The following is a summary of This Side of Heaven by Karen Kingsbury from the Hachette Book Group website:
Annie Warren always wanted the best for her son, Josh. But years of failure and bad choices created a heartbreaking distance that has grown far worse since the day Josh was hit by a drunk driver. Now on medical disability, Josh has put his life on hold for years, waiting for the insurance company to send a settlement that never seems to come. Worse, he believes the story of a scheming woman who claims they have a seven-year-old daughter named Savannah. Despite the unlikelihood and complete lack of evidence, Josh dreams of being a father and is determined to one day claim the child. His family doesn't know the full story. They don't know what happened the night of the accident that was worth the chronic pain Josh suffers every waking minute, or that he is turning his life around. They haven't seen that Savannah's eyes are his, and they don't know how desperately the little girl needs her family. When the settlement that rightly belongs to Josh is threatened, Annie sets out to defend her son. But she might find a treasure more valuable than money, one she never expected, one that is the greatest gift her son could ever give her--THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN.
When I read this book I didn't realize that it is the third novel in the Cody Gunner series that Kingsbury has written. I did not read the first two books in this series so I can honestly say that I don't think that I missed out anything because of that.
This book starts out with Josh, who really seemed to give up on his faith a few years before, but has recently found it again after hearing the song, I Can Only Imagine. Josh has been living with chronic pain for a couple of years after he was hit by a drunk driver on New Year's Eve. One way that Josh can deal with his pain is knowing that he saved two young girls by putting himself in harms way that evening. He also looks forward to the day that he can prove Savannah is his daughter and fight for some type of custody arrangement for her.
Josh has made many bad decisions, as many of us do, before finding his faith again. As he grows more excited in his walk with God, he starts to attend church with his neighbors and opens up to some of his family members. His family seems to be too wrapped up in their own lives to appreciate how Josh has grown with the Lord. They don't even want to take the time to accept the fact that he actually may be the father of a little girl out there. Josh knows from the bottom of his heart that Savannah is his daughter, but his family cannot be brought to believe this.
As a believer myself, I really do enjoy reading Christian fiction now and then. The only problem that I have had with some of Kingsbury's previous work was that it just was not realistic to me. This book wasn't like that for me. This book was very probable for me as Josh had to live with his chronic pain, and actually was addicted to pain killers because of it. Even as he found his faith again he knew he had an addiction problem that he would have to deal with.
This book told me that we need to stop and listen to our loved ones, because someday they won't be there any more to share with us. Hold on tight to what our children and parents have to tell us now, because what may seem insignificant to us now, may be the most important thing in the world to them!
I love how Kingsbury took a popular song like I Can Only Imagine by MercyMe and integrated it into this novel. That really is a beautiful song and I remember when it topped the pop charts at the number one spot when it came out. If you haven't heard it I suggest you go to You Tube right away because it really is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I am sure that many Karen Kingsbury fans will love it. At the end of the novel Karen has an excerpt that explains her inspiration for this book, and it really is touching that she wrote this book from such a personal level. Book Critiques also posted a review of This Side of Heaven that you can see here. She is also having a giveaway for this novel. To find out more about Karen Kingsbury you can go to her website here.
In the genre of Christian fiction I am rating this book: 4/5