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Culture Books


Histories, mysteries

Three works bring fact and fiction together in the truth

Here is but a very thin line between fact and fiction--as these three very different volumes demonstrate only too well.

Anonymous Tip is fiction that reads like fact. A taut legal thriller--of the type that has made John Grisham an overnight kajillionaire--the book is a gripping portrayal of the increasingly intrusive world of "child protective services." It is a world that author Michael Farris knows from the inside. As the president and lead attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, he has witnessed firsthand the destructive power of the government's ever-growing "child abuse industry." The ably drawn characters, the deft dialogue, and the brisk plotting are all evidence of a sure authorial hand. Mr. Farris really knows how to tell this story--because it is a story that he has obviously seen repeated over and over again. This is a good book. But it is also an important book.

Invisible Allies is fact that reads like fiction. It tells the story of the many men and women who literally risked everything--their careers, their reputations, their freedom, and often their very lives--in order to smuggle the literary works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn out of the Soviet Union. Before the fall of Communism, the very publication of this book would have resulted in horrible retributions beyond imagining. But now, the quiet heroes of the Samizdat--the fledgling dissident underground--who overcame all odds to stand firm in the face of the fiercest tyranny the world has ever seen can be gratefully acknowledged. And Mr. Solzhenitsyn acknowledges them with his incomparable tenderness, gentle humor, penetrating insight, and literary delectation. I have always believed that the greatest men and women of our age were those babuskas and kulaks who refused to succumb to the boot of totalitarianism. After reading this masterful work, I am more convinced than ever.

Dominion is a murder mystery--in the best tradition of that genre--but it is written with a steely-edged factualness that is nothing short of haunting. Randy Alcorn is able to weave together some of the most vital issues of our day--reaching the inner-city gangs, establishing racial reconciliation, and restoring a genuine sense of community amidst the culture wars--as skillfully as he weaves together the lives and fortunes of his vividly depicted characters. The colliding worlds of black and white, of prejudice and forgiveness, of racism and restoration, of faith and doubt, provide the gripping backdrop to this seductive tale. Though I finished this hefty volume more than a week ago--and have read several books since--I find that its themes continue to nag at the back of my mind.

Fact or fiction, the best books are those that have about them the certain ring of truth--they sound across that very thin line. Clearly, these three are clarions for our time.