Dordt College News

Schaap book shares seven stories for Christmas

November 15, 2005

Who knew you could find Christmas in an obnoxious bus driver, an awkward adolescent, and a crowded shopping mall?

Just in time for the holiday season, author James Calvin Schaap, Sioux Center, has published a new book, Startling Joy: Seven Magical Stories of Christmas.

This eclectic collection of seven short stories reminds all who face the rush of Christmas what grace looks like--and that it can be found in the most unlikely of people and places.

Schaap takes common Christmas events and handles them in unexpected ways, with each story illuminating a miracle moment in a messy world, “enough to make you believe in Christmas all over again.”

As described on the book jacket, “Between pageants and parties, stores and stockings, the quiet moments of grace are often overlooked. But these simple moments in complicated lives will pull you in, bring a smile to your face, and remind you of the real spirit of the season--the spirit of love, the mark of grace.”

“Prepare for the unexpected,” says Walter Wangerin Jr. in the book’s foreword. “Jim Schaap writes about those common relationships that all of us have experienced. He knows our lives, re-fires our memories. He draws us into settings familiar. He causes us to inhabit the worlds of plain folk struggling with the problems of an ordinary life--and he makes it all so very, very important, for this is the place where humanity happens. We love and fail and work and hurt and grow here. And as all these stories revolve around Christmas and the incarnation, here too is where God comes to meet us, at which we make our best beginnings.”

The author of 22 books, Schaap’s work was an Award of Merit winner in the Christianity Today 2004 book awards; has received five top Evangelical Press Association fiction awards and four Associated Church Press Awards. Schaap was one of 20 authors featured in The Best Christian Writing 2004 and his novel Romey’s Place was a runner-up for the prestigious Christy Award.

A professor of English at Dordt College, Schaap’s articles, essays, and short stories have also appeared in more than 25 magazines and journals, including Poet & Critic, Mid-American Review, and The Banner. Schaap earned his bachelor’s degree from Dordt College, a master’s degree from Arizona State University, and his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He was been a professor of English at Dordt College in Sioux Center since 1976.

Schaap will participate in several book signings in November and December, at which his book will be available for purchase. They include Barnes & Noble, Sioux City, Nov. 19 from 2-4; Barnes & Noble, Sioux Falls, Dec. 3 from 2-4; Dordt Bookstore, Dec. 9 from 6-7; and Dove Christian Bookstore in Orange City, Dec. 15 from 6-8.

Startling Joy is also available from the publisher (Revell), at the Dordt College Bookstore and from other major book retailers.

The December issue of Christianity Today will reprint in its entirety one of the seven stories in the book, titled by Schaap "Joy and Miracle."

Christian Book review of Startling Joy

Publishers Weekly Religion Bookline says this about Startling Joy: "Schaap, whose novels Romey’s Place and Touches the Sky have given hope to those who believe that Christian fiction can indeed be literary and beautifully written, offers seven stand-alone stories that quietly herald the meaning of Christmas.

"Walter Wangerin provides the foreword, setting the stage for stories that inscribe “sacred mystery into our common lives.” From the opening anecdote, in which an annoyingly loquacious bus driver causes reflection on the “startling joy” of Christ’s unexpected incarnation, to the last vignette, in which a crusty theater professor discovers anew the meaning of the second chapter of Luke after a pageant performance, these stories aren’t merely touching but deeply theological.

"Schaap builds from everyday situations (mercifully, there are no implausible coincidences or other plot contrivances here) and everyday folks. His characters are flawed and real individuals who experience glimpses of grace in the midst of their own pain and selfishness.

“Schaap manages to make his points about forgiveness, joy and grace in subtle ways without preaching at the reader. It helps that he also writes with a lovely undertone of humor, seeing the comedy in daily life."

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