Book Review

by John Hillman

       Although most municipalities wisely prohibit U-turns in traffic, the Father encourages individuals to reverse their sinful paths and turn toward Him. In her first book, God Allows U-Turns, Stories of Hope and Healing (Promise Press, 2001), Allison Gappa Bottke not only reveals her own turnaround story but also shares over 80 life-changing experiences from fellow Christians throughout the United States and Canada.

       The product of a broken home grew up in Cleveland's public housing projects and on welfare. Even though her mother attempted to raise her offspring as Christians, life in the public housing projects made providing a God-centered home extremely difficult.

        "We did not attend church on a regular basis," the author writes. "But we knew the Ten Commandments, and Mom exhibited the values of a Christian woman by the example she set for her three children."

       Continual trauma characterized Allison's childhood. While under a foster parent's care, physical molestation occurred, and the experience left the young girl with a lingering fear of darkness.

       Because of her poverty and emotional distress, the Ohio native eloped at age 15 with an 18-year-old she thought to be the "man of her dreams." But the idyllic scenario soon evolved into a nightmare as her "ideal" husband transformed into a combination abuser, personal jailer, kidnapper, rapist, and attempted murderer.

        "I know I did not think God was so 'great' when my now ex-husband was dragging me up a flight of stairs by my hair," she confessed. "No way was God 'good' when my bones ached from punches and kicks, my skin shrieked from cuts and scrapes, and my eyes burned from hot tears of despair and fear."

       While pregnant at age 16, Allison divorced her abusive spouse and committed to reversing her fortunes. She completed her GED, learned make-up artistry at cosmetology school, and enrolled in California's Cypress Community College as a theater arts major.

       Although Allison eventually found steady employment a national freelance writer, advertising model and professional fundraiser, she lacked self-esteem and a personal relationship with Christ. At age 29, she found herself entangled in a web of failed romances, substance abuse, and a lawbreaking son.

        "The Lord knew it would take a pretty miraculous scenario to catch my attention, and He did not let me down," the writer said. "He must have known how stubborn I was, how I would continue to keep walking the same dead-end paths if He didn't step in and move me."

       One summer evening in 1989, Allison took a walk through her neighborhood, contemplating her life's direction. Suddenly, she heard church bells chime old familiar hymns and spied worshipers arriving for a midweek prayer service.

       Spurred by an unknown power to join them, the troubled woman entered the sanctuary and sat in the unoccupied balcony. When Pastor Victor Constein delivered the message, it seemed directed to her alone.

        "My walk with the Lord started that day, a day that forever changed the course of my life," she penned. "I took a lengthy series of church membership classes, and on April 8, 1990, was confirmed as an adult in St. John's Lutheran Church."

       Three years later, Allison relocated to Arizona and continued her magazine writing. After reading a cover story she wrote for Christian Singles News, Kevin Bottke corresponded, and the couple exchanged letters for several months. They met for the first time in December 1994, the future bride moved to Kevin's home state of Minnesota in February 1995, and the pair married in April 1995.

       But settling in the Land of 10,000 Lakes didn't cool the newborn Christian's passion for writing. Although she compiled a 400-page testimony shortly after discovering her faith, publishers dismissed her work as too lengthy. However, a revelation occurred two years ago.

        "I call it a 'God thing' - when something happens this easily," she says. "I was on vacation with my husband, and it just hit me: God Allows U-Turns as a series of short stories."

       The concept proved highly successful. In February 2000, Allison announced a call for stories of faith through her website, Word of mouth spread the news, and the Christian literary agency, Alive Communications, accepted the project two months later.

       From 13 prospective publishers, the first-time book author selected Barbour Publishing and its Promise Press imprint based in Uhrichville, Ohio. After agreeing to one volume initially, Barbour exercised its option on a second book only a month after the first's completion.

       Critics universally heralded the book's merits. Writers Digest placed the Christian author of the cover of its July 2001 issue, proclaiming, "God Allows U-turns may be the next Chicken Soup for the Soul." Publishers Weekly stated, "This is no run-of-the mill, cheesy inspirational book. Christians will want to pass this book along to their nonbelieving friends, and they will want to keep a copy for themselves."

        "It is my prayer that God Allows U-Turns will grow from one book into a global ministry that will cross all boundaries, sharing with all who will listen that it is never too late to turn around," she said. "Hope, healing, joy, and love exist for all."