For years the Vreelands had struggled financially. Each day they faced new challenges from trying to scrape together gas money to shuffling bills to pay their mortgage. Even though they were poor, their faith in God remained strong and their family was happy. However, at particularly challenging times, Sara Vreeland couldn't help but wonder what her life might be like had her wealthy fiancé not been killed? She's about to find out. In a twist on the story of Job, One Step Away is a very enjoyable novel, but quite different than Eric Wilson's previous books.
It took some time for this story to win me over. First off, I wasn't expecting a very CBAish book. All of Wilson's previous books have been of the edgy, supernatural, suspense/mystery variety, with complex plots, subtly incorporated spiritual elements, deeply flawed characters, and dark, haunting storylines. This book is not like that. It has flawed characters, but not in the way I expected and the suspense takes some time to really build. In a backdoor sort of way it's dark and turbulent, but on the surface, it's rather mild and somewhat mundane particularly in the early chapters. However, the plot does shift after the Vreelands receive their money and the characters develop a nice complexity that make them more relatable and a lot less irritatingly perfect.
The biggest difference between One Step Away and Wilson's previous original books is the very Christian feel (like the novelizations of the Kendrick brother's movies). The spiritual elements are many and on the surface. While this isn't my preferred way for authors to handle themes, it worked exceptionally well for this book. However, I don't agree with all the ideas presented; there were several parts that made my blood pressure rise exponentially. While the presentation is skewed so that hopefully the reader realizes the preacher is full of crap, the teaching he offers is so incredibly prevalent within the church I wish it would have been out right refuted. Very few things make me more irritated than health and wealth gospel or the notion that someone's spiritual condition is tied to their financial well-being or (my personal favorite) someone's financial status is determined by the quantity of their giving. Though the Vreeland's pastor is well-meaning, because of his teachings I continually want to see this godly family find another church. Then again, Job had his well-intentioned, but wrong advisors as well.
Since the first half of the story sets up the family's strong faith, it's loaded with Christian living lessons. It does a nice job of establishing the family's personality and dynamics, but it lacks believability. Sara's husband, Bret, was way too good to be true and the kids, well, I can only dream mine would be as attentive and perfectly behaved. Perhaps I'm jealous, but I've yet to be around a family who was that together. Sara was the most believable of the group, but I found her personality to be a little grating and perhaps saw a little bit more of myself than I liked.
However, after the family received their money, I found them much more realistic. They faced difficulties other than just financial and it gave the reader an opportunity to see how they handled each new obstacle--sometimes they made godly decisions sometimes not so godly. Either way, it's in this part of the book that I became engaged in the story and started to care about the family.
It's also in the second half of the story that the mystery and suspense part starts to develop. From the beginning, there is an antagonist lurking in the background and while he's obviously stalking the family, the circumstances are fairly hazy. I was pleasantly surprised to see this part of the book come alive and in the end turned out to be excellent.
I enjoyed this twist on the story of Job, particularly the scenes between God and Satan. I would have liked to have heard God's words to Satan (and the Vreelands) following this challenge, but alas the reader is left to decide that on their own. Though I missed the complexity of Wilson's previous novels and definitely the historical elements, for a straight-up Christian fiction, One Step Away is very good. I do look forward to another gripping, dark, edgy story from Wilson, but in the meantime, this is a great fix.
Review title provided courtesy of Bay Forest Books.
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About the reviewer
Melissa Willis (MeliWillis)
A little bit about me. I read primarily Christian fiction. My favorites are suspense, with supernatural elements always being a plus. I most enjoy books that will keep me thinking well after I'm done … more
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Bret and Sara Vreeland have been targeted. Someone has plans for them, a plot that reaches into their past and threatens their future.
When one of Sara's patients dies, a mysterious old man, he leaves his fortune to her and her family. They have no idea they are part of an experiment. Satan once tested Job through trials, but failed to break him. Now Satan has sought God's permission to test the Vreelands with a $6,000,000 blessing.
As their lives take turn for the better, will their souls take a turn for the worse?