Friday, March 09, 2007

In High Places

Thanks to all of you wonderful folks for your kind comments over the last few days. Your care and concern--and inimitable humor--has done much to lift my and Mark's spirits. You BGs rock!

Now for today--a recommendation. Rarely do I step out and speak this strongly in favor of a book. But I'm doing just that for Tom Morrisey’s brand new book, In High Places.

From the book jacket:

A Breath From Tragedy, a Whisper from Glory

For Patrick Nolan, every climb tells a story. And now maybe it's his own. He's right at the rim, staring over the cliff's knife edge and wondering how things went wrong so quickly.It all started after arriving home from a weekend climbing trip with his father, Kevin. That's when word reached them. In a silent moment, they'd lost the person most important to them--her death raising unanswerable questions and dangerous doubts ...

This book is beautifully, hauntingly written in first person. Its characters will live with me for a very long time. The story brought me to tears more than once, and after a certain chapter I simply had to close the book for awhile, unable to read on as the strength of the scene washed over me.

Tom is a rare breed in a writer. First, he’s a man’s man—a certified full cave diver, rock climber, second-degree black belt in Karate, and a competitive semiautomatic pistol shooter. Second, he’s a novelist who, as Athol Dickson says in his endorsement for In High Places, “knows the human heart” and “who can write with such a well-balanced combination of sensitivity and adrenaline-charged adventure.”

In addition to writing novels, Tom is executive editor of Sport Diver magazine. Tom’s previous novels include two featuring cave diver Beck Easton (Deep Blue and Dark Fathom), Yucatan Deep, also about cave diving, and Turn Four, featuring stock car racer Chance Reynolds. Tom’s nonfiction title, Wild By Nature, tells nine true adventure stories from a Christian perspective (finding the way out of a flooded cave, without light; going into a spin in a private plane…). All of these works have been extensively researched. Tom is well-known in Bermuda for his research travels there during his writing of the Beck Easton novels.

Do visit the
Backstory page on Tom’s website to read more about him and how he began his spiritual walk. His moment of recognition happened at a little deeper place than for the rest of us.

Opening scene of In High Places:

It was not the rock—it was never the rock; it was the air. Air: gusts and threads of it, rustling my hair at the edge of my faded red rugby shirt collar. Air: swaying the thin red climbing rope that dropped beneath me in a single, brief, pendulous loop. Air all around me and above me and behind me, open and empty and unsubstantial, drying the sweat on my dread-paled, beardless face, an entire sea of air, an ocean of it, lying vacantly beneath my jutting, quaking heels.

By fingertips and the thin toes of my shoes, I hung over a deep pool of nothing, a drop one could pass through for an eternity before being swallowed by the bright green, spring-leafed treetops of the Monongahela National Forest.

The Gendarme was an exceptionally airy place, a thirty-foot, twenty-ton, top-heavy block of Tuscarora quartzite perched tenuously upon the soaring, thin, cloud-feathered notched ridge that joined the twin summits of Seneca Rocks.

From the valley floor, hundreds of feet below, it seemed very nearly insubstantial, a blip in the naked stone skyline, the slightest thin twig of stone. But from its base, it was a gray, orange-lichened obelisk, a tower, soaring high into the stark, blue West Virginia sky.

You didn’t step onto the Gendarme; you boarded it, a stretching traverse to the initial foothold, a tentative and overbalanced tiptoe, like stepping into an empty canoe...

Rock climbing plays an important part in In High Places both literally and symbolically. As you see in the opening scene, sixteen-year-old Patrick is clinging to a rock—as he is to life itself. So often life can seem like empty air, a free fall. We cling to it with mere toes in a crack, clawing fingers. At the beginning of each chapter is a brief nonfiction excerpt from works about rock climbing. A reader can get so to into the story that he/she will be tempted to overlook these excerpts. Don’t. Each one is full of symbolism for events in that chapter.

Besides the exquisite writing, the effective use of symbolism, the characterization—In High Places also showcases great pacing. And coming from me as a suspense writer—it’s got terrific chapter hooks. No doubt those hooks come from Tom’s cave diving suspense novels. He’s sure got a handle on how to use them effectively. They kept me turning pages long after I should have turned out the light and gone to sleep.

In High Places resonates with readers because of its realistic depiction of life. No easy answers, no everything’s-perfect ending. It’s real and heart-tugging. It’ll make you cry and make your heart soar with hope. It depicts God’s mercy, although I can’t remember that word ever appearing in the book. It shows God the Seeker, God the Merciful. God the Rock.

Do yourself a favor and buy this book. Any of you out there who’ve decried the lack of quality in Christian fiction—you can put your money where your mouth is on this one. Writers, read it to learn great craft. Readers, read it to be enthralled. As Lisa Samson says in her endorsement, “Beautifully exciting, haunting, and satisfying. Morrisey leaves you hanging by your fingertips.”

I agree. I read the book over a week ago—and I’m still hanging.


Jannie Ernst said...

Welcome back, Brandilyn! Missed you, and prayed for relief from your pain!

Thanks for this book recommendation - I will definitely buy it. Have a happy weekend!

Susanne said...

So glad you're back. Hope you are not in much pain!

The book is going on my list right now!

Nicole said...

Just ordered my copy. Word of mouth does it every time, huh? Not that I need a tear-jerker . . . I can cry at a Hallmark commercial. Oh well . . . I do write them, too. :)

Christina Berry said...

Angela Hunt just posted that 49% of people buy a book because a friend recommends it. Good thing you have so many friends!

Air Force Family said...

Brandilyn, I just got a chance to catch up on some of the older posts. I'm sorry to hear about your snowmobiling accident. I'll be praying that you continue to recooperate well. I'm off to check out this book you've recommended.
Have a great weekend!

C.J. Darlington said...

I'm looking forward to reading this title. Seems like an intriguing story.

Robin Caroll said...

Welcome back, B! Glad to hear you're on the way to mend. :)

I'll have to check the book out! Thanks for the recommendation

Cecelia Dowdy said...

I only purchased this book because you recommended it! I'm glad you did! It's not something I would normally read, yet, when I read it, I was intrigued. The characters will stay with me for a long time, and I've already started recommending the book to my friends! Excellent read!