy of Harmony by Philip Gulley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description: Sam Gardner’s second year as minister in quaint and charming Harmony, Indiana, is fraught with trials and incidents, a crisis of faith, a marital catastrophe, and a church elder’s ill-hatched scheme to scramble scripture with eggs.

My thoughts: This second book in the Harmony series is another entertaining read that weaves in comedy as it addresses an assortment of serious issues. I’d say the novel likely has as much humor as the first.

(And it was a smart move to switch to third-person narration for this book. Sam’s first-person narration in the previous book was all right in the scenes involving him, but it didn’t make sense that he somehow had the omniscient knowledge to also narrate the scenes about the other townsfolk’s lives.)

Granted, given my frame of mind, I didn’t chuckle as much this time, what with my frustration with several of the characters. It’s a laughable but crying shame how much the satirical picture the author paints does indeed reflect the church—how certain professing Christians, confident that they’re doing great services/favors for the Lord, have really just made a religion out of being indifferent, ignorant, or straight-up horrible to other people, in the (misappropriated) name of “righteousness.”

Eeesh. It was an utter relief at one point to finally encounter a little compassion and kindness from a particular cluster of characters.

Now, in light of one repeated idea in a main thread of the novel, I just gotta give my take: If you’re dealing with a crumbling marriage, you don’t try to rebuild it because “you owe it to the kids.” Kids, even as important as they are, are third parties. They aren’t the basis of a marriage relationship. The kids didn’t make the marriage vows and sign the marriage license or contract, and in a few years, once they grow up and go off to lead their own lives, you’ll be left with the person you’re married to. Hence, if you’re looking to heal your marriage at the root, you and the person you’re married to should be the two key people you’re doing it for.

Also in light of the story, I’d say similar sentiments can apply if you base your relationship with God on third parties. But anyhow.

Having the chance to process some frustration may be the reason I actually enjoyed this book as much as the first. Fiction serves various purposes, after all. I’m looking forward to continuing the series.

Here’s my review of the next book in the series, Christmas in Harmony.

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