I am not normally a reader of Christian Fiction, but having so enjoyed the last several books I have reviewed for Cross Focused Reviews, I was interested to read Run, River Currents by Ginger Marcinkowski. I really wanted to like this book. It is set in Canada, with two characters at work in the forestry industry, both things near and dear to my heart. The writing style was engaging and descriptive and it is clear in the first few pages that Marcinkowski does not fall into the trap so many Christian authors do, of making her protagonist unbelievably perfect. In fact, that is an understatement.
The book of Esther is unique in all the bible because God is never named in the entire text. While not being named, however, He is a very real presence throughout the story. Unfortunately, I am left feeling that Run, River Currents is the exact opposite. While God is mentioned periodically, He never actually shows up.
This is a very difficult book to read. It is the story of the sins of three generations told in such heart rending description that it occasionally crosses the line into sordidness. In succession, characters chose rebellion and selfishness, visiting their own suffering upon those who follow after, only to have those next characters make the same choices and mete out the same suffering. The hopelessness of the ongoing pattern of abuse and debauchery is made even darker when those who claim Christ are active participants. With only one exception, the characters who should have been the salt and light in the world of suffering, were, instead, just more open wounds of depravity,with no evidence of the redeeming work of Christ at work in their life at all.
In the final moments of the book there is a sort of redemption experience, but even here, God is not permitted to show up, or even speak. The character has an emotional and intellectual acknowledgment that what she is currently doing isn’t working so well, but she never encounters the God of scripture. She never cries out to Him, he certainly never engages with her and in the ultimate travesty of the book, we never get to see if her life changes. She has a semi-emotional, semi-self-revelatory experience and then the book ends. The only time that the opportunity comes to introduce God’s redeeming work and the story simply stops.
As a Canadian reading a book set in my home country (although not by home province) and among the forest industry in which my father and grandfather both spent their working years, I periodically came across mistakes that while glaring to me, would have been overlooked by most readers: the head of state is referred to as the Premier, instead of the Prime Minister, a character joins the Canadian army and is shipped to Vietnam (Canada didn’t send soldiers to Vietnam) and other things of the like. They were small inconsistencies, but I realized that the author must have been writing about a place she had visited, but in which she had never lived. As she wrote about the horse loggers and their interactions with the trees they cut, limbed, and dragged to the landing, I had the same experience: she had all the technical details down pat, but no forester I have ever known has ever seen, or smelled, or thought of trees in the way Marcinkowski describes.
I finished the book feeling emotionally battered and spiritually drained. I kept hoping to see the hope and beauty and grace that can only come from the Lord, and didn’t ever get it. In the end I was disappointed to realize that Run, River Currents was not a Christ focused book, or even a story of redemption. If I was given the opportunity to point out one thing to anyone who reads this book, it would be the lesson of Romans 8:28-30. The Lord is actively at work in and through all the events of the lives of His people, not just those things which happen after we have some sort of experience of “meeting Him.”