Count It All Joy
by Mitchell Allen, Inc.

"Given some time, the new saplings would strengthen and mature and merge with the greater forest, becoming complete and lacking in nothing."

As a boy, Luke experiences peace and happiness when gardening. Sadly, the young gardener becomes an alcoholic and a self-destructive young man. After several years, entrenched in almost complete self-loathing and isolation, Luke decides to give himself one good day outdoors before he commits suicide. At the end of the day, as he is pondering the act, a camper named Jim speaks to Luke and invites him to join him. Jim, a character symbolic of the biblical writer James, invites Luke to join him and share his food. Their meeting is the beginning of Luke's redemption.

Allen's book spans thirty-five years in the life of Luke, a gifted, sensitive boy who deals with emotional traumas that produce social and psychosomatic complications. The title refers to a familiar passage in James 1:2-8 from the New King James Version of the Bible: "My Brethren . . . count it all joy when you fall into trials . . ." James' message of suffering in life and redemption through belief in God is apparent. However, the story's focus is on the sufferer, as the reader experiences many difficult episodes in the life of a sensitive, intelligent, likable, but directionless man. His experiences are relatable, and his decision to choose faith and life rather than nihilism and death is a relief. The story has many episodes as its timeframe extends from 1985 to 2020, and we celebrate Luke's recovery/enlightenment/self-forgiveness as we might a friend's. The story's main question—"Is life worth living?"—is thought-provoking. Allen's answer is a spiritual one that is reached after decades of trials.

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