Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Children's Home, by Charles Lambert

Charles Lambert's debut novel, The Children's Home, defies easy description.  I found it to be unsettling throughout, gripping in the first half, and unsatisfying toward the end.  I appreciated Lambert's crafting of the novel, the characterizations, the dialogue.  He sets a timeless, gothic tone, at once in a conceivable past and in a foreseeable future.

When a wealthy recluse takes in children who appear mysteriously at his estate, he takes their arrivals in stride.  Their presence begins as an interesting diversion that makes little difference to his lifestyle.  Ultimately, however, his life is forever changed because of them.  Morgan is wealthy, because of the business his grandfather built, and reclusive, because of a disfiguring incident that causes him to shut himself off from the prying eyes of the world.

In spite of his face, at which most people are appalled, the children accept him unconditionally.  When he asks the local doctor to come examine the children, the doctor accepts Morgan's appearance and the two men become fast friends.

Shortly the children begin directing Morgan's life, rather than the other way around, and things become more muddled.  Lambert hints at the devastation of war and a breakdown of society, about which Morgan remains ignorant due to his seclusion on his walled estate.  When Morgan, under the direction of the children, ventures to his family's factory, the odd state of things there boggles his mind (as well as mine).

The mystery of the children's origin, their strange behavior, and the discoveries they make in the secret part of Morgan's house all drive the story in unexpected directions.  The story's brooding development gives it more weight than it seems to deserve.  The activity at the factory seems to hold part of the key to the mystery of the children, but Lambert's description of the factory is so bizarre and elusive that I couldn't be sure what point he was making.

The Children's Home is certainly an enjoyable read, yet as the story builds it becomes more and more shaky.  As Lambert demonstrates, introducing a strange and mysterious events is much easier than providing a purposeful and meaningful direction for those events.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Monday, December 28, 2015

(Un)qualified, by Steven Furtick

I don't know Steven Furtick, but I guess John MacArthur does.  During an interview, when asked for a word association with Furtick's name, MacArthur simply replied "unqualified."  He did not elaborate.  Furtick, like MacArthur, has an M.Div. from a historic, respected seminary.  MacArthur does not have any higher earned degrees.  MacArthur is about 40 years older than Furtick, so clearly has quite a bit more experience as an author and teacher.  So why unqualified?  Unqualified for what?  I don't know much about the two pastors or their relationship, but MacArthur's comment seemed ungracious and unnecessarily unkind.

The cool thing is, MacArthur's comment seems to have bothered me more than it bothered Furtick.  In fact, Furtick took MacArthur's assessment as inspiration for his new book, (Un)qualified: How God Uses Broken People to Do Big Things.  Furtick writes that we define ourselves with statements of "I am ______."  It's that third word that makes the difference.  Jesus changed Simon, the fisherman, to Peter, the rock.  Unqualified to qualified.  In the same way, God wants to take our doubts about who we are and give us a new identity.  A new third word.

We might tend to focus on our sins and shortcomings, our unworthiness.  In Christ, we are made new, accepted by God.  We focus on our own sin, and fail to share the love and grace of God with the needy world around us.  Furtick writes, "It might be time to figure out who you really are and to value the real you as much as God does."

Furtick spends a lot of time talking about Jacob, who required a great deal of re-identification.  After deceiving his brother, marrying Rachel and Leah, and heading back toward his homeland, he meets a mysterious stranger with whom he wrestles all night.  It was, of course, God, perhaps a pre-incarnate Jesus.  At that time, he told Jacob he was going to change his name from Jacob, which means deceiver, to Israel, "triumphant with God."

Just like Jacob/Israel, once we accept God's unconditional love and forgiveness, we are free to love and serve.  "We don't need to spend one more day trying to prove ourselves, because we already have God's approval through Jesus's gift of righteousness."  Furtick has put in faith in God, in God's work in him, not in the word of an elder pastor, no matter how well-known and well-respected.

Furtick's writing is engaging, personal, and encouraging.  Pick up (Un)qualified and be encouraged.  Let God fill in the third word.

Thanks to Blogging for Books and the publisher for the complimentary review copy!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Trump: The Good, The Bad, and the Quotable

Say what you will about Donald Trump, you simply can't deny that he has made this election cycle much more entertaining.  You never know what that guy's going to say.  The editors of Beyond Books have assembled a collection of Trump's quotes for our entertainment in Trump: the Good, the Bad, and the Quotable.  Some quotes date back decades, others are from recent candidate debates and news interviews.

The quotes aren't comprehensive, nor are they meant to be.  They capture a glimpse of Trump's views on women, on wealth, and, of course, on himself.  The editors even include some nice quotes about Trump from others, including some political opponents and psychiatrists.  The editors clearly are not fans, or at least they clearly don't have an agenda to make Trump look good.

Like many Americans, I'm in a dilemma about Trump.  As bombastic and offensive as he can be, if it comes down to a race between him and Hillary, I've got to vote for Trump.  He has issues, but putting that lying, incompetent woman in the White House would be a huge mistake.  Interestingly, he's been talking about the presidency for a while.  In a 1990 Playboy interview, Trump said, "I don't want to be president.  I'm 100 percent sure.  I'd change my mind only if I saw this country continue to go down the tubes."  Obama must have confirmed the "going down the tubes" status.  About Obama Trump said, in one of the presidential primary debates, "We have a president who doesn't have a clue.  I would say he's incompetent, but I don't want to do that because that's not nice."  (By the way, there were several quotes where he used that trick, "I won't say this . . . " But really he just said it.)

I have to admit, I'm entertained by Trump.  These quotes are great.  Trump speaks his mind, and is OK with self-effacing humor.  I get a kick out of his "I'm the smartest/best-looking/fittest/etc. bravado.  He knows it's part of his schtick.  Everyone else should realize that as well.  Think of Trump first as an entertainer, provocateur, and publicity hound.  Once you see that he's doing those things with his public speaking, you can start to dissect who he really is and what he's really saying.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Beating the College Debt Trap, by Alex Chediak

Merry Christmas!  The cover of Beating the College Debt Trap looks like a Christmas ornament. . . sort of.  It's not full of much Christmas cheer, though.  My oldest child is a high school junior, who has high hopes for college.  Elite colleges are at the top of his wish list, but he would settle for an expensive regional private university.  He says he's doesn't want to get "stuck" going to a regional public college.  He's my kid, so of course I believe he's in the top .0001% and will be desired by every college to which he applies.  In the best of all possible worlds, he'll be a National Merit scholar with several choices of top schools offering him full ride scholarships.

In the meantime, our family will have to plan and prepare for a lesser of all possible worlds: paying for college.  Alex Chediak provides clear, realistic guidance for students who don't want to graduate from college with a huge ball and chain of college debt following them.  The facts and figures he provides are sobering yet oh so helpful.  His main point: count the cost of taking that loan.  It's so easy to spend student loan money, both because of the nature of spending money that's not yours, and because of the enormous cost of higher education these days.  Students have to face reality.  Maybe that very expensive college that will leave you with huge debt isn't really worth it, after all.  Maybe that expensive apartment, the poor spending habits, the costly meal plan should be cut back so you're not paying for it for decades after graduation.

For a parent or student getting ready for college, these realities may be rather depressing.  College has become tremendously, unnecessarily expensive.  The unsustainable rising cost of college is an issue for another day, one that must be addressed.  But once you face the facts of the costs of getting a degree, Chediak's book is a helpful guide.  I received this as a free e-book, but I'll be buying a copy for my high school junior so we can start developing a plan, just in case that National Merit scholarship doesn't work out.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Aftermath: Star Wars, by Chuck Wendig

With the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, not only has a new trilogy been launched, but, in a sense, a whole new Star Wars universe.  Star Wars fans may be familiar with the Expanded Universe, the novels, graphic novels, games, and other sources that developed the story after the fall of the second Death Star.  All of that has now been swept off the table.  Consider the new Star Wars material a separate timeline.

The first major novel, Chuck Wendig's Aftermath, is the first of an expected trilogy.  It sets up the new era, just after the destruction of the second Death Star.  The Empire did not just disappear when the Death Star blew up.  The rebels did not step in immediately with a new democratic governance over the galaxy.  Everything is in flux; no one is sure where loyalties will lie or who is in power.

Aftermath features a few characters we know and love from the movies.  Mostly, though, new characters are introduced.  The novel retains the tone of the movies, although it seemed to have more of a I-III feel than a IV-VI feel (which, most would agree, isn't necessarily a good thing).  It's a serviceable interlude, taking the reader from VI toward The Force Awakens.  The story seemed secondary to some of the background development.

I like the fact that Aftermath throws a bucket of cold water on the celebrations at the end of VI (extended edition).  The destruction of the Death Star was but a battle; the Empire won't be put down so easily.  I didn't love the book, but it certainly piqued my interest in The Force Awakens, which ultimately, is probably the main point.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The First Hostage, by Joel C. Rosenberg

If I want to know what's going on in the Middle East, Joel Rosenberg is the one to ask.  His depth of experience in policy and journalistic roles in the U.S., as well as his time studying, working, and living in Israel, give him a unique perspective as a writer.  His fiction and nonfiction works have proven to be prescient, if not downright prophetic.

Rosenberg's newest novel, the second featuring journalist J.B. Collins, opens with a devastating attack on a Middle East peace summit.  ISIS has infiltrated the highest levels of U.S. intelligence, as well as the ranks of the Jordanian army.  In the course of the attacks, many American and Middle Eastern officials are killed.  Collins assists in getting the king of Jordon to safety, and Air Force One gets away unscathed.  But the president of the United States is nowhere to be found.

Rosenberg has a great feel for relations among the Jordanians, Americans, and Israelis.  One thing that came through loud and clear to me: Rosenberg does not view Islam as the enemy, but ISIS.  Adhering to another religion does not make enemies; terrorist attacks do.  And he makes it very clear that ISIS is the worst sort of enemy.  Not only do they capture the president and threaten to behead him (unless, of course, all Americans convert to Islam), but the horrors of their deeds become clear as Collins gets to the heart of ISIS's operation.

Rosenberg's writing is believable and action-packed.  All Collins wants to do is cover important events for the New York Times.  He ends up not only at the center of events, but a heroic key player in all that happens.  He is called on to do many things that journalism school didn't prepare him for!  The First Hostage is a great read, Rosenberg's pacing and development are well-done, and Collins is an everyman-hero I can get behind.  Highly recommended.

Thanks to Tyndale and the Tyndale Blog Network for the complimentary review copy!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Without Fail, by Lee Child

Once again, Jack Reacher is living as anonymously as possible, minding his own business, when one of his late brother's colleagues tracks him down.  Lee Child's Without Fail, the sixth Reacher novel, doesn't fail to develop Reacher's character and showcase his personality and skills.

Readers will recall that Jack's brother Joe was killed in Killing Floor, the first Reacher novel.  At the time, Joe was investigating a counterfeit ring.  Joe's secret service colleague (and ex-girlfriend) uses her resources to find Jack, seeking his assistance in the vice president-elect's protection.  Jack's investigative instincts assist in the investigation of a series of threats as they track down the would-be assassins.

The personal wrinkle in Without Fail is Reacher's romance with Joe's ex.  Does she want to be with him as Jack, or as a replacement for Joe?  And are Jack's feelings for her enough to make him want to settle down a bit?  Needless to say, Jack keeps his skill at remaining anonymous and rootless, even as he's at the center of a high-profile case.  And while he temporarily becomes burdened with a bit of luggage, by the end, everything is back to how he likes it: just the clothes on his back and whatever's in his pockets.

I haven't read a Reacher novel I didn't like, but I liked this one better than most.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Five Views on the Church and Politics, edited by Amy E. Black

Recent trends in the United States seem to point to a constantly lowering importance of religion in public life.  Yet religion persists as an important factor in elections and in policy making.  Grappling with the question of the interactions of faith and politics does not compare in importance to larger, eternal mission of the church, but political life is unquestionably an element of the temporal mission of the church.

In Five Views on the Church and Politics, Amy Black brings together five scholars who describe and discuss their own traditions' views.  Each of these contributes a chapter, to which the other four offer brief responses: Thomas Heilke (Anabaptist), Robert Benne (Lutheran), Bruce Fields (the Black church), James K.A. Smith (Reformed), and J. Brian Benestad (Roman Catholic).

As you might expect from this type of book, each chapter feels just a bit brief.  Each contributor covers the high points of his tradition, while providing extensive sources for those who want to dig in.  The responses highlight the differences among the traditions.  I was left with an impression of varied traditions that have distinctive ways of saying the same things.  Of course, there are differences among these five traditions, but there are many more similarities.

Five Views is a very useful volume for readers looking for a brief synopsis of these five traditions.  Black couches each in categories drawn from Neibuhr's Christ and Culture.  She points out that "these traditions overlap in many significant ways, have borrowed from each other's teachings over time, and continue to learn from one another and change from within."  Five Views did little to dispel my notion that while theological and scriptural traditions certainly inform denominational views on politics, the reverse is also frequently true.  Sometimes those who shape a denomination's position use theology and scripture to defend a political perspective.

At the very least, Five Views will be a useful book for seminary classes on Christian ethics.  But one hopes that lay people and clergy will use Five Views as a starting point for reflecting on their own traditions and the theology behind their own political views.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Monday, December 14, 2015

NeuroTribes, by Steve Silberman

Autism.  Sometimes it seems like no one really knows what that word means.  Even among medical professionals, that word has so much vagueness and leeway that it sometimes seems like it can include just about anyone with some sort of abnormal behavior.  In NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, Steve Silberman may not answer all the questions about autism, but the questions are there and he provides plenty of fodder for discussion.

In terms of a percentage of content, the majority of NeuroTribes concentrates on the Legacy part of the subtitle.  Acknowledging that autism as a medical or psychological diagnosis is a relatively recent phenomenon, Silberman looks at historical figures and records, describing some individuals who, if they lived today, would most certainly be considered autistic.  History buffs will enjoy reading about Asperger, Kanner, and other pioneers who first developed the idea of autism as a unique diagnosis.

Sadly, for most of our history, many people we now see as autistic would have been thrown down a well, ostracized, left to die, or, for the lucky few, institutionalized.  Silberman recounts the history of abuse that autistic individuals have suffered (and more recently that we would like to admit).  Similarly, he traces the shift in the perception of autism, to "viewing it as a lifelong disability that deserves support, rather than as a disease of children that can be cured."  Some of the "treatments" that medical professionals used to try to "cure" children of autism are truly barbaric and unconscionable.  I know hindsight is 20/20, but it's hard to imagine what some of those folks were thinking. . . .

Two major issues Silberman discussed were, I thought, left without a satisfactory resolution.  First, the question of a relationship of autism and vaccines.  In my limited reading, it seems as if the medical community has pretty well debunked the notion that vaccines, specifically the preservatives in particular vaccines, cause autism.  Silberman clearly rejects that notion as well.  However, he offers enough anecdotal evidence of the connection that it seems there are still some legitimate concerns.  I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or neurologist, just a casual reader, but I have some sympathy with those parents who report drastic changes in their children immediately after receiving a vaccine.  Their experiences cannot be rejected out of hand.

The second issue that I wondered about is the enormous growth in diagnoses of autism.  As awareness grew, and especially as autism was described in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the Bible of the psychiatric profession), it raised the question as to whether there were more cases of autism, or simply that they now had a name and psychiatrists were putting the name to work.  Some studies showed that the DSM "trigger[ed] a significant rise in diagnoses."  They found that "awareness of autism among professionals was dramatically increasing at the same time that the boundaries of the condition were expanded.  The new numbers reflected the estimates realigning themselves with the reality of the spectrum."

So is there some evolutionary change leading more and more individuals to have autism?  Are factors in the environment or toxins in vaccines or other man-made factors leading to more occurrences of autism?  Are there really more people with autism, or is autism simply being more widely recognized?  These questions don't have easy answers.  They might not have hard answers.  Silberman doesn't have the answers.  But they are interesting questions to contemplate.

Whatever the case, autistic individuals are becoming better and better at navigating the wider world.  Starting with ham radio, then with the advent of computer bulletin boards and now with the various ways the internet allows people to network and create virtual community, autistic people are more connected and empowered than ever.  Technology has been a huge boost for their opportunities for employment and learning.  In fact, they themselves have developed much of that technology!

Silberman features people like Temple Grandin, perhaps the most famous autistic person to date, to demonstrate that the possibilities for autistic people to have productive lives, impacting their chosen fields and the world, are limitless.  Parents of children with autism and adults with autism still have battles to fight, and public perception is still sometimes an obstacle.  NeuroTribes gives reason for hope.  Those of use who might be considered "neurotypical" must recognize the growing neurodiversity around us and appreciate the contributions those who are not neurotypical make to society.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Holding Tight--Letting Go, by Benjamin Garber

About the time I got married, my mother gave me a little needlepoint picture to hang on my wall which read, "All a parent can give a child is roots and wings."  I thought of that as I read Benjamin Garber's Holding Tight--Letting Go: Raising Healthy Kids in Anxious Times.  Garber, a psychologist and, more importantly, a father, looks at attachment and child development with an eye to the question, When is it time to let go?

It's a balance.  "Holding on too long can be as harmful as letting go too soon."  The parent provides the anchor.  As the child grows the anchor line grows longer.  As the line grows, Garber suggests that "transitional objects" can help remind the child of the anchor itself.  Something small he can carry in his pocket, wear on his wrist, or hold can give reassurance.  Too much contact (phone calls during the school day, Skyping while he's away at camp, etc.) can lead to dependence that delays readiness for eventual separation.

There are plenty of reasons--cyberstalking, terrorism, disease, to name a few--for keeping a child at home and the anchor line short.  Garber reminds parents that "They must fall down . . . and they'll need you there, once again, to hold them tight."

Garber's writing is fueled by his experience as a psychologist, but it's readable and conversational enough that it doesn't have the feel of an academic journal article.  He may actually have gone a bit too far, sacrificing some structure and practical application for a more free-flowing, story-telling style.  I think most parents want to hold tight too long.  Garber reminds us that as long as we give our children a reliable anchor, we can let that anchor line go and we'll find they circle back to hold tight in a way that's healthy for both parent and child.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Monday, December 7, 2015

People to Be Loved, by Preston Sprinkle

Here's what I don't like about Preston Sprinkle's book People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue: the fact that it had to be written.  That's what I don't like about his major point: that it has to be made.  Sprinkle takes on one of the most pressing issues in church life today, homosexuality.  He argues that "If the church is ever going to solve this issue, it needs to stop seeing it as an 'issue.' Homosexuality is not an issue to be solved; it's about people who need to love and be loved."

Christians have gotten worked up about legalizing gay marriage.  Some talk about a homosexual agenda.  They boycott Disneyworld on gay day.  It has gotten to the point that some outside the church identify an anti-gay stance as the chief characteristic of the church.

Sprinkle plays a little coy about his stance on the "issue" but he is assuredly within traditional Christian teaching.  He's uncomfortable with the way we talk about homosexuality within and without the church.  Is it the act?  The inclination?  Attraction?  It's too simplistic to try to categorize people as "gay" or "homosexual" without caveats and explanations.  He reinforces his major point, that a person can't be reduced to an issue, and that relationships should come first.

I think he's right, that we should work toward a day when Christians will be "known more for their radical, otherworldly love for gay people than their stance against gay sex."  We should follow the example of Jesus.  He "doesn't lead with the law.  He leads with love--love without footnotes."

Sprinkle's treatment is solidly biblical and deeply pastoral.  People to Be Loved shouldn't have been necessary.  But it is.  Any Christian who knows gay people in his or her community or church--and that covers just about all of us--would be well-served to spend some time reading and reflecting on Sprinkle's book.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Django/Zorro, by Quentin Tarantino

If you've seen the movie Django Unchained and liked it, you'll love Django's continuing adventure as he meets up with Zorro in Django/Zorro.  Quentin Tarantino teamed up with the writers and illustrators at Dynamite Entertainment to create a series of comics, compiled here in graphic novel form.  Django has left the South and headed west, where he meets Diego de la Vega, a.k.a. Zorro, on the way to confront a bad dude in Arizona.

Zorro's interested in the fraud perpetrated by the self-appointed Archduke of Arizona, and Django comes along for the ride.  Djanog soon discovers the Archduke isn't much different from the slave owners he knew back in the South and begins to foment a bit of rebellion.

I loved the way Tarantino and his collaborators emphasize the differences between Django and Zorro (class, choice of weapons, readiness to kill) while using their contrasting styles to work together.  Fans will love the additional material included in this edition: cover art, commentaries from Tarantino and collaborator Matt Wagner, as well as the original script from the first comic.  I doubt there are plans to make this into a movie, but Django/Zorro stands on its own as a worthy sequel to Django Unchained.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Drama Dolls, by Jason Tanamor

There are some books about which I think, "This book is not for me, but it's probably for somebody."  Jason Tanamor's Drama Dolls was definitely not for me.  I suppose it could be for somebody.  The basic premise: a widower copes with his grief by dressing up like a cheerleader (skirt, makeup, pom-poms, etc.) and burglarizing houses.  And by the way, he brings along his life-size doll, dressed up in his late wife's clothes.

Sorry if I'm giving away important plot points.  I just didn't appreciate the story, the development, or the characters.  Lena's in love with Jeffrey, but why?  I never saw much to love in him, just someone to be pitied.  Pity-love, I guess.  Wouldn't be the first time.  And the "punch line" pay off I saw coming a mile away.

It's not that Tanamor is a bad writer.  He's not.  (Well, except for his annoying habit of writing sentences like this: "Short blond hair, feathered, it was cut down and parted on the side.  The boy, he was clean shaven."  That antecedent, pronoun construction, it got old.  That style, it's cumbersome and overused.)  It's just. . . . He wrote a pretty bad story.  If I were his literary agent, I think I would try to get him to channel his skill and energies into something different.  So perhaps what I have written makes you think, "Well, this reviewer didn't like Drama Dolls, but maybe I will."  More power to ya.  Based on the five-star reviews on, I'm in a clear minority.

Thanks to the author for the complimentary electronic review copy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Soul Mates, by W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas Wolfinger

It's no secret that marriage has declined in the U.S.  It's also generally accepted that marriage lends stability and social improvement.  Given these general ideas, sociologists W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas Wolfinger investigated the impact of religion on marriage among African-Americans and Latinos.  They write about their conclusions in Soul Mates: Religion, Sex, Love, and Marriage among African Americans and Latinos.

Drawing on a wide variety of polling data, as well as personal interviews, Wilcox and Wolfinger concluded that "religion is a force for good in African American and Latino family life." However, they are careful to point out that "although religion benefits many Latino and African American families, it is neither a panacea nor a one-size-fits-all solution."

They provide lots of charts and figures to bolster their claims, but the interviews more effectively personalize the statistics they cite.  We hear not only the stories of couples whose lives were turned around because of their religious involvement, but others whose lives do not conform to typical religious norms.  All told, those who become involved in religious activity are less likely to be involved in the street subculture ("Del mundo" as Latinos say), which includes, infidelity, drugs and alcohol abuse, and crime and imprisonment.

Some of their findings surprised me.  Even though the impact and influence of religion is clear and demonstrable, it is not as significant as I would have thought.  For example, those who are involved in religious activities are less likely to divorce, have children outside of marriage, and be incarcerated, but not by as big a margin as you might expect.  I was also surprised that the impact tends to be be smaller for blacks than whites.  There are, of course, cultural and societal structures that cause that to be the case.  Wilcox and Wolfinger's research, unfortunately, provides a bit of validation to stereotypes about minorities, specifically surrounding participation in "street culture."

The bottom line is the religion definitely tends to be a good thing for couples.  Broadly speaking, they found that "people who attend church regularly are less likely to report being unhappy."  There's a good reason to go to church!  More specifically, they have a word of advice for couples: they identify "two of the mechanisms through which religious participation improves relationship quality: religious friends and shared prayer.  Latino and black couples who attend church together enjoy significantly happier relationships, in large part because they socialize with friends who share their faith and especially because they pray with one another."  So let's go to church, honey, and later we'll pray together!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!