(Book review) The Valley of the Dry Bones


Reviewed by Katherine Hiegel, a professional writing major at Taylor University.

 


Introduction

Title: The Valley of the Dry Bones

Author: Jerry B. Jenkins

Publisher: Worthy Publishing

Publication Date: 2016

Format: Print book

Length: 323 pages

OVERVIEW

In this Christian quasi-dystopia, the state of California has been rendered almost uninhabitable by a relentless 17-year drought. As a result, the territory is no longer part of the United States and most of its population has fled—but a passionate group of Christians, calling themselves the Holdouts, remain. One of them, Ezekiel Thorppe, takes the reins after he begins to hear the voice of God speaking directly to and through him. Together, the tenacious Holdouts struggle to minister to a Native American tribe, deal with problems amongst themselves—including a power-hungry doctor and a possible traitor in their midst—and avoid discovery by hostile outsiders, especially pirate-esque Hydro Mongers.

 

Though I give Jenkins full credit for an imaginative dystopian world, a sincere (if a bit stilted) attempt at a diverse cast of characters, and some cool worldbuilding (the description of the holdouts’ hideout was particularly enjoyable), the overall quality of his writing struggles. The dialogue is a bit too overdone to sound genuine, and many plot points feel forced and contrived. In general, the story lacks subtlety. Moreover, I never felt quite sure of why certain aspects—the Hydro Mongers, for example—are so ominous, yet only seem to be a threat when convenient to the plot; the story’s conflicts honestly felt flat to me. To cap it off, events resolve themselves too tidily and easily to seem satisfying, much less realistic.

 

The book opens with a distressing, though not terribly graphic, recount of a child’s accidental death, and there are several scenes that feature significant bodily injury and the threat of violence. However, apart from that, the writing is very clean. Some may take issue with the book’s premise (that is, the God literally speaking and prophesying through a man, telling him directly what to do and say).

ASSESSMENT

Rating (1 to 5)

It is with regret that I can rate this book no higher than 3 out of 5.

Suggested Audience

Christians (particularly those already well versed in the faith) ages 12 and up.

Christian Impact

Christian impact is very strong throughout. Christians will find frequent references to messages directly from Scripture, as well as an emphasis on the power of prayer, the voice of God, and the ins and outs of maintaining biblically-based Christian community. This is a book written for mature Christians.



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