Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe
By Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson, 2015
What if you could ask God anything? What would you ask? And how would he answer?
Chelsea Chambers is on her own. After a public split from her NFL superstar husband, Chelsea takes a bold step out of the limelight and behind the counter of the Higher Grounds Café, an old-fashioned coffee shop in dire need of reinvention. But when her courage, expert planning, and out-of-this-world cupcakes fail to pay the bills, this newly single mom finds herself desperate for help. Better yet, a miracle.
Then a curious stranger lands at Chelsea's door, and with him, an even more curious string of events. Soon, customers are flocking to the Higher Grounds Café, and not just for the cupcakes and cappuccino. They've come for the internet connection to the divine. Now the café has become the go-to place for people in search of answers to life's biggest questions.
When a catastrophe strikes and her ex comes calling, Chelsea begins to wonder if the whole universe is conspiring against her quest to make it on her own. After a shocking discovery opens her eyes to the unseen world around her, Chelsea finds the courage to ask, and heaven answers in a most unexpected way.
Max Lucado's new fiction release, Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe, is unusual and quite unique. I greatly enjoyed it while reading, but like it even more as I reflect back. Rather than critiquing from a literary standpoint, my reviews are usually based on how a book affects me, and this one hits a home run. (Giveaway generously provided by Litfuse Publicity; details at the end of this review.)
Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe is a beautiful example of the power of story. Max is a wordsmith. He has an exceptional, God-given ability to communicate spiritual truths by painting pictures through the written word. This is not a long read, but it doesn't need to be, for Max speaks volumes in only 184 pages. It may seem like a predictable, lighthearted fantasy on the surface, but there are untold hidden depths.
It is an imaginative concept to spin this story around modern social concepts like a San Antonio coffee shop, wifi, lattes, baked goodies, and an interactive "God Blog." I loved all the characters and the way readers will be able to identify with their struggles. The use of angels in fiction often comes across as somewhat cheesy, but Max did a great job in making Manny humorous, quirky, and sincere. There are some great scenes where Manny views events from heaven's perspective.
"I wanted a better wife. She wanted a better husband.
But God gave us something even better. Himself."
This is a story about relationships - with spouse, family members, friends, community, and with God. Spiritual warfare and the power of prayer are major themes. Issues of adultery and divorce are woven into this story, but never as a main theme nor in a condemning, "preachy" manner. That's not Max's style and he has a gift for keeping the focus where it needs to be - on God's love, repentance, and forgiveness.
This book is filled with spiritual themes that will speak to readers - the personal cost of unforgiveness, the effectiveness of prayer, that everything in our lives has a purpose, and that no matter how devastating the circumstance, we are never alone. One scene that especially touched me is when Manny wanders into what had once been a prayer room in the coffee shop, and he simply listens . . . "Decades of prayers resounded through the small room. Prayers that pass through the lips in a moment, but endure for all eternity."
Spiritual warfare is very real, yet it's not something to which I give a lot of thought, so I found this theme fascinating and extremely moving. I'd like to end with this touching and victorious scene that gives cause for rejoicing, a visual that contrasts the forces of light and dark . . .
Through the window, Manny noticed dark shadows lurking . . . Voices emerged from within: throaty and gutteral, filling the atmosphere with lies of shame, abandonment, and despair.
"God has no place for you . . ."
"God? What God?"
Gabriel began to sing. "Holy is the Living God."
At the sound of the angelic voice, the murky cloud stopped its advance.
"Blessed be the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord!"
The shadows inched back at each chorus.
One by one the angels joined Gabriel, lifting their voices to heaven. It soon sounded as though hundreds, perhaps thousands were singing. . . . In the presence of such mighty voices, the evil held no sway. There was no shadow for such lies to hide.
Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe is a story that could possibly impact new believers, seekers, and seasoned Christians alike. I hope we see more fiction from Mr. Max. Highly recommended.
More than 120 million readers have found comfort in the writings of Max Lucado. He ministers at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Denalyn, and a sweet but misbehaving mutt, Andy.
Find Max online at maxlucado.com, Facebook, and Twitter. Also visit his Litfuse Blog Tour page to learn more.
Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe can be purchased at CBD, DeeperShopping, B&N, and Amazon.
Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.