cover image The Celebrity

The Celebrity

Robert Elmer. Waterbrook Press, $16.99 (304pp) ISBN 978-1-57856-741-6

In his sophomore novel, Elmer's enjoyable writing bumps up against a far-fetched plot, lessening the impact of his explorations of identity and God's faithfulness. Jamie D. Lane is a hot celebrity singer who is in the midst of the proverbial burnout and emptiness. When Jamie's mother dies, he slips away in disguise to take her ashes to her small hometown of Riverdale, Washington. There he meets Anne Stewart, a brain injury victim whose dicey memory and physical disabilities cause her to struggle with teaching her small Christian junior high school English class. Jamie, posing as ""Joe Bradley"" (think Roman Holiday), bunks at the local monastery and works a shift at Anne's family's doughnut shop. Soon, ""Joe"" finds himself playing piano for the school's drama production of Bye Bye Birdie while falling for Anne. He also uses his wealth anonymously to give various organizations exactly what they need, creating a mysterious ""Riverdale Angel."" Elmer (The Duet) pens some charming moments (including a doughnut scene that intentionally hearkens back to the children's book Homer Price). But Jamie's predictable crisis of identity has a been-there, read-that feel to it (""Where did I come from? And where do I really belong?""). Anne's physical infirmities are a welcome relief from the beauty of most faith novel protagonists, but the romance never really catches fire, and Elmer's competent writing can't overcome the cliched plot.