Customer Reviews: Cross Roads
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on November 13, 2012
CROSS ROADS...Even Better Than The Shack
Stop reading this and go read this book!
If you need more convincing, I'll say a few words about this reading experience. Millions of people enjoyed The Shack for its fresh perspective on God's love and existence in community. I am guessing that even more people will relate to Paul Young's latest.
With incredible insight, which I suspect can only be gained through painful experience, the author takes us into the private world of Tony Spencer. Tony is a shrewd, wealthy businessman, who has ruined so many relationships that he suffers from paranoia. When a near death experience sends Tony into a coma, the story takes us quickly into his inner world. Readers follow Tony's journey into a real land where he meets Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Papa God. If Paul Young had to face critics of The Shack who took exception to God being portrayed as a black woman, it isn't going to get any better when those folks read CROSS ROADS :)
Like layers of an onion, Tony Spencer's hurts, pains, sins, and corruption are revealed to him, even as he encounters the trinity of God who is intent on bringing wholeness to him. Occasional use of strong language drives home the point i.e. Tony is told, " are adopted by Papa God, you are not powerful enough to change that..." p. 199
In a surprising manner, Tony is allowed and enabled to view life through the eyes of others as he is transported back and forth from our world to his own inner world. The story is easy to read and creative. It will pull some tears as well. The book does not directly take on the age old question of why bad things happen to `good' people, but we see characters dealing with Down's Syndrome, cancer, death, betrayal, addiction and the gamut of sins. Instead of getting every answer, there is often a leaning toward experiencing God and trusting God. This will undoubtedly cause a stir among people who insist on tidy doctrinal explanations of life. In the midst of experiencing God and learning to trust, Tony gets answers that have eluded him for his whole life and I think most readers will easily see parallels from their own lives.
Dozens of insightful proverb-like comments are scattered throughout the book, often in the context of one member of the trinity explaining how life works. I think most people will resonate with those proverbs as comments which open up the scriptures in a nonthreatening way. In this sense, the book is a spiritual fable with definite lessons to teach. The crucifixion was described as "God in the hands of angry sinners."
I'm convinced that most people will see in the character of Tony Spencer, some of their own brokenness. God is approachable and intent on restoration.
I predict that this book will find its home in the forefront of the growing body of literature which recognizes love as the character of God.
I cannot remember the last time I read a novel that I enjoyed as much as CROSS ROADS. My anticipation is that, like The Shack, CROSS ROADS will help a multitude of people to grasp the love of God perhaps for the first time in their lives. Well done!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR,Part 255.
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on November 17, 2012
Some years ago I remember Madelene L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, writing that she generally disliked going to Christian fiction writing conferences, because they contain so little talent and depth. As a rule I avoid the fiction section of Christian bookstores for this same reason, they feel anemic. Thus far I think there is only one exception to this rule. William Paul Young(author of The Shack) just released his second book Cross Roads and though he hasn't yet displayed the prophetic qualities of Lewis, MacDonald or Rebecca Stead(author of When You Reach Me) his writing is certainly unique among Christian authors in the US.

Young departs from most Christian fiction authors by continuing to explore race in our culture, sexism in the church, and in Cross Roads he also explores discrimination young people with Downs syndrome face. He does this with more depth then in the Shack. I think Young can see that US Christians need discipleship in these areas, but I really wish he'd go deeper into the issues. His exploration of each are only side stories to the main plot, which is dominated by an intelligent white male's struggle to grieve loss, forgive himself, and learn to give.

Young also touches on one of the greatest tragedies that US Christians face today: the fragmentation of our society and our resulting lack of community. Young offers us a story of a family created by necessity. A white woman, her daughter in the hospital with slim chances of survival and her son with Downs live with a black woman who has migrated from New Orleans after Katrina. Without each other they couldn't survive, but together they forge a way. Whether Young meant this to be a picture of what the church is supposed to be isn't clear, nevertheless he lifts it up to us an beautiful ideal. Unfortunately, he spends only a little time exploring this ideal and in particular he spends almost zero time showing how this beautiful family deals with each other's faults, failures and cultural differences.

Still the book ends with two images that should give us pause. First, Young draws for us a picture of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of Beloved Community. People of differing race and class are eating together, living together and creating family across racial and class lines. Second, (warning this next part is a spoiler) Young sends a young girl to lift the main character out of deep despair and self-loathing. As the book concludes he throws caution to the wind and reveals that the beautiful child is God, the Father. The fundamentalists will likely inaugurate a rock throwing party over this. I liked his boldness, but I wish he wouldn't have dismissed this by calling it just God's use of "imagery." Jesus made it quite clear that God the Father is as a child dependent on and united in the community of the Trinity. Not just a servant to the least and despised, but God is also one of the least and despised.

So while Young spends a lot of the book dealing with the heart ache of another white male we get glimpses through Young's writing of a much bigger picture of God and the church. I truly hope he keeps exploring the issues that women, people of color and the mentally challenged face in the church and the world. I'm also happy to see that instead of getting super dramatic(as in the Shack with psycho killers) Young is tackling realities that we all face and exploring real possibilities like family forming around Christian faith.

One last thing to Young's credit. He makes it quite clear that he's trying to be a bridge to deeper spiritual teachers. He makes a very strong case for his readers to turn to CS Lewis and on numerous occasions references George MacDonald as a great source of wisdom.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR,Part 255.
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on November 14, 2012
There are rare fiction writers that change landscapes and create "new normals" of imagination. Paul is one of those writers. A few years ago, I ran into Paul in Portland. He is disarmingly friendly. A friend to everyone he meets. He spends hours and hours after book readings just meeting people. Listening. Hugging. Sometimes crying. He is a rare and special gift. And he writes this way.

Forget Black Friday - this book should be the Christmas present you buy for everyone on your list.
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on November 25, 2012
I saw an ad on CNN the day the book was released. Of course, having been thoroughly inspired by "The Shack" I was intrigued and immediately went to Amazon to read some reviews. A couple of reviews said it was "better than 'The Shack.'" I thought, "not possible." So is it better than "The Shack?" Well, that's like saying the Gospel of John is better than the Gospel of Matthew when the truth is that I can't imagine one without the other. (Of course I'm just making a point and not suggesting that Young's books are on a par with Scripture.)

The book starts out a little slow but it's a proper pace as it develops the plot and the characters, especially Tony, the main character. After the first 2 or 3 chapters you become intrigued with the unfolding drama. As the intensity increased I thought, "Oh man, I feel like I need to brace myself for the emotional climax that will surely come." Prepare yourself, you will not be disappointed.

Now some might say that all this emotion stuff is "sappy." That's just a natural human response, a defense mechanism to avoid strong emotion, to try to maintain control, adult composure. I would recommend the opposite. Be the innocent child, let yourself go. Let the author lead you through the story, become vulnerable, "dive into" the main character, (and other characters), become that character vicariously, see things through his eyes as it were. You'll understand the significance of this when you read the book.

For me, one of the most significant chapters was "The War Within," by far the longest chapter. Pay special attention here. Several large theological issues are debated with the cast of characters allied against Tony. I love the way academic stuff is brought to life in a drama such as this. I particularly liked the verbal battles with the Sosho and Ego characters. It's absolutely brilliant! After finishing the book I opened up the Bible and some theology type books and saw that it's all there. Who would have thought that dry theology stuff could be so, so entertaining?!

Regardless of one's philosophical bent, you should take your time and meditate on the deeper implications behind the story. Like "The Shack," this is a book worthy of multiple readings and considerable contemplation. The scope of this book is larger than what appears on the surface, it's more than just another story.

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VINE VOICEon November 13, 2012
NOBODY…NOBODY can write about pain and the space between the unimaginable and unconscionable wounds inflicted during life on earth – and the reality of an ever-present loving, grace-filled, redemptive, triune God like Wm. (Paul ) Young. NOBODY…PERIOD!!!

On September 7, 2007 I wrote a review on Amazon – for a book entitled “The Shack – Where Tragedy Meets Eternity” — “an odd title,” I thought to myself – before I began reading. I had never met the author and had NOT requested a review galley. I read EVERY word on EVERY page. The story – from a character and plot development standpoint – was accretive….you couldn’t jump ahead or go to the conclusion. The story changed my life and introduced me to a dear man, William P. Young….along with a few dozen other folks. The book has sold over 18 million copies and is translated into a myriad of languages.

The author sent me the unpublished manuscript for his new novel Cross Roads – available on November 13, 2012 (Hachette Book Group New York, NY). I finished it in a day…well 8 hours of reading anyway…I savored this book!

I am required to be restrained here: Yes, I have the written authorization from the author to write this review. However, based upon the nature of Paul Young’s new novel Cross Roads, I have agreed to write this piece, without revealing either plot or character(s) – my suggestion – not his. Why?

Other than the obvious (release date is November 13, 2012 and the publisher desires a coordinated approach to pre-launch marketing) — Cross Roads, like The Shack, is a product of the uniquely imaginative mind of Wm. P. (Paul) Young. I have identified twelve, concrete things to share with prospective readers based upon these mutually agreeable guidelines. Here’s my take on Cross Roads:

Paul Young is equipped with what my friend and colleague Ron Cole refers to as a “scandalous, redemptive imagination.” Translation: Paul Young has an ability to write stories that cause creative, tangible, redemptive impacts by virtue of his life experiences, way with words, magnificent mind and incredible imagination. Cross Roads, like The Shack, will cause another cascade of these types of unanticipated, distinctly positive outcomes for a diverse and broad audience. TRUST ME!

Cross Roads is an incredible blessing. I’m afraid that Paul Young has “done it again.” Translation: This book will change readers, just like The Shack has. Cross Roads will be “a healing teaching of unimagined power” (1) for many, many people – just as The Shack continues to be. Your worth in God’s eyes will be revitalized.

Cross Roads will BLOW YOUR SOCKS OFF!!! It’s infectious. Just like The Shack. You will want to buy a dozen editions of Cross Roads and pass them out to your friends, family, colleagues – and strangers looking bored or forlorn at your local coffee shop, daycare, park or shopping mall.

In Cross Roads, God will come alive in new, positive, and exciting ways for the vast majority of readers…Again, just like The Shack has constructively impacted readers.

Cross Roads will break your heart – while renewing hope, and rewiring unspoken beliefs about self, others, world and God which hamper your health in each and every day.

Cross Roads will cause one to pause – and ponder the application of the lessons of this story to one’s life. Paul Young has an uncanny ability to write stories about where we live – inside the soul of most folks.

Cross Roads will bridge a divide for many, many readers. As one author writes; “To be spiritual is to know/do the truth.”(2)

Cross Roads will be a joy to read. Why? Because the story reflects the author. Paul Young is a guy who “has fun with ideas, moves them around, back and forth, turns them on their head, submits them to ironic reflection, tests them with his imagination and doesn’t get enamored with his own brilliance.(3)

Cross Roads is a connector to what Diana Butler-Bass refers to as “a New Light Form of Faith” defined as those who wish to connect with people and ideas that are different, to explore the meaning of story and history, and to include as many people as possible in God’s embrace.”

Cross Roads will present challenges for many readers as Paul Young does NOT disappoint. He, once again, displays an uncharacteristic, yet refreshing “verve, acumen, care for people and willingness to dance on the edge of tolerance.” (5)

Cross Roads shall span the expanse between faith and belief. As Harvey Cox writes in The Future of Faith: “The wind of the Spirit is blowing. One indication is the upheaval that is shaking and renewing Christianity. Faith, rather than beliefs, is once again becoming its defining quality, and this reclaims what faith meant during its earliest years…All signs suggest we are poised to enter a new Age of the Spirit and that the future will be a future of faith.”(6)

Cross Roads will diminish the distance between oneself and God. It will engender a frank, compassionate confession accompanied by a resolve for repentance on the part of readers. As Donald Miller has said, “The entire world is falling apart because nobody will admit they are wrong. But by asking God to forgive you, you are willing to own your own crap.”(7)

Cross Roads – A Novel by William P. Young. Available November 13, 2012.

As I wrote in my review of The Shack in September 2007, Cross Roads deserves the same words:

The Best Work of Fiction I Have Read in Years!

Well…since The Shack anyway.



(1) McLaren, Brian D. Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road – Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World, Jericho Books – a division of the Hachette Book Group, Inc. New York, NY Copyright © 2012 by Brian D. McLaren.

(2) Sire, James W. Habits of the Mind – Intellectual Life As a Christian Calling, InterVarsity Press Downers Grove, IL Copyright © 2000 by James W. Sire, p. 11.

(3) Ibid. p.26 – Sire’s words – not mine – describing what he defines as a true intellectual.

(4) Butler-Bass, Diana Christianity After Religion – The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, Harper-One – An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, Copyright © 2012 by Diana Butler-Bass. P. 232.

(5) Kleiner, Art The Age of Heretics – A History of Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management, Second Edition – Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint San Francisco, CA Copyright © 2008 by Art Kleiner – Kleiner’s words describing Saul Alinsky. P.120.

(6) Cox, Harvey The Future of Faith HarperOne – An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers – New York, NY Copyright © 2009 by Harvey Cox, pp.223-4.

(7) Miller, Donald Blue Like Jazz – Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, TN Copyright © 2003 by Donald Miller. P. 53.

BUY THIS BOOK!! Twelve of them.
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on January 21, 2013
I read the free sample and it was a great story up to that part and it enticed me to buy the book. So, I paid my $8 and I soon realized it is a bizarre read that is nothing like The Shack. I really tried to stick with it...even after Tony was slapped by Jesus. Please don't waste your money. Maybe try a C.S.Lewis book, the Bible or even The Shack. I have no idea where all these great reviews are coming from but I am starting to not trust the amazon reviews. I hope I saved you the cost of the book.
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on November 23, 2012
Wow....I never thought it possible, but Wm. Paul Young was able to write another blockbuster. It was very hard to imagine him being able to even write something close to good after the success of "The Shack", but he has truly done it! An easy read that you will want to read more than once.....and have a box of tissue close by!! A wonderful story!
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on May 24, 2013
I think this book must be aimed at a very Christian target market - not that I am anti-Christian in any way but I found it very tedious and uninteresting. I bought the audiobook to listen to in the car because of the good reviews but struggled through it until the native American (I think?) Jesus made an appearance ..... at that stage I was so bored that my mind kept drifting and I wasn't really concentrating on what was going on. I would have given up on it earlier but kept on hoping that the next chapter would jump back to the 'real' world which to me was a little more interesting than the comatose Tony's subconscious. To be fair, I also found the narrator incredibly irritating which may have hastened my decision not to waste any more of my time on this book.
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on July 25, 2013
Over 18 million people read the Shack. Many more need to read Cross Roads. This is one read that doesn't disappoint. Anthony Spencer has lived a self-center, self-absorbed life. However, while in a coma and on life-support, he gets to see his life through someone else's eyes. Literally! Is it too late for a man like himself to mend his ways? How can a man while he is in a coma and nearly dead make a difference in the lives of others? Perhaps he can with a little help from a very colorful Triune God. Wm. Paul Young has a unique way of illustrating and characterizing Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God the Father in very colorful and simplistic terms. The book reaches beyond religiosity and churchianity and brings God into the very same room with you as if being in the company of a good friend. Parts of this book will make you really sad while some parts with make you laugh out loud. Some parts were just too hilarious! The book as a whole will make you think about your life and how your life impacts others. If your not careful while you read this book, you may very well become the main character!
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on November 19, 2012
What happens to those who are in a comatose state? Tony Spencer, a man full of anger and paranoia, discovers that life is more than the world as he once saw it when he succumbs to a brain tumor-induced coma.
Tony finds himself in a strange place where he meets an interesting array of people, including C.S. Lewis, Jesus, and a mysterious Lakota woman, who lead him through the netherworld between earth and heaven in order to help him understand and overcome his pain and anger.
Wm. Paul Young weaves a tale full of metaphors and allegory to show that a man, bitter because his son died at a young age, can still have a chance to encounter inner healing and demolish the walls of an inner prison that he had created out of his pain and suffering. The protagonist, Tony, is shown several important lessons about his own life as Jesus, C.S. (Jack) Lewis, and the grandmotherly Lakota woman, who is a personification of the Holy Spirit, walk and talk with him as well as allow him to see the world through the eyes of other people, including a teen boy with Down's Syndrome, the boy's nurse, and a few others that he encounters. Tony not only sees through the eyes of others, but he feels their emotions and interprets experiences through their perspectives. In the midst of Young's narrative, Tony discovers that he has allowed his ego to take control of his soul and build walls inside his heart to block out the love of his ex-wife and daughter. When he realizes what he has done, he begins to make peace with himself, which causes the walls to crumble in order to open the door to a new life.
Although the concept of one God manifested in three separate and distinct persons is a mystery too complex for finite minds to grasp, Young's explanation by the character of Grandmother (the Lakota woman) is one that seems to make sense for people to understand it in human terms. I like how Grandmother explains to Tony that a person is "a spirit interpenetrating a soul interpenetrating a body. But it is not simply interpenetration. It is dance and participation." Furthermore, she tells Tony, " `are' your body, and you `are' your soul, and you `are' your spirit. You are an interpenetrated and interpenetrating whole, a unity of diversity but essentially a oneness."
Initially, I had difficulty reading Cross Roads. It seemed to start slow, but I may have been projecting a false lack of interest due to the nature of the protagonist being in a coma and in the process of dying, which is a reminder of the recent loss of a loved one. However, by the time I read about a third of the way through the book, I found myself not wanting to put it down. I recommend Wm. Paul Young's Cross Roads for those who have doubted past decisions or who have dealt with bitterness and pain, loss and misery. Not only does Young have a good story but also a strong message involving love's restoration and forgiveness.
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