At the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, I’ve heard an agent recommend this book. After this year’s conference, I requested it from the library.
It is wonderful.
Saint Ben by John Fischer is a sweet and simple story of two boys who become best friends in 1958 Pasadena, California. Both are sons of pastors at a local church. Ben’s father is the senior pastor, Jonathan’s is the music pastor.
The boys play together, building towns for their small cars, and performing physics experiments. A series of pranks wakes up the church during the summer.
Ben is especially fascinated with the fate of the newly introduced Edsel automobile.
On the surface, Saint Ben is just a pleasant snapshot of another time and place.
It’s so much more.
Ben is not the typical pastor’s son. He questions not just God’s love and mercy, but His very existence. He never settles for the easy platitudes that are often spouted to children as a panacea for their very real concerns and questions.
The ending is powerful. I sobbed. I know, not a surprise to anyone who knows me, but this book will change you. If it doesn’t, you’re already dead and are walking around to save funeral costs.
John Fischer grew up in Pasadena. We lived in Pasadena for several years and he got the city exactly right. Although I didn’t live there in 1958-59, many of the details haven’t changed. Especially how the city welcomes the new year with the annual Tournament of Roses Parade.
When we lived there, we attended the same church as Fischer’s parents. I believe he grew up in that church. I could see bits of his parents in his characters in Saint Ben. I think my familiarity with these elements certainly added to my enjoyment of the book, but they aren’t prerequisites.
Read this book. I love it and I’m sure you will too.