cover image The Storytellers' Collection: Tales of Faraway Places

The Storytellers' Collection: Tales of Faraway Places

Melody Carlson. Multnomah Publishers, $16.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-1-57673-738-5

Since the Christian fiction market is sorely in need of a good short story collection, it's especially disappointing that this set, featuring some of that market's most popular novelists, falls flat. The series opens with Jerry Jenkins (of Left Behind fame) offering a didactic two-page vignette that's not even fiction; one wonders why editor Carlson chose to begin so inauspiciously. The stories are ""tales of faraway places,"" many of which recount Christian life in foreign lands. In ""Is This the Day?"" Randy Alcorn seems more intent on educating American readers about Christian persecution in the People's Republic of China than he does with telling a memorable story. Angela Elwell Hunt, who recently won a Christy Award for apocalyptic fiction, also wields a heavy-hitting agenda in ""The Farthest Country,"" which depicts representatives of heaven and hell as dueling real estate agents who attempt to convince an elderly man to reserve an eternal condo with their ""landlords"" (God and Satan). The collection's best work comes from award-winning Anne deGraaf, who, unlike many of the other contributors, has spent significant blocks of time in the cultures she writes about (Eastern Europe and Africa). Sharon Ewell Foster, Robert Elmer, Athol Dickson and Liz Curtis Higgs also offer above-average tales, all concerning young women coming of age and coming to terms with cross-cultural ambiguities. Despite these more memorable yarns, however, the collection as a whole falls victim to its determination to privilege moral lessons over good storytelling. (Sept.)