Back cover copy: Springville Community Christian Church is nestled in the mountains of North Carolina and is a quiet, Mayberry-esque type of town — that is until a ruthless businessman sets his sights on the town and opens the first bar in the middle of the quiet community.
Pastor Daniel Whitefield seeks only to do the will of God. Nothing more, nothing less. When he’s pressured to join the Springville League of Churches — a coalition in protest of the bar — he resists, causing tension with friends and congregants. He further risks his credibility by organizing a taxi service for the bar’s customers, as a way to witness.
The seven members of New Wine Transportation Company are excited to serve, despite the naysayers, but as damaging rumors spread, he begins to question the project, too.
Is the church members’ witness of God’s grace powerful enough to reach bar patrons, merely by giving them a ride home after a long night out?
My review: If you’ve grown up in a small town – especially in the South – then reading New Wine Transportation Company by Heather Norman Smith will be like returning to your roots. So many things in this story sounded like my childhood, from revitalizing Main Street to having only one apartment complex and hotel in town to everybody knowing everybody (and each other’s business).
The premise is simple but unique: a pastor feels led to gather a group of men from his church to provide free rides for patrons who need help getting home from the new – and controversial – bar in town. Some of the plot conflicts are expected, such as differing opinions about the bar and different ways of handling opposition to it. Other conflicts are a surprise and add nice twists along the way.
Faith is a strong story element, which is no surprise with a pastor as the main character. But he’s also real instead of cheesy and the faith aspects don’t come across as preachy (though there are quite a few quotes or references to specific Bible verses, which I know some readers might find to be a bit much). There’s good food for thought about relationship trust, supporting others and following where you think God is leading. It also gives glimpses into the labels we can tend to assign to people and how people (and situations) often aren’t as they appear on the surface. There are always layers that deserve to be explored, especially when we’re trying to serve others as we think God wants us to.
And speaking of serving, I could learn a few lessons from Daniel on how to step right out and move when I feel like God is directing me to do something new. I’ll feel a nudge and then start questioning whether it was really from God or just my own thoughts. But in the story Daniel felt that God directed him to do something and immediately began working in that direction. I applaud people (fictional or in real life) who have that kind of confidence.
Who should read it: New Wine Transportation Company is definitely more for adults than teens, but that’s just because the characters are adults and would appeal to that audience more than teens. Overall, is a really nice choice when you’re in the mood for a lighter, faith-based read. Heather Norman Smith has written several other books that you might also want to check out.
I read New Wine Transportation Company as a reviewer for Blue Ridge Reader Connections. All opinions are my own. 😊