The eight-million-copy nonfiction bestseller The Prayer of Jabez has spawned shameless imitations, thoughtful rebuttals and now this: a forgettable novella about the Bible's "Little Big Man" and his prayer. Beginning with the Old Testament verses that make up "the prayer," Lemmons fills in some of the blanks about the life of this once obscure, now popular biblical figure. Jabez, or "Pain-boy" as other boys jeeringly call him, is confused about his place in the family unit. "How does a boy know when he is the cause of pain?... How can he understand why his presence is a wrongness, a hurt?... so often when I heard my name in the mouth of someone who knew me, the wrongness slapped at me," Jabez muses. He petitions the God of Israel with his deepest longings and desires. After a shaky start, the writing is reasonably sound; however, the pace is plodding, and most of the characters are as bland as tapioca pudding. Readers who see "the prayer" as a prosperity gospel will be intrigued that Jabez does not end up with great wealth; he's just happily married and self-sufficient. Coincidentally, Lemmons has written extensively for Multnomah (via the Daughters of Faith series), which published The Prayer of Jabez. Not so coincidentally, the trim size for this hardcover novel is similar to its megaselling nonfiction cousin. (Nov.)
Forecast:Christian fiction is hot. The Prayer of Jabez is sizzling. Whether a hybrid of the two will enlarge anyone's sales territory remains to be seen.