From an old man collecting drinking straws three at a time to a pair of Chicago drug addicts fairing poorly in their attempt to raise a child, nearly everyone involved in this collection of connected short stories cannot seem to shake the feeling that something bigger than themselves is going on.
Characters engage in such diverse acts as attending military funerals, driving around Oklahoma looking for the best root beer float, and contemplating suicide at a shopping mall all while wondering if something or someone other than themselves might be in control.
In the story “The Staring Game” the narrator begins staring at people in order to examine their lives. In so doing he “felt a little bit what God must feel like”. The narrator soon discovers however that though he begins to understand intimate details about complete strangers, complete strangers do not like that fact that he knows intimate details about them. People do not like being under the microscope. In fact, they hate it so much that they are willing to become violent. The narrator makes the conclusion that this must be why so many people hate God. Who can ever be comfortable under His microscope?
Such observations and conclusions make up the crux of the book. While many of the characters and their actions can come across as dull (they are spending their time collecting drinking straws and staring at people), as their stories begin to intersect they lead to greater questions about life and who is in control of it. Though the Christian slant is obvious from the first story, it is not so overpowering as to make for a book of morality tales. Believers do not necessarily fair better than non-believers. It tends to be the believers who have a difficult time trying to reconcile the chaos of the world with their faith in God. Answers are usually found but they never come across as more absolute than the characters that find them.
At times bland though at times engaging, readers interested in Christianity as it pertains to everyday people will find much to revel in. Melodramatic moments of teary blue-eyed children and apologetic ex-husbands may distract from greater theological questions however they do not overshadow the overall well crafted flow of these stories.
Reviewed by Collin Marchiando for IndieReader