Saturday, July 18, 2009

Book Review: The Noticer

Earlier this week, I finished reading The Noticer, by Andy Andrews. It tells the story of a man named Jones who had a special gift of speaking truth into the lives of people whose lives intersected with his. Although the publisher is Thomas Nelson, the content was not needlessly churchy. The message was delivered in such a way that non-Christians could find value in it, despite the fact that biblical truths and principles manage to weave themselves throughout the narrative from start to finish.

At first glance, the story contained elements that seemed to be lifted directly from several other well known books which have been popular in American Christian culture over the last two decades, including Gary Chapman's "The Five Love Languages" and Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life", with a similarity in presentation, not content, to Young's "The Shack".

The story starts out describing young Andy, an aimless man with no discernible talents, ambition, or purpose. He's homeless, living on the beach, getting food and showers where he can, and sleeping under a pier. Into his life pops a man named JOnes, who, from the Christian viewpoint, possesses the gift of discernment. He starts off gentle, then challenges Andy when he needs to. He loans the young man some books to read, books which push all the right buttons in Andy's soul. A chain of events leads Andy to get more respectable work as a stand-up comedian, then public speaking, and author. Along the way he gets a real home, a family: the elements of life that make him want to have success. Jones didn't live this life for him; he only provided the spark, and it all started with Jones' uncanny ability to notice (thus the title) things about Andy, and discern truths about him in order to see how he got to where he is, and what it will take to change his direction.

It soon becomes apparent that the Andy in the opening chapter is the author, and the story is a true one. The remaining chapters consist of accounts of similar encounters between Jones and other people in the community, all of whom eventually share their stories with Andy. In each case, he comes in during a pivotal time, when a decision must be made. Jones never makes the decision for anyone; he simply provides perspective by telling them how he sees things, usually from a different angle than their own. It isn't the perspective that changes things; it's their decisions upon having it presented to them.

It is likely that each reader will come away with a favorite story. For me, it was the chapter about Willow, a 76-year-old widow waiting to die, convinced she had nothing left to offer.

The book was an easy read, and an enjoyable one. It accomplishes the purpose of making the reader think, and providing a little spark in that direction as well. It also leaves us with questions that go unanswered: Who was Jones? An angel or a man? How did he know what he knew, often telling people things that were on their heart and which they had not shared with anyone? What was his race (a more relevant question that you might think)? What finally happened to him? Sadly, we may never know. But I'm comfortable with that. Some things are better left a mystery.

The Noticer is a remarkable book, and I highly recommend it.