2 out of 4 stars
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Eden and Gethsemane; the two gardens represent sin, suffering, redemption, and paradise. Redemption: A Tale of Two Gardens by Dr. Larry D. Black will appeal to readers who have wondered what it would be like to walk through Eden or considered how it must have felt to witness the prayers and betrayal of Jesus in Gethsemane. The well-known biblical gardens and the events that transpired in them serve as the basis for the present-day journey of Tim, a young man who struggles with his faith and self-worth and is at a crossroads in his life.
As someone who has often felt nearest to God in the garden and is also partial to stories of redemption, the book's title and synopsis ticked all the boxes for me. I absolutely loved the author's creative perspective of comparing the gardens of Eden and Gethsemane and establishing them as the foundation for a contemporary coming-of-age story. Likewise, I enjoyed the author's use of imagery to create beautifully picturesque gardens for readers to visualize being taken back to Eden and Gethsemane.
Unfortunately, the portions of the book that addressed Tim's background lacked authenticity compared to those featuring the garden scenes and the lessons presented in them. The author seemed more in his element expounding upon scriptures and spiritual truths, whereas his attempt to establish Tim's character fell flat. It often felt like I was reading content from two different authors. This was most evident in conversations which were extremely forced and stilted. Also, at times, the syntax was not realistic for the character's age. For instance, when Tim was eight, his choir director cast him as the lead in the annual Christmas production, and his response was, "Sir, I respect your judgment about stage productions and performers, but I am not the best candidate." I've had the pleasure of being acquainted with several respectful eight-year-olds, but this seems like an unlikely response from children of this age.
Without exposing any spoilers, as Tim's story unfolds, there are circumstances he must face from his past; the related storyline isn't remotely believable. I noted inconsistencies with the plot's timeline as well. For example, Tim mentions playing video games on an iPad at the age of six and posting videos on Musical.ly around the age of eight. Since Tim is currently twenty-two, the numbers don't add up; the iPad wasn't released until 2010, and Musical.ly wasn't launched until 2014.
Additionally, there were numerous editorial issues. I counted over twenty grammatical errors in the first four chapters of the book. At times, the narrative randomly switched back and forth from third-person to first-person narrative, which I found distracting. For all of the above reasons, I rate the book 2 out of 4 stars. Though a comprehensive edit is needed, it presents an imaginative perspective on redemption. A list of relevant questions for personal reflection is also provided. I recommend the book to readers who enjoy Christian fiction related to counseling and Bible study. Those who don't enjoy reading scriptures will prefer to pass on this one.
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