David C. Cook
Oliver Barnett, good contractor and solid Christian, faces an interesting dilemma in Terri Krausí novel, The Transformation: what are the ethics of turning a historic church into a restaurant and night club? Oliverís overbearing mother lets him know that she doesnít want him to renovate a church building or work with the real estate developer offering the job, a beautiful Jewish woman with a questionable past. But Oliverís contracting company needs the money, so, despite rumors that the ďsacred placeĒ is still filled with the power of God to bring truth to light, Oliver takes the job. His employer, Samantha, has a passion and sense of humor that draws him in, but their differences in beliefs are very clear-cut, and Oliver isnít sure how to proceed.
Meanwhile, back at home, Oliverís mother pushes him into a relationship with his former girlfriend Paula, a woman who claims to be a Christian and clearly needs a father for her little girl. Oliver struggles between choosing what his heart is telling him and obeying the wishes and expectations of others, something that is further complicated when he realizes that neither woman really shares his faith and convictions. As he works to renovate the Blue Church, Oliver learns that God is always willing to give second chances and repair broken lives, but people have the choice of whether or not to let Him.
Although most of the conflict of the novel takes place within the characters, the pacing of key events and conversations doesnít let the plot feel predictable or plodding. As a character, Oliver is both believable and sympathetic, though at times his inaction becomes frustrating. He and the other main characters are simply interesting to read about. Even the supporting characters Ė Oliverís folksy work crew, a worn-out retired pastor, and Oliverís handsome and charming younger brother Ė add depth to the plot and are portrayed as real people with strengths and weaknesses. At times, however, a few minor characters seem to be introduced just so that they can answer a spiritual question or provide a word of wisdom, though they did it in a conversational, non-preachy way. Overall, the intensity of the relationships between the characters and the conflict they experience is what drives the story and makes it interesting.
As an interior designer herself, Terri Kraus does an excellent job of making the setting realistic, without burdening the reader with unfamiliar terms or spending too much time going into construction or remodeling details. Of course, The Transformation, the third book in the Project Restoration series, is as much about the rebuilding of lives as it is about the remodeling of a structure, with all the conflict and disorder that go along with both. As such, it serves to teach some very important spiritual lessons, such as the importance of staying true to oneís convictions, Godís ability to heal wounds from the past, and what it means to accept grace. Both Samantha and Paula are under the false impression that salvation comes by following the rules and being the right kind of person, but, as another character explains, salvation is by faith alone (Philippians 3:8-9). Except for some slight ambiguity on the topic of marriage (the novel seems to say that Christians should only marry those who share their faith, but a scene at the end appears to contradict this), The Transformation is a solid exploration of many of the foundational truths of Christianity. Ė Amy Green, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Oliver Barnett is a good contractor, a good Christian, and an obedient son, never in trouble, never one to rock the boat until real estate developer Samantha Cohen enters his life. Samantha, full of life, vitality, and wit, is unlike any woman he has ever known-in more ways than one. Not only is she planning to transform an historic church near downtown Pittsburgh into a restaurant/nightclub, she is Jewish and she has a less-than-innocent past.
At the same time, an old girlfriend, Paula, rekindles a long-ago relationship with him-with the enthusiastic encouragement of Oliver's domineering mother. Paula would be the safe choice, and the choice that would appease Mom, yet Oliver is drawn to Samantha because of her beauty and her exotic nature. Oliver finds himself in a most unsettling dilemma. Does he do what's right by the nice girl his mother has chosen for him, or does he do what his heart is telling him to do?