Author:  Joseph F. Girzone
Title:  Joshua’s Family
Publisher:  Doubleday

What if Jesus had been born and raised during this generation?  What if an 11-year-old boy moved into a run-down house in the U.S. with his father, a master carpenter, and his mother, a homemaker, and started to make friends?  Playing baseball, he would show his peers true sportsmanship.  He would know the best places to fish and, to his surprise, do miracles, like turning water into wine.  And, of course, he would make ponderous observations about issues like the war, drugs and prayer in schools. 

Jesus, in a modern-day setting?  You decide.

A retired Roman Catholic priest who lives in Albany, N.Y., Joseph Girzone self-published his first book, Joshua, which caught the attention of the publishing world when it began to sell, and soon became a franchise.  This is an extremely rare phenomenon, but it does happen.  Unlike Peter Mayle (A Year in Provence) or Chris Rose (One Dead in Attic), who won the Pulitzer for his chronicles of Hurricane Katrina, Girzone’s success had nothing to do with his writing, however.  While these authors excel at the written word, Girzone’s prose is remedial at best.  It’s hard to understand how he even got published (except that they clearly wanted to cash in on the phenomenon). 

Just as it was in his previous books—yet far less compelling here—Girzone’s dialogue is awkward.  Children talk like adults—uncomfortable, self-conscious adults with little social skills.  His characters are stick figures.  Consistencies and repetitions abound, as do typos (for which Doubleday editors have no excuse).  Many of the plot points are also clichéd and extremely unbelievable.  Aspects of Joshua’s theology will be questionable for some.

But this doesn’t mean you won’t like the book.

Years ago, I remember being enthralled by a prolific Christian novelist.  Her books were informative, fast-paced, and enjoyable, and I was always impatient for each new book in the series to be published.  I purchased them all.

When a friend scoffed at the author’s “poor writing,” I was confused.  I flipped through my collection, but couldn’t understand what he was talking about.  The books taught me.  They ministered to me.  They encouraged me.  They were great!  Which is why I carted them from London to Vancouver then on to New Jersey, Atlanta and finally, to Southern California.  Throughout that decade, I honed my own writing skills, became an author and devoured as many books as I could, in order to learn from the masters.

Recently, I recommended those Christian novels to a high school senior.  Before handing them over, I leaned back and read a few pages.  I was shocked at how bad the writing was.

Whether you will enjoy Joshua’s Family will depend upon where you happen to be in that delightful journey we all take through the annals of literature, past and present.  For some, this book will be a pure chore to read—especially when so many other stirring, yet well-written ones abound.  For others, it will be a lovely story that just happens to be cloaked in poor writing.  For still others—especially Girzone’s fans—Joshua will be the long-awaited addition to a long line of encouraging, inspirational books.