Billy Goat Hill

Published By: Multnomah Books

Book Category: Fiction, Christian

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Reviewed by Andrea Sisco

Billy Goat Hill is Mark Stanleigh Morris' debut novel. And what a debut! When I read, I read primarily for enjoyment. It's always a bonus if a book can truly touch my heart and make me smile, laugh, cry or just plain feel deeply about the characters and their circumstances. Morris has accomplished all of that and more.

It's 1958 in Los Angeles and eight-year-old Wade Parker's baby brother died. Wade's mother, Lucinda (he refers to his mother by her first name), is so grief struck that she's distanced herself from her two living children. And Earl, Wade's alcoholic father, has abdicated his parental responsibilities. To compensate for his parents' emotional and physical absence, Wade dreams (throughout the novel) that Duke Snyder, the Dodgers ballplayer, is his father. And he fantasizes what life would be like with Duke as dad.

One early morning, Wade and Luke, his six-year-old brother, take a journey to nearby Billy Goat Hill to slide down on cardboard (a poor kid's version of bobsledding). While Wade and Luke are waiting for another sledder to arrive and tackle the hill with them, they meet a man and woman and witness what they believe is a confrontation between a motorcycle gang and the police. Thus begins Wade's journey from childhood, as a vulnerable "lost" kid, to an adult man of God.

Billy Goat Hill allowed me to slip back in time, to an era that was simpler, but no less difficult because it's all about life and life is filled with drama, tragedy, humor and adventure. Morris' wonderfully complex, fully developed characters and rich prose is delightful. And the message of forgiveness and redemption left me feeling hopeful and satisfied.

Billy Goat Hill is a treasure waiting to be savored. The only regret that I have about this book is because it is labeled "Christian Fiction" many people may pass on reading it and that would be a tragedy.

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