Linda Nichols,
If I Gained the World
(Bethany House, 2003)

If I Gained the World is a fairly predictable piece of Christian fiction by Linda Nichols. It is a very safe book and while there is an interesting concept that it plays with the plot, it never really amounts to much.

The story follows a family over a period of 15 years; for most of this time they are connected by blood only. Very early in the book Lenore asks Daniel to marry her and he never quite answers her. Things go downhill rapidly from there and two weeks (and not quite two short chapters later) she leaves with their son Scott. Of course, there is still the potential for a "happily ever after" conclusion.

The story jumps from crisis point to crisis point, starting in 1988, with brief stops in 1992 and 2000 before ending in 2003. There are some small clues dropped along the way that could lead to the problems that arise later on, but you never see any of the transitions along the way. All too often the situations and the characters' choices seem contrived to fit the storyline. There are moments when the interaction between the characters rings true, but even most of those moments tend to be highly sentimental or sappy.

The concept that I found rather interesting is the home that Lenore helps to create after she moves to Seattle. With some assistance from a local church, she opens a house for people who are more or less alone. The idea being to provide a family for those without one, and this home is used to pull together various people of different backgrounds.

It is possible to go from cover to cover of the book and take it apart trying to figure out how it all adds up. This quickly becomes a very frustrating experience and involves taking the book too seriously. The characters are all likeable, even if they are not always believable.

Nichols' If I Gained the World is not a great piece of fiction, and while it can be enjoyable it helps if you don't analyze it at all as you read.

- Rambles
written by Paul de Bruijn
published 27 March 2004

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