cover image Dana's Valley

Dana's Valley

Janette Oke. Bethany House Publishers, $11.99 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-7642-2451-5

Bestselling novelist Oke is a mainstay in the Christian fiction market but, unfortunately, this newest offering, coauthored with her daughter, falls flat, despite a promising plot. Dana, a young teenager, is diagnosed with a terminal illness and her solidly Christian family deals with the resulting turmoil. Oke and Logan make a noble attempt to show that Christian families don't always enjoy rosy lives in the midst of suffering and affliction. A teen son strays, a younger child feels neglected and a sister struggles with bitterness toward God. Yet despite chapters of narration describing the family's daily life before the cancer wreaks its havoc, there is little character development. The book is wooden where it has the chance to evoke deep emotions. For example, when the siblings wait at the house for the call telling them Dana's bone-marrow transplant surgery is completed, sister Erin notes, ""We were all a bit anxious."" No kidding. There are a few sweet moments, including one in which Dana's little brother, Corey, chooses a spot for his tree where she can see it from her window. However, everything is wrapped up quickly, neatly and unbelievably in the end. After pages of bitterness over her sister's disease, we see the younger sister's attitude toward God changed in a few paragraphs. This passionless story falls short of other titles in Christian domestic fiction, including Oke's own work. (Apr.) Forecast: Oke's books have sold more than 20 million copies to date, so this will surely enjoy strong sales among her many fans. New readers, however, will likely be disappointed, and lackluster reviews won't drive many to the book in any case, hobbling the crossover ambitions for this one.