Review: This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Format/Source: ARC/From Publisher
Everyone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meets-someone-else’s-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David’s still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there’s one thing he does know for sure: The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels.
Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties in to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven…and they want David to do the same. David’s torn. There’s a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey—especially Bailey—in hope of salvation.
But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined… (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)
Not Really About Religion…
Being agnostic, I don’t really read religious books, at least not ones that are considered religious, I guess. But I love when books that have religious characters or themes also show the pros and cons of religion without getting preachy. I’ve been agnostic for a long time–no book is going to change my beliefs. But I can appreciate different religions for what they are, and I appreciate it when authors also recognize that religion is a personal thing, and don’t condemn their characters or hold them up on a pedestal for their religion or lack thereof.
And This Side of Salvation is one of those books. David is a Christian, and he isn’t ashamed of that fact. But he questions his faith when certain things happen, and although he continues to be a Christian, he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to all the things that certain people believe. He has a healthy dose of skepticism, where he questions things without following them blindly. And I think that’s smart. And although this book deals with religion a lot, it isn’t about which religion is right or wrong, nor is it really about faith at all. Sure, that’s a driving point to the plot and certain things that happen, but this story is more about David and his family and how they cope with loss. Some cope in a completely healthy, normal way, and others cope in a not-so-healthy way.
All the Aspects I Love…
Not only did This Side of Salvation have that kind of unbiased approach to religion that I appreciate, it also had all the other things that I simply love in books. There were parts when I laughed out loud, parts when I felt so horrible for the characters and their circumstances, and parts when I couldn’t turn the page fast enough. This Side of Salvation is filled with humor, pain, suspense, mystery, twists and turns, and redemption. I loved that this book was part mystery, part discovery of the human spirit. While David and his sister search for their parents, readers are delved into David and his family’s past, and discover the events that lead each member of his family to where they are now. The book is told from David’s point of view, but within the story we see each family member’s flaws and fears, their struggles to remain afloat in a sea of grief, and their attempts at breaking free from that guilt.
Jeri Smith-Ready gets some of my bonus points for the following reasons:
- A Lord of the Rings reference = 25,000 points
- A Harry Potter reference = 50,000 points
- I’m pretty sure there’s a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference in the Author’s Note at the end = 50,000 points