Friday, September 18, 2009

Do We Ever Truly Know Anybody?

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry

I’ve read a lot of good books since I started writing reviews for Pix-N-Pens, so I hesitate to tell you that The Familiar Stranger is the best book I’ve read in a while. But it’s one of them. It’s a story about a family clinging together in the face of a medical disaster. It’s also a story about a wife’s Godly response to her husband’s adultery. And it’s a fascinating mystery with just enough clues to make you think you can solve it before the end.

But I couldn’t solve it, and I’m sure you won’t either. Berry spreads out the clues like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Each new revelation adds a little more to the picture, but she withholds the crucial piece until the end, surprising us with the finished puzzle. Halfway through, I thought I had the solution and kept flipping back for clues I had overlooked. Even so, I didn’t figure it out.

The mystery is what
moves the story along, but it’s the relationships that hold it together. Denise, the faithful wife, is amazingly human. She relies on God’s strength to help her love and support a husband who was unfaithful, but doesn’t remember it, while helping her sons face life with a handicapped, amnesiac father. Naturally, it sometimes overwhelms her and then she lets go in anger or tears. But she always returns for more of God’s grace to forgive and love. I liked Denise because she’s like me and I hope I would respond as well as she did in such difficult trials.

My only complaint with the book is that the medical situations didn’t ring true. My own experiences made me cringe at recoveries that were too quick. I felt like Berry forced the medical problems to fit the plot, rather than letting them help direct it. But don’t let that keep you from a truly satisfying reading experience. I think everyone will enjoy this one.

Pros: A good mystery, wonderful characters and an interesting approach to point of view.

Cons: The solution to the mystery was a little bit unrealistic, but hardly worth mentioning.

Craig Littleton has decided to end his marriage with his wife, Denise, but an accident lands him in the ICU with fuzzy memories. As Denise helps him remember who he is, she uncovers dark secrets. Will this trauma create a fresh start? Or has his deceit destroyed the life they built together?


Single mother and foster parent, Christina Berry carves time to write from her busy schedule because she must tell the stories that haunt her every waking moment. (Such is the overly dramatic description of an author's life!) She holds a BA in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem, as well. Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, releases from Moody in September and deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently--Forgive Extravagantly!
Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, and Daily Devotions for Writers. Find her at and

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Christina Berry said...

Phee, thank you so much for doing this review. I love your focus on the relationships!

mariska said...

Phee, thanks for the review. As the reader who hasn' read this book, pros and cons are always be the added value.

And Christina, i'd still love to have a chance to read your book :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Phee -

Thanks for the review.

I've read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Christina did a masterful job with the characters.

Please enter me in the drawing. :)