Retired dairy farmer Gerrit Appeldoorn, a nearly 60-year-old Dutch Reformed widower, finds himself inexplicably drawn to the new piano teacher from the East Coast. Homegrown fellow that he is, Gerrit tries to erect mental and spiritual blockades against this fresh-faced city woman.

Though he wants to honor the memory of his dead wife, Gerrit is increasingly eager to escort his granddaughter to her piano lessons—puzzling as this flimsy pretense is even to himself.

Thus begins The Duet, the debut adult title for youth series author Robert Elmer. The tempo picks up as the Calvinist worldview of Gerrit clashes with that of Joan Horton, the also-widowed piano teacher whose Nazarene roots emphasize actively "doing" rather than letting life unfold around her. Gerrit and Joan's theological conversations give their relationship a spark. Casual debate turns to verbal sparring.

This is no tract, though. Elmer draws his readers in for a closer look, then teases them with a bit of introspection or laughter before unveiling another truth. Like writers such as Jan Karon, Elmer avoids theological lectures in favor of prudent, timely, and telling remarks from his characters.

With this work, Elmer—the author of The Young Underground, Adventures Down Under, Promise of Zion, and AstroKids—also reminds us that many new Christian fiction writers are crafting their work more skillfully than ever.

Elmer mainly teaches by example. As the widower and the widow stumble into a tenuous friendship revolving around 9-year-old granddaughter Mallory's piano lessons (which she abhors), they journey, often comically, into places of deeper understanding. The author expertly unfurls a story in which both characters learn to hold their beliefs while making room ...

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