Bill Myers, Author . Zondervan $12.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-310-23

This wonderful novella by established Christian writer Myers (Eli) is a sweet and salty story of a pastor struggling to reconcile his faith with the possible loss of his daughter to cancer. The characters are convincing and deftly developed in a series of brief vignettes. Pastor Paul Newcomwaits to hear if his 17-year-old daughter, Ally, will survive a critical attack. In his fear and anguish, his mind wanders back over her life from willful infancy to an even more stubborn adolescence. Any parent will warm to the humorous reminiscences and the loving exasperation of this father for his strong-willed daughter. Myers avoids cloying sentimentality and weaves a marvelous parallel story to the fishes and loaves miracle from the Gospel of Mark. The novella has one serious flaw, however: according to the author it is "inspired by" O. Henry's short story entitled "The Last Leaf." In fact, it has the same essential plot elements of the Henry tale. But Myers lacks the powerful economy of Henry, who ends with a moving climax and allows the great atoning act of the story stand alone. Myers weakens the power of this climax with complicated description and by spelling out the moral. To those familiar with Henry, the novella will be predictable and will lack dramatic tension. Others will better enjoy the compelling characters and fresh, vibrant anecdotes of one family's faith journey. (Sept.)