Cross Roads (Faith Words, $27.99)

by Wm. Paul Young

Tony Spencer is a selfish man who has burned every bridge he has found: marriages, business partnerships, family members. There is nothing left but miserable loneliness. But one night he is critically injured as a result of a brain tumour, and everything comes to a crisis point. As he lies prone on a hospital bed, Tony is confronted in an unseen inner world by Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and a cast of characters from C.S. Lewis to personifications of his own worst character traits. As Tony sees his own life from God’s perspective, he is standing at a crossroads: will he give himself over to participate in the loving life of the Triune God or will he resist?

This is the basic story of Cross Roads, the new novel by Wm. Paul Young, the author of the massive hit novel The Shack from a few years ago. Like that novel, this one takes us into hidden realms and dares to show us both what God is like and what it means to be in relationship with a God who is fundamentally relational. Like that novel, this one is intending to teach (or testify) as much as to tell a story. Like that novel, this one has its wooden moments (particularly in the dialogue). Like that novel, this one doesn’t major on character nuances. But like that novel, this one has a plot that keeps you turning the page to the very end: Jesus tells Tony he is able to heal one person. Will he heal himself or will he heal someone else?

In a way, it’s not really fair to call either of these books novels. They bear a literary resemblance to John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress. That is, they are aiming first of all to introduce their readers to the God whom they proclaim. Certainly, there is much that could be debated in these books (though Cross Roads is less concerned to shatter preconceptions and confront stereotypes than The Shack was). But if the point of The Shack was ultimately to demonstrate what it looks like for the Triune God to be relational, Cross Roads is an attempt to show what it looks like for salvation to be finally about participation in the life of God.

As Cross Roads motors toward its moving conclusion, we are drawn into the life of not only Tony but also the God who confronts him. This God is fundamentally loving, determined to overcome through mercy and grace rather than coercion. Through God’s love and light, Tony comes to see his darkness for what it really is: an illusion and a barrier, a prison and a lie. God’s open arms of forgiveness judge our sin more than punishment ever could.

However much Cross Roads does or doesn’t get things exactly as they might be, it is a basically compelling portrayal of God, and it will likely deepen the gratitude of any reader who has similarly been confronted by the grace of God in Jesus Christ and the freedom of the Holy Spirit.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.