Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Above the Line Series by Karen Kingsbury

I am a recent reader of Karen Kingsbury's work, having discovered her only this past year. I like that her books are a quick read for me. I pretty much flew through these 4 books which is why I'm grouping them together. The Above the Line series begins with the story of Keith and Chase. Two ex-overseas missionaries with a vision to create really well done, inspiring films. I have to admit that there was a big part of me that wished this to be true, that there are such visionaries out there who want to make quality films without foul language or gratuitous sex scenes, just good films that appeal to a wide audience.
As Keith and Chase begin filming their first movie, Kingsbury opens up a whole range of characters to us. She begins with Keith and Chase's families and continues on to families working on the film and families in and around the area of the film. In this manner she brings back the much loved Baxter family of her earlier novels and the Flanigans.
As the series continued, the stories became less about Keith and Chase and more about the Falnigans, Bailey in particular. Though Keith played prominently in all 4 books, Chase faded out of most of the last two. I would have like to have seen more of Chase's story and his wife Kelly's struggle with mindless eating and weight difficulties. I thought that there was a good, relatable story there that Kingsbury kind of took the easy way out of in wrapping up. I also would like to have seen more of Ben and Kendall's stories (a father/daughter team that got involved with Keith and Chase's production company), but they too left the stories after the first two books.
I think Kingsbury has a great vision but sometimes that range is too wide. There is too much going on so you lose some characters in the process. I also think that telling too many stories mean that you do get some easy endings.

*Warning - book spoilers below this point*

Here's what I found frustrating: Brandon's quick conversion. This would have been a good book all on it's own, telling Brandon's story. The fact that we didn't get to see much of him makes his conversion much too easy.
-Bailey and Tim's drawn out relationship - just break up already!
-Bailey and Cody's forever getting together/not getting together story line, stop dragging us along here!
-That Andi came back to her faith pretty quick. Again, I think this comes from trying to tell too much. A book just about Andi would have been great.
-That there was a lot left hanging at the end of the 4th book.

This series is not a complete story in and of itself. It could be called The Baxter's part 4, or at the very least Bloomington, Indiana part 4. I know from reading Karen Kingsbury's website that there will be a Bloomington, part 5 which will be Bailey's stories. And great, I'm looking forward to them. I enjoy Kingsbury's books for the sheer fact that they inspire me a bit in my own faith. I like revisiting old characters, they are a little like old friends. As far as Christian writers go, she's alright. She is light though. She does touch on some very relevant issues facing Christians today, which is great. And she is current (sometimes too much so as I think her books will become dated pretty quick). You pretty much know what you are going to get with Kingsbury's books if you've read a couple of them. A pretty decent Christian book. It will be heartwarming and enjoyable along the way.

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