Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Brilliant Disguises by William Thornton

Book description:
Cameron Leon is a newly-hired worker for the Forster Foundation, a world-wide charitable organization led by a reclusive billionaire. To get the job, Cameron has to join a church. However, Cameron, still mourning the recent death of his brother Peter, decides he will only pretend to “get saved.” In the process, he impersonates not only a Christian, but on occasion his brother. Cameron continues to receive tearful phone calls from Peter’s widow, Cecelia, who wants to hear her late husband’s voice. Cameron, a born mimic like his brother, flawlessly impersonates him but feels the need for a personal kind of cleansing. In the end, Cameron discovers not only how many faces he has, but how many there are among the people around him. In the end, he finds he has been impersonating someone - or Someone - all along.

I blogged a couple of times in recent weeks about wearings masks in church, so when I got an email from the author of this book asking me to review it, the book intrigued me since my mind was still on wearings masks.

This book was an interesting and enjoyable read. Told in first person from the viewpoint of Cameron, who pretends to be a Christian to get and keep his job. It is amusing at times, and yet makes a person think. The author also looks at some of the things in Christians such as "catch phrases" and ways of praying that was rather entertaining. And although an enjoyable read, it is convicting also - how often do we as Christians maybe not necessarily pretend to be a Christian while not being one, but pretend everything is ok while it isn't. Especially for we who grew up in the church, it is all too easy to go through the motions and fool everyone, as Cameron did in this book.

The main character was an interesting person and likable. There is a lot of internal conflict that goes on in him as he realizes more and more that what he is doing is wrong, yet he is afraid to admit the truth. In addition to pretending he is a Christian, he has a bizarre thing going on with his brother's widow, where she has him pretend to be his brother, showing all the more how easy it is to pretend to be what we are not.

I will admit I was a bit leery of reviewing this book. It is self-published, and I knew nothing about the author, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It was an inspiring book with a great message, clean of improper content or language. I am not a big fan of books written from the first person point of view, but for this one, I think that was the best choice, and the best way to tell the story of Cameron, a man pretending to be something he wasn't. This is a book I recommend reading. I believe it is the author's first book, and he did a great job on it.

About the author:

William Thornton is an award-winning writer who has been a newspaper reporter for the past 21 years. He teaches a Sunday School class and is a deacon in a Southern Baptist church. He also maintains a blog on Christian themes in religious fiction, non-fiction and popular culture. He lives in Alabama with his wife and daughter.

Q&A with the author, taken from his website,

Q: How did the idea behind this book come about?

A: Several things inspired me. One was how, at times in church, you’ll find a person who comes forward to make a profession of faith who has been a fixture there for years, sometimes decades. They may be the Sunday School superintendent, or the lady who works in the kitchen for meals, or a volunteer in the nursery who never misses a Sunday. Everyone in the church knows them and looks up to them, yet they make that walk down the aisle and say they’ve never felt like they were saved. They may very well be a Christian, but doubts are eating away at them. I was interested in how that could happen.

Q: But Cameron, the narrator of this book, says clearly that he isn’t a Christian.

A: No, and that’s what made it interesting for me. Another inspiration was those cases you’ll sometimes read about where someone is sued over a morals clause in their employment contract, in which they failed to live the kind of life the company requires. I was interested in somebody who is compelled to do a “good job,” but by doing so, gets his life misinterpreted by the people around him who think it’s his genuine lifestyle. That allows you to see Cameron as an insider who’s really on the outside.

Q: Mimicry gets talked about a lot.

A: That was necessary, because for Cameron to do the job well - to be convincing - he’s got to be a mimic. And when you encounter someone who can do an impersonation of someone’s voice or mannerisms, there’s always a certain kind of magic about it. You wonder how they’re able to do it, and what it would be like to have that ability. I took the inspiration for that from my brother, who seems to be able to do those kinds of things without even practicing, which is just appalling to me. (laughs)

Q: Evolution gets talked about too. Are you trying to get people to reassess their concept of evolution?

A: Not at all. That was a storytelling choice. Cameron is telling the story, and he espouses a rational/scientific view of things at the beginning. But mimicry in nature is part of evolutionary theory, and strangely enough, it’s also part of Christianity. We are compelled to live like Christ, to reflect His life, His teachings, His compassion, His sacrifice, and His resurrection. It’s not a parlor trick though, but necessary for survival. You might say we’re supposed to evolve into what He wants us to be.

Q: What works inspired you to write this book?

A: Several books, among them - “The Double” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “The Human Stain” by Philip Roth and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” All of them are in some way wrapped up in this idea of identity.

Q: How did they influence you?

A: Besides the subject matter, they helped with the style of the book. I wanted to write a book about the interior life of someone going through the transforming work that is necessary for salvation. That’s usually handled in the context of non-fiction for Christian publications. Since I’m writing fiction, one of my models was the way Jewish writers craft their fiction around what it’s like to be Jewish and part of American culture. I’m talking about writers like Philip Roth, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Safran Foer. The Christian experience in America is as much cultural as spiritual. God finds you wherever you are, but the place that you come from has a lot to say about who you are, or who you think you are.

Brilliant Disguises is available from Xlibris Publishing, and also on Thanks to the author for the review copy.

First chapter available here.


Annette W. said...

Hmm...The interview itself was pretty interesting.

I agree with you that first person doesn't always work, but it sounds like it worked very well for this book. Thanks!