“The Sinner’s Garden” by William Sirls


 In the small Lake Erie township of Benning, someone is at work cultivating a supernatural garden . . .

Andy Kemp’s young life has been as ravaged as his scarred face. Disfigured by an abusive father, the teenager hides behind his books and an impenetrable wall of cynicism and anger.

As Andy’s mother struggles to reconnect with him, his Uncle Rip returns transformed from a stint in prison and wants to be a mentor to the reclusive boy, doing everything he can to help end Andy’s pain. When Andy begins hearing strange music through his iPod and making near-prophetic announcements, Rip is convinced that what Andy is hearing is the voice of God.

Elsewhere, police officer Heather Gerisch responds to a late-night breaking and entering in one of the poorest homes in town. She soon realizes that the masked prowler has left thousands of dollars in gift cards from a local grocery store.
As the bizarre break-ins continue and Heather pursues the elusive “Summer Santa,” Andy and Rip discover an enormous and well-kept garden of wildflowers that seems to have grown overnight at an abandoned steel mill.

Soon, they realize who the gardener is, and a spree of miracles transfigures this small town from a place of hopelessness into a place of healing and beauty.

It isn’t every day that God speaks directly to us – or through a stressed teen’s broken iPod – but that’s the premise of Sirls’ latest offering.  How would we react if we could hear God’s voice, not only as the still, small voice in our spirits, but as an audible, musical, voice that gave us simple directions?  Sirls explores that idea in The Sinner’s Garden in a variety of ways – from that of the confused teen, reformed ex-con, battered and abandoned wife, and hurting cop, just to name a few.  

Like in his debut novel, Sirls casts his nets wide and writes about a variety of characters who are connected in unusual ways and find God in miraculous circumstances.  Because he writes about real humanity, some of these situations are not easy to read about – my own personal boundaries being pushed whenever a child is hurt – but those stretched boundaries also stretch your imagination and your thoughts of what is true.

The Sinner’s Garden is unpredictable, uncomfortable, and amazing.  Every time I thought I knew who was up to what and what the next event would be, I was proven wrong – in a twist I never saw coming.  Not only didn’t predict it, but would never have imagined it.  Those twists didn’t always result in immediate comfort and happiness for my favorite characters, either – and I think that we readers usually prefer that.  We want to see a happy ending, and we want the pain and crazy circumstances to end for those we’re rooting for.  Sirls writes stories with real human characters in extraordinary and fantastic situations, however, and so like much of life, his characters face continuing waves of pain and heartbreak from which is born healing and joy.  

The Sinner’s Garden opens in a big way in one of those not-so-happy situations, and so for a chapter or two turning pages was difficult as I dreaded what might be happening to the characters I was coming to know.  As I turned the last page, however, I knew that I wouldn’t have wanted this story to end any other way – and I can’t wait for the next creative story from Sirls.

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Over the course of his life, William Sirls has experienced both great highs and tremendous lows—some born of chance, some born of choice. Life lessons involving faith, grace, and forgiveness are evident in his writing. The Sinners’ Garden is his second novel. His first novel, The Reason, was published in 2012. William makes his home in southern Michigan.

Learn more about William at: http://WilliamSirls.com
I received a free copy of The Sinner’s Garden from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review. 
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