cover image Wind


Calvin Miller. Bethany House Publishers, $12.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-7642-2362-4

Winter morphs into spring in this clumsy tale of Christian mercy, with the seasonal change calling attention to the personal transformations of two Depression-era Pennsylvania families whose cold hearts are thawed with winter's passing. Miller writes with a warm heart but a heavy hand, telling rather than showing his characters' metamorphoses. We meet Peter McCaslin, a hard and shrewd dairy farmer, as he sits in the Lutheran church of the book's opening scene, judging his neighbors (one ""owned too little to sit so near the altar,"" in Peter's opinion). Peter's sister Isabel is something of a town nutcase, spewing Bible verses and prophecies at unsuspecting townspeople (in one of the story's few refreshing stabs at humor, she often confuses her biblical verses with passages from Shakespeare's plays, which she enjoys because they're also in King James English). The tension between Peter and IsabelDwho each own half shares in the family farmDexplodes when she invites a vagabond family to live in the shed, hiring the man as a milker and paying his wife's medical bills. (The wife, romantically enough, is dying of consumption.) Miller makes some good observations about church-bred folks being too caught up in the trappings of their own piety to practice genuine Christian charity, but it's abundantly clear from his narration that it is his own voice speaking. Despite some promising moments in Miller's slight novel, his ""wind"" is a blustery gale and not a subtle zephyr. (Nov.)