(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Ray Blackston’s debut novel, Flabbergasted, is set in the contemporary southern United States. Its prologue is told in a voice the reader later learns to be that of twenty-seven-year-old stockbroker Jay Jarvis, the novel’s protagonist, and introduces the novel’s depiction of Jay’s life-changing experiences. The rest of the story is told in Jay’s voice.

“Act 1” opens with Jay going to church to meet single women. He meets Lydia Hutto, Stanley Rhone, and Steve Cole but is most intrigued by Allie Kyle. He volunteers to help with an upcoming Memorial Day beach trip for singles when he learns that she is helping with that event. The rest of “Act 1” is dedicated to this trip, during which Jay becomes friends with Steve and Ransom Delaney, reels in and pets a shark with the Reverend Asbury Smoak, and gets to know Allie. Allie both intrigues and puzzles Jay, and “Act 1” ends with Jay’s realization, “I may want what you have . . . that contentment, that whatever it is that makes you happier than everyone else.”

“Act 2” begins the following August. Allie returns to Ecuador, where she is a missionary, and Jay has returned to his job, missing her, feeling a bit disgruntled that she left and not comfortable with his stockbroker lifestyle. Jay attends church only occasionally and is still anxious not to become too enmeshed in it, sitting in “pew number twenty-three . . . twenty-two was way too close to the front.” Nevertheless, he has met his closest friends through church. Jay corresponds with Allie, and begins attending a men’s group. He...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Blackston, Ray. A Delirious Summer. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Fleming H. Revell, 2004. A sequel to Flabbergasted. On the advice of one of his students (Jay Jarvis), Spanish-language teacher Neil Rucker takes his furlough in Greenville, South Carolina, seeking to end his months-long dating dry spell.

Blackston, Ray. Lost in Rooville. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Fleming H. Revell, 2005. The third in the trilogy formed by Flabbergasted and A Delirious Summer. Jay Jarvis has a plan: get his girlfriend Allie to Australia, find an unforgettable spot, and propose.

Blackston, Ray. Web site. Blackston’s official Web site offers more information about him and his books.

Butler, Tamara. “Flabbergasted.” Library Journal, June 1, 2003. A brief review of the novel.

Parker, Mike. “Exploring the Absurdities of Dating.” BookPage, May, 2003. A review of Flabbergasted.