PhotobucketHometown Favorite plasters the endorsement of former NFL player Chris Sanders on its cover as though begging you to buy it. I’m weary of books like that; those that move simply because of some gimmick as opposed to a quality story. Usually a good narrative sells itself on entertainment value, but Hometown Favorite…well..anyway.

I’m such a yutz that the crux of this first novel by Bill Barton and Henry O. Arnold (it must have taken some serious research) escaped me. Christian authors writing about a guy with the last name of Jobe. Hmmmm. Job. Right, then.

With that in mind the picture should have been well and truly painted, but for those of you unfamiliar with the book of Job, it goes something like this: righteous, rich man, well-respected in the community, with a big, loving family, has it all taken away. Everything, from his riches to his health are preyed upon by the devil, with the imprimatur of God himself.

Enter Dewayne Jobe, football player and modern sports icon. Physical gifts within the .001 percentile, Dewayne has it all: successful high school and college careers, and a nascent pro career with Houston which promises riches, fame and the opportunity to be loved by all. He has a pretty young wife, Rosella, who quickly gives him a child. So, we can essentially call him pre-curse Job 2.0, but without all the livestock.

But something from his past is about to explode in his face and change all that. But, of course.

Hometown favorite is, to a fault, an obvious book. Written by two (why does it take two?) first-timers and far too simple for anyone except the largely unread. Its plot meanders along an all-too familiar course, translating Job’s now well-worn story into a modern context. It has a feel of the typical, almost stereotypical; characters sketched with the easiest of pencils, events happening ten pages after one sees them coming, and an absolutely event-free first one hundred and eighty pages in which the only thing of import occurs through an artificial and tacked-on mini sub-plot.

This book lacks verve, it lacks spontaneity and intrigue of any kind, preferring to dabble with safe ground rather than explore any areas of danger. Witness the profoundly unrealistic conversation between the young hood-livin’ black kids. Or the inner monologue the black bad guy has with himself: would a young brotha, just having killed children really be thinking about how his “criminal friends” would elevate him? The language is not realistic for the context.Photobucket

There’s something very out of touch with the writing in Hometown. Even the title sounds generic, as though the writers were happy enough with detachment. As though being at a safe distance was simply easier than writing a book which would really grab you by the throat. The story of Job is meant to be about a man whose life has been ripped out by the throat, annihilated, stomped on, absolutely destroyed. The story of Dewayne Jobe doesn’t inspire the kinds of feelings one might expect from that drama. It’s not drawn well enough, it’s not written well enough.

The writing is mainly what lets this book down. Barton and Arnold have overwritten this book to the point of death – some of the execution is so poor it defies belief that it made it past the editorial stage. Witness this little gem, describing our main man and his wife having sex:

In their four-star room, Dewayne and Rosella could see the world as fruitful, inviting them to taste the sweet wine offered, and in the darkness, they came together – comfortably, slowly, in the pace of confident and permanent lovers. To this room and to this bed, they brought a mind and body intact like a sturdy vessel able to withstand any destructive power. The changing shapes of the world would flummox them. The people in their lives would reveal the riddles in their souls regarding human nature – those questions that would rise to challenge their beliefs and either inspire action or hamstring the best of intentions. But one thing remained certain – a love that was fluent in any language, a love that was solid and clear as transparent iron, and they would cleave to it and to each other as if they had been asked to write the final chapter of mankind.

This is the worst of Mills & Boon and had me shaking my head for days after.

Hometown is filled with this kind of overwriting…Metaphors and similes which take the place of earnest analysis and leave the reader befuddled at the over complication. My high school English teachers would have failed me for some of the writing in this book, and along with the simple plot and obvious characters, destroyed much of what could have been an enjoyable look into a modern day version of one of the Bible’s most well-known characters.

I confess, however to some eagerness toward the end, as the bad guy gets away with his evil deeds and the chase is on (albeit introducing new characters in the final fifty pages). But this cannot make up for amateurish writing and a story which, told beautifully in the Bible, is altogether reproduced as a shambles for only the most casual of readers to enjoy.

Das Critic writes for and enjoys good writing.

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