Thursday, November 20, 2008


I blogged a while back about a fiction book that really moved me, possibly more than any I had ever read. It has been upstaged by the book I just finished, "Riven", by Jerry Jenkins. I started the book a few days ago - it is longer than most I read, over 500 pages, so I didn't get it done in one sitting. As I sit here with my eyes having that terrible feeling that have after you have had a really hard cry, all I can say is "wow". And I did cry a lot, pretty steadily for the last few chapters of the book. Jerry Jenkins says this is the book he was destined to write, and has had the idea for years. If you intend to read the book, you may not want to read what I write. This book has impacted me, and I will give a lot of it away. But if you don't plan on reading it, or don't care if it is given away, read on.
For most of the book, it reads like 2 stories. On one hand, you have Reverend Thomas Carey & his wife, Grace. Pastors for years, never succeeding anywhere, and having the worst done to them by the people they are trying to serve. Add a college-age daughter with her live-in boyfriend, and nothing is going right for this wonderful pastor. He finally ends up as chaplain for the Adamsville Supermax prison, where only the worst offenders go, and there are no privileges or human contact, other than guards.
And you have the hero of the story. Sixteen-year-old Brady Wayne Darby. Fatherless, cigarette smoking, beer drinking, and eventually druggie and school drop-out. His main mission in life is to look after his little brother, Pete, and keep their mother from abusing him. As the book bounces back and forth between the pastor who is a failure, and feeling like God has deserted he and his wife, and the young boy who has everything going against him, the author gives a good fictional account of how everything can go wrong for a young boy, until after in and out of juvenile detention and jail, he is finally on death row at Adamsville Super max Prison. The same prison where Thomas Carey has been working futilely for 14 years. No convert. No man ever serious about his request to see the chaplain - they all have ulterior motive.
And then the "heiress killer", Brady Darby arrives, and no one is ever the same again. Unlike the other prisoners, he is no trouble. He wants no appeals, no mercy. He wants to die for his crime, and as fast as possible. But somewhere along the line, the little bit of church he had comes back to remind him that when he dies, he will drop straight into Hell. He asks for a meeting with the chaplain to ask if there is any hope for a murderer like him.
After several meetings, worn-out, depressed Thomas finally has a convert, one that will change his life, and change the prison. I admit, I was taken aback by the end of the book, though the readers know what is going to happen a few chapters before, and even though I had a good idea before I read the book, due to a review I read. Each prisoner on death row is allowed to choose his method of death. Brady decides not to go with the usual 4. He has only recently come to understand just what Jesus went through on the cross, and wants his death to help people understand that, so he chooses crucifixion. Filmed live. By the time I got to the actual death scene, I had given up on fighting the tears - not that I had been very successful, and just let them come.
I know that could never happen in real life, and even in the fiction world, it was fought, but it was his right to choose.
This book was really worth reading. It was recommended to me, but I had put off buying it due to the price - $24.99 - even the sale price wasn't a good deal, til I found it half off, and had a 25% coupon I could use in addition to that. I am glad I got it, and read it. I don't think I could have read it a better time in my life, for it addresses some of the things I struggle with. Does God really love unconditionally, no matter how bad we are, no matter how far we stray? Why does it seem God is distant and lets His children suffer so much?
The one review I read, on that gave the ending away for me, was negative. The man who wrote it didn't like the idea that Jenkins had his character die the same way Jesus did. I had no problem with it. The author was not trying to make this guy into Jesus, but was trying to let people see through his eyes, what it must have been like for Jesus. If that helps even one person, that is worth the book being written, printed, and sold.