Christian Fiction Books Reviews

Desert Gift is One of John’s Finest

  • Kelley Mathews
  • 2011 20 Jun
<i>Desert Gift</i> is One of John’s Finest

Author: Sally John
Title: Desert Gift
Publisher: Tyndale House

The problem with being an expert on marriage is that others, and eventually you, come to expect perfection from your own marriage. After all, an expert has to live out what she’s preaching to the masses or her message is bogus. Right?

When Jill Galloway, radio host and author, hears her husband of 25 years say “I want a divorce,” she is stunned, bewildered, and at an utter loss for the first time in their marriage. Jack’s words not only threaten their relationship, they place her profession in a precarious position. Dissecting, analyzing, and encouraging healthy relationships have brought her both satisfaction and prominence. Through her popular syndicated radio show and books that tout a variety of secrets and behaviors for marital bliss, Jill’s smooth and logical voice has guided countless women into stronger, healthier relationships. Now, she wonders if her entire life has been a sham.

What had happened to Jack? Where were the warning signs? Why this sudden declaration out of nowhere?

Jill retreats to the deserts of California where she grew up, relying on her sister, her parents, and a few angels-in-disguise to help her make sense of the insensible. For once speechless, she learns how to listen—to Jack, to God, to the old tapes in her head that are suddenly louder than ever.

Thankfully, author Sally John does not leave the reader in Jill’s head alone. We also see into Jack’s psyche, discovering along with him his motives for leaving Jill. Watching him wrestle with his own demons is as difficult and moving as witnessing Jill’s pain.

Will Jack and Jill survive their tumble down the hill? Or are their crowns broken beyond repair? The author keeps the reader guessing until the very end. And rightly so, for any realistic portrayal of a struggling marriage will have no pat answers, no easy resolutions.

The realism makes for some painful scenes between Jack and Jill, between Jill and her parents, and between the struggling couple and their grown son, Connor. Watching these characters come to the end of themselves is both wrenching and redeeming for the reader. Some will be moved to tears, as I was during the scene when Jill finally realizes that God loves her the way he created her, that she can quit trying to earn her place in the world.

John’s characters could be your neighbors. One of them could even be you. They are likeable, real people with issues common to every man, woman, or child. And in that very commonness lies their power to pluck at your heartstrings.  

The personal redemption that both Jill and Jack experience comes before the question of whether they will reconcile is answered. By revealing their inner transformations first, without making their change dependent on the outcome of their relationship, the author emphasizes the universal need that every person (married or single, content or dissatisfied) has for significance. God alone defines the worth of a human.

John’s keen insight into the complexities of marriage and personal identity make Desert Gift one of her finest works.