Safely to Shore: A Marriage Odyssey
by Armando N. Garza
Christian Faith Publishing

"The book itself has taken him to a port, a fair haven, in the storm of his life."

Paul and Julie are married and have two children. They have weathered the first few years of marriage and parenthood together and are becoming comfortable in their suburban, middle-class life. When Paul is offered a promotion that includes more business travel along with better pay, they decide it will be good for the family. Paul has noticed that his wife seems to carry more baby weight than his friends' wives. He flirts with them at parties but considers it harmless. However, he begins to give in to these desires while away on business and has flings with other women. Julie believes Paul is just tired and focuses on the kids and her faith, which Paul doesn't share. Eventually, another woman breaks the news to Julie. This revelation leads to a divorce, along with all the damage and trouble that comes with it. Although Paul is now free to pursue whoever he wants, he realizes he is rudderless and misses his family. A friend gives him a book about the biblical journey of Paul and Luke as Paul was being taken to Rome to stand trial. Their ship is caught in a great storm, a storm to which the modern Paul can relate.

Garza's writing is well-paced and shows a clear grasp of basic grammar and storytelling. This novel is a work of fiction, but it is much more of a moral tale. Garza even states in the introduction that Paul is there to be an everyman-type character. The book includes the "book" Paul reads, which is an account of the biblical travels of the same-named character and provides the moral compass that steers not only the fictional protagonist but also the reader. The intended audience is likely a Christian man or woman, or at least a spouse familiar with Christianity, considering divorce and needing support and guidance. The book's purpose is to convince the reader to hold on to the troubled marriage, get right with God, and let God steer the ship to safer matrimonial shores.

Many authors come to mind when reading a moral tale, a book that seems equal parts fiction and self-help. The acclaimed Christian writer C.S. Lewis and his novel The Screwtape Letters is similar in its religious intent but much more fantasy-based than this work. Possibly a more appropriate comparison would be the works of Og Mandino. They offer similar moral tales with characters who are also meant to be representative of an everyman. In Garza's book, Paul is shown to be an average guy who allows moral transgressions into his life, not realizing how those seemingly minor indiscretions will grow to become a destructive force for his whole family. This novel will especially appeal to those who believe in redemption and second chances, even after divorce and an individual's devastating choices that have proven harmful to others. In short, the author has crafted an inspirational book for Christian couples considering divorce that could motivate them to hold together and find additional resources dedicated to helping them work on their relationship.

A 2022 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

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