Heart of the Country - novel by Rene Gutteridge (John Ward contributor)
When handed a movie script and asked to turn it into a novel, what do you do? The plot is fixed, so your only choice is to flesh out the characters, make them real. That's exactly what Rene Gutteridge did, superbly. Heart of the Country is told in 1st person from each of 5 main point-of-view (POV) characters, an excellent choice for this character-driven story.
Something writers aspire to do is to give their readers a powerful emotional experience. This retelling of the prodigal story -- well, let me just say this -- my wife and I listened to the audio version of Heart of the Country while traveling in our car, and when prodigal Luke failed in his response to his wife, Faith, (AKA acted like a jerk), my wife got so mad that the rest of our 8-hour trip was miserable. That's a powerful emotional response! Only the POV of witty, gritty Olivia seemed to sooth her anger until we passed the dark moment in the story and saw light ahead.
This character-based story unravels slowly, much like a Charles Martin novel, and the use of 1st person allows you to get very close to the characters. Despite the fact that I like action, adventure, and suspense, Rene Gutteridge's writing gets 5 stars from me. I haven't seen the movie yet, but there's no way a 90-minute flick can capture as much as this well-written novel.
If you listen to the audio version, as I did, the narration is very, very good.