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Monday, September 07, 2015

Once Beyond a Time, by Ann Tatlock

It was my privilege to recently read Ann Tatlock's Once Beyond a Time, which won the Christy Award (for books with a Christian worldview) for "visionary fiction." 

The book is unpretentious. It tells about a house, outside Black Mountain, North Carolina, and a family who moved there, mostly against their will -- the husband/father was a pastor who had an affair with his wife's cousin, and resigned the ministry, so the family, in some desperation, moved to this house. What about the house? People from different times can meet each other, and see and talk to each other, in the house. (They can't touch each other, or pass items between each other, or give away some kinds of information, between them,it turns out.) This is an unusual way of using fictional time travel.

I won't give away the plot -- there is one, believe me, and it will surprise you a few times.

The book is arranged as chapters, each one being the thoughts of one of the four people in the family. The chapters are dated, as events play out. All of the dates are in the 1960s, but sometimes a family member meets someone from 1916, or 2005, enough so that all of them come to believe that such cross-time conversations are possible.

The book portrays a gradual redemption, subtly shown, of the entire family. No one has a sudden conversion experience, or suddenly repents. It's more powerful for the subtlety. I believe that a non-believer might well enjoy the book without being turned off.

The setting is Black Mountain, a real place, and, I believe, one that the author is familiar with, but it could have been most any small town in 1960s America.

Thanks for reading. Read Tatlock.


FancyHorse said...

It sounds like an interesting book. I don't usually read fantasy style books, but I have read a few, and enjoyed them.

Martin LaBar said...

I guess it's a story about a family, with a fantastic twist, more than a fantasy story.