W. Dale Cramer, Author . Bethany House $12.99 (382p) ISBN 978-0-7642-2784-4

Deep in underground darkness, miners sometimes discover beautiful crystals in "bad ground." This lovely symbolism permeates Cramer's second full-length novel. The day before his mother's funeral, newly orphaned 17-year-old Jeremy Prine is given a letter in which she tells him, "When the time is right I want you to go find your Uncle Aiden.... You have something I couldn't give him, and he has something I couldn't give you." He hitchhikes to where Aiden, aka Snake, works a hard-rock tunnel south of Atlanta, and Jeremy manages to wangle a job. Cramer invites the reader into the life of the rock tunnel workers—hard-bitten, simple men with simple desires—as Jeremy wrestles with change, loss and becoming a man. Cramer (Sutter's Cross ) has a delicious way with a pen, whether he's crafting a lush Southern backdrop or offering glimpses of Jeremy's and Snake's interior lives. The sympathetic characters avoid the clichés so often found in CBA fiction, and Cramer somehow succeeds in making the horribly disfigured, hard-drinking Snake one of the book's most appealing characters. Rather than relying on the tired plots and settings often used in Christian novels, Cramer offers an unusual underground world that both repels and attracts the reader. Although a few scenes are too much of a stretch (Jeremy rides a deer; the miners have an encounter with Jimmy Carter), they are still engaging. With its notes of hope, humor and redemption, this delightful book exemplifies what good Christian fiction should aspire to. (July)

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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