They say that if you make it through life with one friend that knows you well and you can rely on for anything, you are lucky. If you have two or more, you are blessed.
I am very blessed.
Many years ago (long before I put pen to paper myself), I made one of the limited few that I count among my closest friends. I have known this fellow for over twenty years (which is a feat, because I am 26), but we have only been friends since high-school (as a loud, obnoxious, know-it-all, he had to learn to tolerate me first, haha).
Well, like me, he is a writer. I don’t know if I play a huge role in his writing process, but he certainly is an integral part of mine (“What would he do?” is a question I ask myself very nearly daily). So, it is with great pleasure that I give you my review of “The Other Side of Hope,” the debut novel of my friend, colleague, and confidant, R.F. Dunham.
Buy “The Other Side of Hope” by following this LINK
(Score is determined by calculating the mean average of the scores of the five criteria I judge novels by)
Storyline: The Other Side of Hope is a story of a world-at-war, and a world reversed. In today’s world, Islamic terrorists wreak havoc the world over, twisting their holy scriptures to fit their own demented world-view and the perceived injustices of the Christian-dominated Western world. In The Other Side, R.F. turns history on its head, as Christians are the terrorists, and the Muslims are the ritzy, rich folks.
Masterfully rebuilding the conflict with a different lens, I give this story five stars.
Characters: Hamid, a young professional in the upscale Muslim country of Turkey (not to be confused with the true, modern Turkey, even though they occupy the same area of the world) is rocked when his wife, Dilara, is murdered by “The Brotherhood,” a Christian terror cell roughly analogous to al Quaeda.
Ethan, conversely, is a young Christian man in Lachlond, near what we know as “The Great Lakes. He has all the same desires as a normal man in his early twenties, he wants to marry his sweetheart, Elisa, and he wants his younger siblings, Mark and Sarah, to stay out of trouble. The de facto head of the family (following his father’s death ten years previously), Ethan is also rocked by the news of the bombing which took Dilara’s life, but for different reasons. He knows that the Turks will be coming back to Lachlond.
These two protagonists (and all supporting characters) are deep, and every line of dialogue bears significant weight and meaning. I give these characters five stars.
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Setting: the setting is pretty easily identifiable with modern Turkey (which is an upscale, urban place in its own right, albeit not under the rulership of a caliphate like Dunham’s Turkey) and the area located in what we know as Northwest Pennsylvania/Southwest New York State, Lachlond in Dunham’s story. Dunham does a fantastic job of building his scenes, however, I would like to see the setting be more than the backdrop for the story, and instead play a larger role in the storyline.
That being said, Dunham set the stage very well, and I had a clear “mind picture” of where the characters were throughout. I give The Other Side‘s settings 4.5 stars.
Plot: Without giving too much away, this plot is about two very similar men living in two very dissimilar worlds. There are moments when the plot threatens to lag, but Dunham has a very natural feel for when this threat looms, and immediately throws more conflict or a twist into the story. It is not overdone, however, and every plot twist or firefight comes at exactly the right moment.
I give the plot five stars.
Resolution: Looking back on the story as a whole, I should not have seen any other outcome than the one Dunham gives us. It neatly ties off every loose end and subplot found within the books pages. Dunham wastes no time on the denoument, however, and the story’s resolution does not drag, a common fault of many first time authors.
I give “The Other Side of Hope” five stars for its resolution.
The resolution is the section that I believe Dunham handled the best. Easily one of the best resolutions on the market today.
Final Grade: With grades of 5, 5, 4.5, 5, and 5, The Other Side of Hope scored 24.5 points. This makes for a final grade of:
This is an amazing score for a first-time novelist, even one who has been a professional ghostwriter for several years. Dunham did not fall into any traps that often befall us writers, and told a phenomenal story to boot. No novel is perfect, but The Other Side of Hope is as close as I have seen from a debut novel.
Read R.F.’s exclusive Author Q&A with Books Chatter HERE!