The Dance is the first book of Gary Smalley's and Dan Walsh's Restoration series. There are four books in the series. I have discovered that all the books can be read independently, but are easier understood and experienced if you read this first book before the others. I read this book after reading book four. Reading it filled in the gaps for me and helped me understand the underlying premise of the series. Book 1, at the time I have written this review, was/is a free ebook. You may want to check now to see if it is still free, before reading books two, three, and four.
Jim Anderson is the owner of Anderson Development, a commercial real estate company. He has built this company up from the ground himself. He is understandably proud of his accomplishments. His business has been successful for a long time, although recently it has reflected the slump in the American economy. In my opinion, Jim is a typical alpha male, in that the world must revolve around him, including his family. This has only created pain in his household, though he doesn't see that. Suddenly and unexpectedly for Jim, his wife of 27 years left him. She quietly moved out, leaving most of her belongings behind.
Marilyn Anderson loves how she's been protected and cared for by Jim. She loved her new home in the planned community. She took pleasure in choosing all the furniture and decorating the house right down to the smallest details. She could appreciate how Jim has worked hard to maintain their way of life. He provided well for their three children. He gave them nearly anything they wanted. But it wasn't enough. He gave them everything but his heart. He was a legalistic Christian who didn't live by the heart of Christ but by rules. Marilyn had felt this lack the moment they were married until one day she couldn't stand it anymore. Overwhelmed with sadness, she went out in search of a job, found an older person to board with, and left. The driving question in this book--what would it take for Jim and Marilyn to reconcile? This is their story and the beginning of the series.
This book has so many elements I could relate to as I was reading it. First, both authors have been counselors and involved with Christian ministry and with marriage relationships for many years. Gary Smalley's book on marriage helped my own marriage when my husband and I were a young couple. Dan Walsh admitted that Smalley's books on communication aided his own young marriage as well. Through the expertise of both these men, this book is filled with nuggets of gold. The character development is heart gripping and real. The book is written just the way I enjoy reading character-based literature.
Second, the turn around doesn't occur overnight. It actually takes Jim about half the book length before he even began to look within himself to discover if he has done something to run off his wife and alienate his children. It easily provides us readers a character we "love to hate". He is both despicable and a person we want to see turn his life around. I truly wanted to get my hands on his neck and choke the guy at the beginning of the story. I certainly yelled at him, in my mind, from time to time.
Third, there's a vivid analogy written into the storyline--that of a dance. The analogy which is responsible for the title, has multiple layers which we come to understand better as the story progresses. It is so well written and incorporated that it helps keep the storyline moving along at a good clip. Finally, I related very well with Marilyn's plight. The break in their marriage wasn't all Jim's doing. Marilyn had much to learn before she could reconcile with her husband. In the series, the first step they take at the conclusion of this story is continued in the remaining three books. The three books each feature one of Jim and Marilyn's children as they fit into the theme of the series. Jim and Marilyn's story continues as a subplot, while the major plots are dedicated to each adult child in turn. That is why I not only recommend this book to you, but the series as well.
From now on, whenever I hear the phrase "the power of story," The Dance by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley is one book that will quickly come to mind. The narrative takes real-life issues that many of us face - lack of communication, the drive to get ahead, acceptance by peers, financial insecurity - and meets them head on in a story with relationship advice seamlessly blended into a storyline that simply entertains. The Dance, book on in The Restoration Series, is a character-driven novel, written in an easy-to-read style that captured and held my attention from the very first page.
On his blog, Dan says this about The Restoration Series: "Weve written the series hoping to reach thousands of Christians who may be struggling or coming up short of their expectations for a truly happy home." While the focus is on the marriage of Jim and Marilyn Anderson, I think the relational gems in this book would help strengthen any relationship. The novels are mostly set in the fictitious town of River Oaks, Florida, which is inspired by a real-life, storybook-like town of Celebration near Disneyworld. Be sure to visit Dan's Restoration Series Pinterest to get a glimpse of this charming town.
The Dance is a book that beautifully weaves Dan Walsh's literary talent with Gary Smalley's relationship expertise, and entertaining fiction with educational truths. I would have thought this blending of styles and message would be somewhat difficult to achieve, but they made it look effortless. Jim and Marilyn are sympathetic characters that I could easily relate to, and strong supporting characters added richness to the story. I especially enjoyed dance instructor Audrey and Jim's Uncle Henry, the hippie who'd found Jesus after almost dying of a drug overdose at Woodstock.
Everything had to revolve around Jim, who had spent years crafting his reputation, and Marilyn avoided confrontation. But while Jim initially attributed their separation to Marilyn's selfishness, it quickly became an eye-opening experience. And I thought the church they attended almost became a major character, for I have known of churches like that - status driven, prestigious, legalistic. In Jim's thoughts, he "was a pariah now, inside that building. A man fallen from grace. If not from God, certainly from men. . . . One never rises once fallen from grace. Not in this church."
The Dance is a story of hope, prayer, forgiveness, restoration, and new beginnings. The beauty of Christianity is God restoring us relationally to Him, and we see another kind of restoration in this story - the marriage relationship - that reflects Christ's relationship with us, His church. The Dance is an example of the power of fiction to transform lives and I highly recommend it.
Thank you to Revell for providing a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
A marriage is in troubleâ€”except Jim Anderson is ignorant of the problems driving his wife, Marilyn, away. Jim has gauged his success in life by his thriving business and showplace home. After twenty-seven years together, Marilyn decides she needs to escape, at least for a while. She confides in their daughter, who is away at college, but doesn't let Jim know where she moves to sort out her life. Marilyn steps out to do some things she has not been allowed to pursue: a job and dance lessons.
Surprised and angry at his wife's disappearance, Jim is forced to take stock of his own life and learn to reconnect with Marilyn and their children. He finds an unlikely mentor, who teaches him how to truly relate to those he loves. The metaphor of dancing and living is woven throughout the novel, offering wise advice we all could heed.
What's easily torn down is difficult to rebuild...
November 10, 2013
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Age: Over 65
Jim and Marilyn Anderson have lived in a relatively one-sided marriage since the day they wed and Jim refused to dance with Marilyn, both disappointing and embarrassing her. Jim's refusal to dance with her began a 27-year relationship based on Jim's priorities and demands with little regard for Marilyn's needs and desires. She was merely of a trophy wife, beautiful, the perfect hostess, and dutifully playing the role of a submissive wife. Extremely unhappy, Marilyn quietly leaves Jim in a search for peace and purpose. Jim's reaction to discovering that Marilyn has left him only results in escalating anger. His stress level is already out of control as a result of his struggling business. Both Christians, Jim can't believe that Marilyn would leave him, nor could he understand why.
As Marilyn attempts to work through her anger and unhappiness, she enrolls in a dance class. The freedom she feels as she learns to dance takes away some of the stress of her unfulfilled life. Jim is approached by Audrey, the former owner of the dance studio, and she convinces him to take private lessons from her. Her lessons run far deeper than just the basic dance steps. Audrey begins to open Jim's heart to his failings as a husband. As she weaves these lessons of a successful and happy, Christ-centered relationship with her lessons in dance Jim's fears and inability express himself are revealed. As she shows him these steps he begins to break down and discover the pain that he caused his wife and children, but wonders if he can overcome the damage that has already resulted.
This poignant fictional story of a struggling relationship is blended with examples for finding healing. Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley have woven a tapestry of fiction and Christian instruction in making a weak marriage strong through the lives of Jim and Marilyn and the blunders of a disrespectful husband. Though Marilyn's character is portrayed in relative innocence regarding the failing marriage, the focus on Jim's lack of respect and concern for his wife is pivotal in revealing the ravages of a selfish nature, lack of respect, fear of failure and subsequent embarrassment. This book is both heartwrenching and heartwarming as these characters seek forgiveness and mercy in an attempt to find their way to a fulfilling relationship. Fortunately I have the second book in the series, and upon finishing The Dance, immediately began to read it. I'm looking forward to discovering the future for Jim and Marilyn's marriage and their relationships with their grown children.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and no monetary compensation was received as a result of this review.
Dan's book, The Dance, is a powerful story of marital love and romance, with the interlude of a pending divorce. With the wonderful writing intricacies that are well-known by Dan Walsh and the additions of Gary Smalley, you get a worthwhile story of reconciling a difficult situation. And you will learn some wonderful insights into your own marriage relationship or how to work on issues before you get married.
I was totally overwhelmed with the delicate emotions, difficult decisions, and ultimate surprises by the end of the story. This is another of my favorites from Dan Walsh. He's a writer you should not miss!
This book was received free in exchange for my honest opinion form Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group. No monetary compensation was received.