by Norbert J. KukPublished in the Wisconsin Christian News
Auctioneer Richard Paradis couldn’t possibly know what he was in for when he volunteered to run a hospital charity auction in the northern Maine town of Perth, where he grew up and now lived. While sorting donated items, he came across a Perth bicentennial book, apparently published several years ago when he worked in Boston. He was unaware of the book’s existence, and in thumbing through it he was shocked to find a photograph of himself. Only it wasn’t! It was like looking in a mirror, but the caption identified the man as Richard Paradise–-with an e–-the pastor of a local church! And when he sought an explanation, it started him on a complex and intriguing adventure.
On one level, No Middle Ground is an adventure story that takes place in the cold woodlands of northern Maine –-but also in and between two different worlds–-with many surprises throughout. It’s also a love story that emphasizes the need for the spiritual as well as the physical.
On a higher level, No Middle Ground is a contemporary story of radical socio-economic change, material deprivation, human endurance, and above all, the importance of faith in surviving under dire conditions. It underscores the belief that when God is all you’ve got, God is all you need. It’s a story of human transgression, courage, repentance, and forgiveness.
While the book is not meant to be a political statement, it necessarily (but briefly) addresses some basic economic and social issues that help explain conditions in the story. The real underlying problem, however, is the past neglect or rejection of faith by the people, followed by the persecution of it by faithless people who have gained power.
The central characters in No Middle Ground are Richard from one world and Emily from another, but there are several other protagonists as well, including Arno, an intellectual who struggles with belief. By the end of the story, most of the main characters end up as significantly different (better) people than they were at the beginning. It is hoped the reader will do likewise.