Gene Fehler’s Never Blame the Umpire presents a unique and uplifting view of the role of suffering in life. It follows a young girl named Kate whose life gets turned upside-down one summer when her mother is diagnosed with cancer. She struggles with her anger toward God and uses baseball and poetry to work through her confusion and emotions. Kate must learn the lesson of 2 Thessalonians 3:16, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting comfort and hope, which we don’t deserve, comfort your hearts with all comfort, and help you in every good thing you say and do.”
Fehler writes in a clear, concise way, making it easy for youth to follow. He occasionally inserts poetry into the book, adding a deeper level of emotions to the writing style. Through these poems, the reader is more able to get inside of the characters’ minds and feel more deeply what the characters are feeling.
Kate’s summer starts out as a perfect mixture of friends, baseball, and poetry, but takes a drastic turn after her mother becomes ill. Kate must learn to lean on others and to trust God through her hurt and frustration. She wonders, if God is truly good then why is her mother sick? Through the newfound outlet of poetry, Kate attempts to sort her feelings and gain a new appreciation for life.
Fehler has created characters to whom all young adults can relate, especially Kate and her brother Ken. They are average American kids, but their emotions and thoughts run deep and keep the plot moving. Kate’s parents provide strong insights into the proper Christian responses to trials. They add a lot of wisdom to the book. Some of the lesser characters, such as Kate’s best friend, Ginny, could have been more three-dimensional, but were still an important part of the storyline. Kate’s friend and classmate, Allison, is the voice of reason and truth throughout Kate’s spiritual journey; she is always prepared to lend a hand, pray, or share a Bible verse. She shows Kate that God’s ways are always perfect, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
In an era when illnesses take the lives of many of our loved ones, Fehler has created a masterpiece of literature to which everyone can relate. At some point, everyone must learn to be joyful through suffering, and this book will help pre-teens and early teens to see past the obvious pain, and, instead, see the great faithfulness and love of the Lord. This book would make a great addition to anyone’s personal library. – Sarah Sawicki, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Eleven-year-old Kate loves baseball, tennis, and writing poetry, but struggles to find joy when tragedy strikes her close-knit family.