Thursday, July 25, 2013

Crossroads by William Paul Young - a Review

A sweet friend gave me a copy of Cross Roads last winter for my birthday. She and I shared an affection for The Shack, and she put Paul Young's new book in my hand hot off the press. It took me several months to read it, primarily because I didn't want to rush through this book in the busyness of the school year.

I read The Shack during it's infancy of fame, and after posting a review, Young endered me to himself when actually took the time to comment. Years later, my college roomie Jessica met him on an elevator and then heard him share his story in a small setting at the National Prayer Breakfast. I knew intuitively that Young must have endured significant suffering to be able to pen his first book. You can't write what you don't know. After Jessica relayed his personal story to me, along with his gracious, almost humorous responses to heavy criticism, I was even more endeared by the man. Similar to The Shack, Young's Cross Roads does not shoot for perfection or even a strict literary method, but instead offers up a creative, out-of-the-box view into sanctification and redemption. And ultimately, relationship.

I had no idea what to expect from Young after his mega-best-seller-controversial-for-uneasy-Christians- The Shack. Quite honestly, even if this second book was a total dud, I was proud of him for writing it. What new author, who engulfs the New York Times Bestsellers List with his first published work, would ever attempt another book? Talk about jumping in line for the firing squad.

Yet Paul (Willie) Young did just that. Even before cracking open the pages, what impressed me most about Cross Roads was Young's willingness to hand over his literary blood, sweat, and tears to a critical arena. But if there's one thing about writers, they write. And perhaps Young cares less about criticism and more about encouraging a thirsty population with his creative, encouraging stories.
Cross Roads certainly offers that.

What I loved:

- Obviously, first and foremost, Young's courage for writing a SECOND book after his first best-seller.

- An intriguing genre. Very much in line with The Shack. Because I am not particularly drawn to science fiction (Crossroads is the closest thing to C. S. Lewis' Space Trilogy I've read, which I didn't love, but the stories stayed with me) I am proof that the reader doesn't have to be the artist-type to be moved by this book. The strong characters and story line allow for lots and lots of creative, funky surroundings.

- Character development. Tony Spencer - an egotistical, seemingly ridiculous waste of a man, and yet I found myself cheering for him. Cabby - love this punkin. Papa God, Grandmother, Jesus... all of these men and women (and children) who represent the Trinity are creative, lovely portrayals of the real deals. As in The Shack, Young expands our view of God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. And how they all fit together. The results are tender, inviting, and mind-stretching.

- Young's allegory of Tony Spencer's land representing his heart (staying brief here so as not to offer a spoiler) - brilliant. What in the world would my landscape look like? So much of our internal maturity is just that - internal - not visible to our own view, much less to others. But to gaze out at a landscape and "see" the condition of our heart - gives us a vision for who we want to be, what kind of life we want to live, and that daily cultivating our hearts in this crazy life indeed matters.

My take-aways: 

- The gift of escaping into a good story. 

- A caution against assuming that my friends or loved ones who have neglected their harvest year after year, whose lives produce a "drought" at the end of their days, are beyond redemption.

- I both enjoyed and am encouraged by Cross Roads. I applaud Young in that the cumulative efforts of his writing, of his day-by-day discipline to frame his life and thoughts into story, will offer a beautifully cultivated landscape not only for his grandchildren, for whom it is intended, but to those of us who partake in the story.