The Almost True Story Of Ryan Fisher [by Rob Stennett] is the fictional (fortunately) account of a struggling real estate agent (Ryan Fisher). He has moved up the ladder as much as he could in real estate. He begins to realize that his life is just one big pile of monotony. (The fact that he can’t seem to get his wife pregnant with their first child does not help matters either.) However, as would happen in books, things are about to change for Ryan and his family. Late one night, Ryan decides to place an add in the Christian Business Directory, so that he might be able to pick up some more clients looking to buy and sell homes. The following Sunday, Ryan and Catherine decide to go to a church (for the first time in their lives) so that Ryan might be able to network with potential clients who saw his advertisement in the Christian Business Directory. After a couple of weeks of attending. Ryan really gets into the whole church idea. After about a month, Ryan (somewhat randomly) decides that he and Catherine could plant their own church (even though Ryan has no ministry training whatsoever and does not believe in God as far as we know). The scarier part is that Catherine agrees to uproot their mundane (yet prosperous) life in Denver to move to some squat town in the middle of nowhere (Oklahoma).
Immediately upon arriving in Oklahoma Ryan causes an uproar with locals as he tells an entire diner full of folks to come check out his church the following Sunday (They don’t even have a place to meet at this point). The People’s Church, as it would be called, did have its first service (In a Chuck E Cheese restaurant) 17 people showed up. This is extremely impressive considering the circumstances. The first service ends up being awful as Ryan discovers that he does not know how to preach. People keep coming in the following weeks in spite of that. Ryan’s take on Christianity seems different from anything they had ever heard before. (This will become a problem later).
Ryan spends much time studying the greatest preachers around and learns to deliver quality sermons with his brand of palatable Christianity (Ryan realizes that more people will show up if he tells him only the things they want to hear about Jesus…while neglecting some of the harder things they may need to hear). All of the other local pastors in the area know about this and they try to reason with Ryan (who had previously fabricated a back story in case any of them should suspect him of taking advantage of those seeking the truth).
Katherine has been thinking about that fact the entire time they’ve been in Oklahoma, and it bothers her. One of the other downfalls of being a “Rock Star Pastor” was that Ryan had no time to be with her. She decides to resolve this void in her life by having an affair with a cowboy (who also happens to be the worship leader at The People’s Church). (They are inevitably found out)
Ryan continues to mislead his flock with his palatable brand of Christianity, even appearing on Oprah to defend the Christian perspective of a debate (At this point he still hadn’t accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour yet).
Eventually, Ryan’s scheme is found out by CNN (who promptly begin to tear him down). Ryan is forced to resign and The People’s Church is placed under solid leadership for the first time in its short life. (The first really good thing to happen in the book).
In amongst all the turmoil, Katherine has fled her husband (because he’s insane, if you haven’t figured that out yet). After some time, she gets in touch with Ryan so that she can show them the ultra sound pictures of their new baby that they’re about to have. (The other good thing to happen in the book).
Overall, The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher is a lighthearted, mostly comical read. I would have liked to know if Ryan and Katherine had gotten together in the last scene in that coffee shop…but we are left to make up that ending ourselves. It was interesting, and quite funny to get the perspective of a person who had never gone to church before on several things that those of us who do go to church would find completely normal (Ryan found these things to be totally weird…If you want to know what they are…you should read the book).
Character development is pretty decent across the board for all major characters involved in the story (Something you wouldn’t be able to tell from reading this review alone).
In the end, I would give this book a 7/10. It’s well written and you don’t have to think too much (if you don’t want to).