All I ever learned about Presbyterians I read in a book

A small-town southern church seeking a pastor assembles a search committee of seven parishioners who spend months secretly attending services at other churches auditioning candidates for the job.

A promising premise. Unfortunately, The Search Committee gets lost along the way. That’s not to say there aren’t some highlights of Tim Owens’ debut novel. Owens borrows three real-life sermons throughout the book, and I appreciated the messages in those sermons, as well as the messed-up lives of the committee members. Their struggles are the real struggles of churchgoers and nonchurchgoers alike. I could identify with aspects of several of the characters’ lives.

However, I think Owens spread himself too thin with the characters. I never got a sense that anyone was a main character, and trying to make seven people the main characters in a book left me feeling like I didn’t really get to know any of them. And because I didn’t know them, I didn’t care that much about them. I wanted things to work out well, I guess, but I wasn’t invested in their lives. I was hoping for more depth from one or two of the characters. It just didn’t work for me.

The whole concept of a search committee was new to me. Our church denomination doesn’t do things that way, and I was kind of surprised by it. The committee often admitted that it felt like it was trying to steal a pastor from another church. Maybe that’s more prevalent than I know. I also didn’t know much about the Presbyterian Church. Owens opens many chapters with excerpts from the Presbyterian Church’s Book of Order and Book of Confessions, which I found interesting but not exactly entertaining. I couldn’t decide if Owens was trying to educate readers about Presbyterians or if he was just drawing on his experience. (His bio says he was once a Southern Baptist and is now an elder in the Presbyterian Church.)

I wanted to like this book, but it fell flat. I stuck with it till the end, hoping it would redeem itself, but I was more relieved than rewarded to have finished it.

FAVORITES: One of the committee members keeps a running list of church signs the group sees on their travels. I get a kick (and sometimes a groan and a shake of the head) out of church signs.

FAULTS: Because of all the characters, the individual storylines felt rushed and underdeveloped. Even the resolutions seemed hasty. I wasn’t crazy about the dialogue either. Some of it felt unnatural.

IN A WORD: Disappointing. I was thinking the committee was going on a road trip in search of a pastor, not that they would set out on several Sundays over several months on day trips. Maybe my expectations were too high.

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In exchange for this review, I received a free copy of The Search Committee from Tyndale House Publishers.
I Review For The Tyndale Blog Network

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