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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This self-help, Christian fiction by John Trent with Annette Smith is published by Thomas Nelson and written for adults. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

When their parents die in a drunk driving crash, 5-year-old Josh and his two older brothers are sent to foster care. They're initially separated and moved from home to home. Then for a wonderful summer, the three are placed together in a large house in the country. They play with the neighbor kids and enjoy their lives. But Josh lights a candle that he and the neighbor girl often played with under his foster parents' porch. A spark catches on some dry leaves, and the house goes up in flames. The neighbor girl is inside.

After the little girl's death, a social worker takes Josh and his brothers to a children's home. The two older brothers are eventually adopted together, but no one wants Josh, whose record shows that he is a pyromaniac and a murderer. Josh lives in the home and keeps to himself until he turns 18. Then he's released from state custody and must find a way to survive.

After sleeping at a Laundromat and on the street, Josh finds a construction job filling pot holes. He still can't afford a down payment on an apartment, but his supervisor, an engineering student in his late 20s named Mike, offers him a room. Mike lives at his mother's house. Mike's mother, Anna, gives Josh the room for just $200 a month, which includes dinner. Josh isn't excited about the potential lack of privacy, but he's tired of not having a bed or a hot shower.

Josh initially resists Mike's and Anna's efforts to befriend him. When they nurse him back to health after a severe flu, Josh stops hiding out in his room. It's difficult for him to understand and accept their kindness, since he's never seen himself as worthy of love. He struggles to let them help and to open up about his past. In time, he's able to tell Anna the whole story of his life, including the tragedy of the fire.

Anna reminds him that he was just a child when it happened. She tells him he's strong and courageous for trying to build a new life for himself. Anna urges Josh to take a few classes at the community college, and he saves enough to buy a car. Before long, another boss at work recommends him for a better job. Josh continues to feel more comfortable with Mike and Anna, even joining them for Christmas service at church and at their family festivities. Anna's niece Lori comes to visit for a week. She and Josh hit it off and begin visiting each other on weekends. Since Lori is like a sister to Mike, he's concerned about the relationship and becomes cool toward Josh. Anna volunteers Josh and Mike to serve at a soup kitchen. Working together helps them rebuild their relationship.

When Josh and Lori's relationship starts becoming serious, Lori admits to lying about being a virgin. She'd gotten pregnant and had an abortion at 15. Josh is devastated, not by her past actions but by her efforts to deceive him. He breaks up with her.

Then Mike gets sick. The cancer he'd thought was in remission returns. As Mike's body weakens, Josh rearranges his work schedule to deliver Mike's wheelchair to and from classes. Josh even moves into Mike's room to care for him in the night. With support from Josh and Anna, Mike manages to graduate. Lori comes to stay and help. She and Josh are cordial but distant. Shortly after Josh has promised he'll always watch out for Anna, Mike dies in his sleep. Though Lori must return home, Josh promises to stay with Anna. As they clean out Mike's things and Josh looks at photos on Mike's laptop, he notices family pictures including a little girl. After a while, she's conspicuously absent from the photos. Josh gathers the courage to ask Anna who she is. He learns that she was a daughter who died. She was killed in a house fire.

Josh is stunned to learn it was Anna's daughter he killed. He's even more shocked that Anna and Mike knew he had killed her. He does not understand how they could have loved and treated him like family. In agony, Josh drives to Lori's and pours out the whole story. They get back together and continue to live with Anna in her house after they marry eight months later. Josh becomes an RN, since caring for Mike made him realize he wanted to help others. Anna tracks down Josh's brothers, and the three men reunite. Even after Anna dies of MS, Josh and Lori continue to live in the house where he learned what it was like to feel blessed.

Christian Beliefs

Josh prays for his friend as he watches the firemen try to revive her. Like all kids at the children's home, Josh goes to church on Sundays. Mike and Anna convince Josh to join them for Christmas Eve services. He enjoys himself, though the candlelight part of the service brings back painful memories of the fire he caused. He and Mike help clean up at the church after a windstorm causes damage. Lori tells Josh she goes to church and Bible studies regularly. Mike and Josh help out at a soup kitchen, where a leader gives a devotional lesson from Psalms and prays.

When Josh and Lori start dating, Josh starts to do some praying and Bible reading. Later, he prays for Mike and his illness, even though he has stopped praying regularly. He struggles throughout the book to understand a God who would let such bad things happen in his life and the lives of those he cares about. Josh is impressed by a website someone puts up for Mike that shows all of the people praying for him around the world. After Mike dies, Josh continues to talk to God out of habit. He is able to share his anger and sorrow, and he feels like it helps him grieve. Anna says she'll scream if one more person tells her God took Mike because He needed another singer in the angel choir.

Other Belief Systems

Josh and his brothers don't talk about how much they enjoy their time with a foster family because they're afraid it will be bad luck.

Authority Roles

Josh's parents do a lot of drinking and partying, leaving him and his brothers home alone or in the car outside of bars. The kids eat junk food, don't go to school and watch a lot of TV. Josh gets his first real toy from the police when they come to arrest his parents for neglect. After Josh's parents die in a drunk-driving car accident, the police tell the children their parents "went somewhere" and that everything will be fine. Josh's foster father curses at him, and the foster parents immediately send him away after he sets fire to their home. Lori's father disowns her after she has an abortion.

Anna treats Josh like a son, while always trying to give him his space. She encourages him to try new things and praises him for being strong despite his troubled past. She never gives up on him. She gives him the blessing no one else ever has.

Profanity/Violence

Josh says life sometimes kicks you in the butt. Josh's parents died in a car crash, and his foster home was burnt down, killing a girl. Josh acts out in violence toward several people, including a police officer, a house mother at the children's home and another foster child who touches his things. None of his angry outbursts are described in graphic detail.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

When Josh goes to see Lori, he stays with some of her friends to avoid impropriety. She gives him a quick kiss on their first visit, but he refrains from kissing her for quite a while so as not to mess up their budding relationship.

Lori and Josh tell each other they're virgins, but Lori later reveals she had a relationship and subsequent abortion at age 15. Josh spends the night at Lori's apartment after he learns he killed Anna's daughter. He acknowledges that it probably wasn't a good idea to stay, but explains he slept on the couch because they'd been up talking until early in the morning.

Discussion Topics

Discussion questions for each chapter appear at the end of the book. Questions explore topics including trust, safety, separation, abandonment, rejection, self-worth, bonding, romantic relationships, faith, honesty, patterns of behavior, acceptance of circumstances, personal responsibility, friendship and family.

Additional Comments/Notes

An extensive discussion guide at the end helps readers learn more about the five elements of a biblical blessing that John Trent outlines in his bestselling book The Blessing. Trent uses Josh's story to demonstrate how readers can give and receive the blessing.


Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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