Almost Friends: A Harmony Novel
Philip Gulley, Author . Harper San Francisco $18.95 (216p) ISB
Perhaps no author can spin a good smalltown church tale as humorously as Gulley, who has been justly compared to Garrison Keillor for his dry wit. This latest installment in the Harmony, Ind., series is no exception, and it's populated with the characters that series aficionados have come to appreciate. A storm is brewing in Harmony, and pastor Sam Gardner, although on sabbatical, is right in the center of it. Caught in the controversy is seminary student Krista Riley, who is filling in for Sam and rumored to be gay. Leading the charge against her is Dale Hinshaw and spinster Fern Hampton, two members of Harmony Friends whose controlling ways will be recognizable to anyone who ever attended a small church. As the conflict heats up, Sam, battling jealousy over Krista's popularity with some church members (and in fear of losing his job) initially fails to stand up for his interim minister. Gulley's strong message about gay acceptance in the church may feel didactic to more conservative Christians looking for a good story, but is in keeping with the message of tolerance found in his previous books. Occasionally, a character is overdrawn, but this is nonetheless a delightful return to Harmony.
Reviewed on: 04/17/2006