Chelsea Chambers is rebuilding her life. After a very public split from her NFL superstar husband, all she wants to do is fade into the distance, raise her children, and run her mom’s old coffee shop in her little hometown.
The first obstacle is an expected bill from the IRS. Chelsea’s mom owes them over $86,000. If Chelsea wants to reopen her mom’s business, she only has a few months to pay. This should be where the financial windfall from divorcing an NFL superstar would come in handy, but her husband—the millionaire on paper—is flat broke due to bad investments. It seems like Higher Grounds Café may fail before it gets its start.
Chelsea dives into her work, but not even the best of her planning and cupcake-making can recoup the losses. Enter Manny. Manny becomes Chelsea’s assistant and things begin to take off. Even more so when visitors to the café start to be able to get answers from God when they fire up their Internet browser inside the café.
People start flocking to the café for an answer from God. Skeptics assume that Chelsea is pulling the strings. Many people believe it’s a miracle. Many don’t even care because the answers they are getting are life-changing. The café becomes the go-to place for people’s search for truth.
Unsure of what to think, Chelsea is swirling amid her newfound fame when another catastrophe strikes and her ex comes calling. What happens next is a whirlwind of spiritual drama as Chelsea discovers just who actually has been answering those questions at her café.
Miracle at the Higher Grounds Café, Max Lucado’s first full-length work of fiction in quite a while, highlights the power of prayer and connection with God amid struggles in our lives. Max’s spiritual works of fiction (not obtuse enough to be allegories, but more overt than mere symbolism) work well in short form and, I’m happy to report, do almost as well in long form fiction.
While the plot is a bit unbelievable (but isn’t that the point of the miraculous?), Lucado does a fairly good job of balancing out the teaching with the fiction and the sappy inspiration with great character drama. I think the story would be properly categorized as magical realism, but I hesitate to ascribe the word “magic” to Lucado’s storytelling, so let me invent a new category: spiritual realism. It’s the veil between the spiritual and physical swept back to reveal the merging from the two from a God’s-eye view. And who’s to say miracles like these don’t happen in more subtle ways in real life all the time.
At the heart of the book is Chelsea’s story and her fractured relationship with God and her husband—the latter of which partially drives the former. Despite having this connection with God at her fingertips, she refuses to use it, typifying those people who run from God in times of trouble rather than running toward him.
Secondary is the connection with God itself. Lucado hones in on how people would respond if they could actually could get instant, on-a-page answers to their prayers. Lucado stalls the primary plot for a while to focus on this, and while a bad move in so many normal storytelling contexts, Lucado not only makes it work but, for me, makes it the highlight of the story. Readers are introduced to a number of different questions and heartcries throughout the book and God’s emotional and fatherly answers. It is a powerful look at how God answers prayer.
Overall, if you know Lucado’s writing style and like it, then you’ll be enraptured by this book. If you’re looking for a more traditional piece of fiction, then maybe pass on it—but you’ll be the one missing out. Miracle at the Higher Grounds Café makes me wish Max would write more full-length fiction.
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