If I’ve been asked once, it’s been a thousand or more times. “So, what makes a good book?”
That’s like asking what makes a “good kid.”
You can’t just pinpoint one thing (well, I suppose technically, you could say God and call that good) and that’s that. Lots of different things go into the shaping of what people eventually call a “good kid.”
And the same is true of a good book. For one thing, genre plays into it. What makes a great mystery can ruin a good romance—or make it better. So many factors play into it.
- The author’s use of common tropes—and twists on them.
- A way of describing things that stands out from all other authors.
- Being so clever that you can make mud funny.
How can anyone possibly hope to identify that “best thing?”
Last night, I pulled out On a Summer Tide to read for this review, and someone asked me how I can stand to read so many books. Bless her heart. The poor girl was serious, too. I hope I didn’t offend her with my laughter.
Honestly, I don’t remember what I told her. Still, it sparked a conversation, and she eventually asked the question. “So, what makes a good book?”
And after that, I became determined to find something that every great new book has. It wasn’t easy, but I think I did it.
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What’s the Best Thing about Every Great New Book?
I’m calling it magnetism—that inability to put a book down. The reasons for it may be myriad, but the reality always means one thing—you’ve got a great book.
I’d requested a review copy of On a Summer Tide, and needed to get it done. So, in the wee hours last night, I started the book. Going to be totally honest here… I expected to skim a lot and reread on my trip out of town tomorrow.
This is where I say to myself, “You’re so cute.”
Like I could possibly skip a single word of this book. Every time I tried (all two or three of them, anyway), I found myself going back and rereading large bits to find any words I’d missed.
See, the story had a lot of fabulous elements—interesting plots and subplots, engaging characters, and a fabulous setting. With her usual skill, Suzanne Woods Fisher weaves a multi-layered story that holds you riveted to the page.
She invites you into the lives of these characters and makes you care about what happens to them.
One of the most brilliant things about On a Summer Tide is that she manages to keep such diverse characters consistent with themselves. Maddie is always focused on where someone might need support and encouragement. One of the locals is always ribbing one of the others. From primary character to the rarely-mentioned supporting characters, they stay in character the entire time.
That’s tough to do, folks, and Ms. Fisher did it with deceptive ease. Trust me. There’s nothing “easy” about it, but she sure makes it look like it just naturally happens because that is who that character is.
The faith element might be my favorite thing about the whole book. It was real. It’s the kind of thing I see play out in the lives of people every week. Someone doesn’t hear about Jesus and instantly have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible and Bible terms. Faith isn’t fully bloomed the moment someone miraculously discovers a “sinner’s prayer” without any help from another believer.
No, faith in this book comes quietly, gently, and with much resistance.
For those who want to know, there were two (that I recall) uses of a word that some would take issue with. Furthermore, sinners act like the sinners they are. And in the past, some redeemed sinners did some pretty awful stuff.
On a Summer Tide is recommended for people who have a strong connection to Maine, who love realistic characters and complex family stories, and just a hint of a gentle romance. Definitely recommended for people who enjoy a bit of understated depth to their fiction and a lighter sprinkling of romance.