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Sutter's Cross Paperback – January 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Contemporary offerings such as this well-crafted debut from Cramer give the evangelical Christian fiction market reason to hope that the term "excellent CBA novel" is not an oxymoron. When Harley, a homeless bearded bum, turns up at a church picnic in the little town of Sutter's Cross deep in the southern Appalachian Mountains, events are set in motion that will challenge the residents' status quo. Harley's countenance is eerily similar to the portrait of Jesus on the church's billboard at the entrance to town, painted by the unlikable Orde Wingo, an outspoken Sunday School teacher who perhaps overexemplifies the problems of fundamentalist Christianity (and is the only character who is overdrawn). Other finely developed characters, including the protagonist, Jake Mahaffey, are forced to confront the fears or pain of their pasts through the events of the present. More tension develops as ruthless visionary Web Holcombe is driven to turn Sutter's Cross into a glamorous resort destination. Cramer ambitiously weaves together multiple themes (father and son relationships, the battle over the area's development, the responsibility of the church to the disadvantaged, racial tension, adolescent angst, Harley's secret past), but his lovely writing keeps the carefully constructed plot moving at a moderate pace. One of the few missteps is the epilogue, which would have been better left to readers' imagination. In a CBA fiction market dominated by female readership, this contemporary novel should find an appreciative audience of both genders.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Cramer's Sutter's Cross tells the story of Harley, an itinerant, working-class fellow who shows up in the little town of Sutter's Cross, Georgia, and does good deeds. A Christ-figure, Harley is doomed to be misunderstood, but Jake Mahaffey, the point-of-view character with his own set of problems, comes to understand him, as does an old woman whose land is threatened by development. All of Cramer's characters are fully realized, and his love of the Appalachians comes shining through. This is a fine first novel.

John Mort
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764227831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764227837
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #437,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

DALE CRAMER was the second of four children born to a runaway Amishman turned soldier and a south Georgia sharecropper's daughter. His formative years were divided between far-flung military bases, yet he always maintained his mother's sense of place, remembering the knee-deep snows of Maryland, chasing horned toads in El Paso, or a sun-rippled macadam road at his grandparents' Georgia house. True to his Amish roots Dale skipped college and went to work with his hands, earning a living as an electrician, all the while reading widely and voraciously. The thought was never far from his mind that someday he would like to write books.

In 1975 he married his childhood friend Pam, and eventually they settled in the country south of Atlanta. They have two sons,Ty and Dusty. After keeping the boys in daycare for a year, Pam and Dale decided to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to provide a full time homelife. The decision came with unexpected results when Dale became a stay-at-home dad. He took on small construction projects in the evenings, both for the sake of his sanity and to help make ends meet. One of these jobs led to his first published writing, an article in Industry Week.

Having gained a taste for writing, he decided to pursue the avocation, studying technique, reading books, and writing during his sons' naps. Over the next two years he published short stories in several literary magazines, and in 1997 Dale began work on his first novel. Sutter's Cross was eventually published to great acclaim in 2003.

His second novel, Bad Ground (2004), owes a great deal to the author's own experiences as a construction electrician. The industrial setting is based on a real water treatment plant on the south side of Atlanta. One of the main characters, badly burned in an explosion, gains a unique measure of authenticity from the author's own experience. Publishers Weekly selected Bad Ground as one of the "Best Books of 2004", as did Library Journal and Booklist. The novel also won a Christy Award from the Christian Booksellers Association.

Dale's third novel, Levi's Will, follows the life of runaway Amishman Will Mullet, who must reconcile himself to his roots before he can find true redemption. Loosely based on the life of Dale's father, Levi's Will has also found critical acclaim and netted Dale a second Christy Award.

Summer of Light, Dale's fourth novel, released in 2007, is a much lighter read, a humorous and sometimes poignant romp through the daily grind of an ironworker who reluctantly becomes a stay at home dad to three free-spirited kids, a menagerie of animals and a diabolically intelligent dog.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Christian Bookshelf on August 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. I'm recommending it to all my friends and it is a welcomed addition to my 'lending library' shelves.
Sutter's Cross is a lovely, picturesque town in the mountains of northern Georgia where "the last long fingers of the Appalachians" end. It was named after the huge chestnut cross erected by Emanual Sutter, in 1817, as the headstone for the grave of his beloved son . Emanuel had been given the land as payment for service in the War of 1812.
People in Sutter's Cross were very comfortable with the way things were in their town until a homeless hicker named Harley showed up at the Community Church's annual picnic. It was as if Harley's arrival triggered a domino of events that, spiritually speaking, separated the men from the boys.
Mr. Cramer masterfully introduces a variety of characters and makes you feel like you know each one intimately. Some of the characters are most lovable and some you love to dislike. In reality, they hold a mirror up to the reader as each one demonstrates a different aspect of who each of us really is.
I was amazed at how skillfully the author was able to create, and very successfully manage, several important themes. He addresses difficult father/son relationships, racial tensions, faith in the midst of illness and tragedy, and the ugliness of self-righteousness and ungodly judgements against others. Never did I feel lost or confused. Each issue was equally engaging, making me anxious to follow it through to it's satisfying conclusion.
Most of all I was thrilled at how real and down to earth Harley was. He was such an obvious God-send that I was suspicious of his true identity only to find that he was so real; an honest human in need of redemption just like me.
Please, do yourself a favor and read this book.
Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Wolfe Moffat on December 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
After reading "Bad Ground", I was literally blown away, and my expectations for this was high. It started out great, but while the pages kept turning, it took about 90 pages after the first chapter for me to really get into it. But Cramer still shows his stuff, and conducts an orchestra for all to hear!

This is a book with a lot of pain, even going as far as to ask the question "WHY?" a few times. Some chapters even start with entries from Jake Mahaffey's journal. But we also get a look in the life of Harley. But there are people who are skeptical of this new stranger in town, and frankly don't want it disturbed anymore than it has to be. You take a look at Miss Agnes Dewberry, a spry old gal who takes Harley in. You see the life of Web Holcombe, used to having things his way. You look at Web's son, Eddy, and his best buddy, Marcus and how they romp and stomp together. By the way, I loved the baseball chapter!

But you take this the whole way through, and it all adds up to one thing in the end, faith. This was a good read, and I can't wait for Mr. Cramer's next work to emerge! I'll have to be patient!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Stratmann on July 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
I highly recommend Sutter's Cross. It's a book you just can't put down. The characters are absolutely wonderful. The story is exciting, interesting, and full of inspiration. Dale Cramer is a gifted author. I am looking forward to reading more of his novels in the future. His second novel, Bad Ground, is also a winner.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mamacita on June 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
A first novel that makes you glad, Dale Cramer decided to write fiction. A story packed with strong southern characters, a fascinating story line, and description that puts you right in the town of Sutter's Cross. An absolute must read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tonya Speelman VINE VOICE on June 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
that's where it's at! I love books about small towns and this one just captured my heart! Harley was an example for everyone at Sutter's Cross. Web was the opposite. It's a shame people don't think of God until faced with a tragedy, but God works in mysterious ways. This book reminds us without faith we don't have anything. Excellent first book Mr. Cramer!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Furr-tastic! on July 8, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a great book Sutter's Cross is! It started off a bit slow, but then it picked up to a point where you couldn't put it down. It takes you through the whole emotional spectrum and I haven't stopped thinking about the book since I finished it a few days ago. It's a book that draws you closer to the Lord -- this book is a definite keeper!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. Steffen on March 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great read from start to end. You would want to have Harley on your side. I have read "Bad Ground" first, but I like "Sutter's Cross" better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Lisa Norman on January 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
Written with unusual style and grace, this novel introduces the reader to the town of Sutter's Cross. Each character is realistic and vivid. These are the kind of folk that capture your heart and make you care about them. I feel like I've met these people before! Even Orde reminds me of people I grew up with.
Each character is treated with respect and gentleness as the story builds to a climax as dramatic as any in real life. Dale doesn't shy away from the horrors of reality. He faces issues like cancer, greed, and prejudice with a refreshing honesty, touching the pain with the tenderness of the Almighty.
This book touched me right where I live. I expect it will touch each reader's heart in a different way. Don't miss this delightful read. There just aren't enough books like this in the world!
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