Freedom's Journey Free to Serve
by Dennis McIntyre

"He was determined not only to take the test, but to pass it with flying colors."

In this multilayered novel by author McIntyre, a man with limited but rational expectations becomes the recipient of blessings beyond his wildest imaginings. Jake Wilson and his wife, Terry, have two children from her first marriage and are barely but happily squeaking by on Jake's earnings as an unlicensed plumber. As the story opens, their life is on the brink of change as they officially take custody of two girls from Jake's former marriage. Suddenly becoming a family of six will not be easy. However, Jake, a former offender now reformed in mind and spirit, takes comfort from a men's Bible study group and Terry's devotion to him and the four children. A call from Bob, a friendly work colleague, will provide some steady work and much more. The job will take place in an old farmhouse desperately in need of upgrades, once occupied by a generous lady who left it all to Bob.

As the two men assess the many technical complications of the work ahead, Bob will provide Jake with an assistant, a young man named BJ. With BJ's enthusiastic help, Jake not only enjoys the challenges of improving Bob's property but begins to study for the plumber's license that will make a great difference in his professional life. This plan suits Terry especially, as she has had spiritual revelations about the importance of planning and saving, particularly crucial now that the family has expanded. Together, the couple heads toward their new set of goals. But there is more to be done and far more to be revealed as BJ becomes like family to the Wilsons.

McIntyre, who followed a career path in electrical engineering and technical writing, has created a plot with many interconnecting lines and pathways. This book is a sequel to an earlier work, Shackled Yet Free, referred to here in brief vignettes that trace Jake's development from rejection, despair, rage, and crime to a strongly held Christian faith that has made him a diligent, hardworking spouse and parent. The many small but fascinating technical details offered as the old farmhouse is remodeled to modern codes undoubtedly sprang from the author's direct experience with such work and are presented with the same lively dialogue and action as other aspects of the book. The emotional weight of Jake's self-discovery, Terry's determination to act as she believes scripture prescribes, and the jolly interactions of the four newly bonding siblings keep the story rolling and changing.

McIntyre has devised an interesting format in which much of the dialogue is presented in italicized segments apart from the action, perhaps to emphasize some of the tale's spiritual connectivity and coincidence. The discoveries made by Jake about his unusual coworker gradually dominate the plot, providing even more skeins of personal history and suppressed sorrow and regret. What emerges is a journey referenced in the title, from struggle to strength to spiritual gifts bestowed on the well-deserving. McIntyre writes with intention, blending his Christian convictions with a well-constructed storyline that never flags. His work could provide material for just the sort of religious discussion groups he so vividly depicts, allowing scope for deeper contemplation of the book's underlying concepts.

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