Tuesday, March 01, 2011
Book Review - The Resurrection
What happens to a pastor who may be losing his faith when a resurrection happens in his town?
Last week we had another interesting Christian Sci-fi/Fantasy Tour with the book The God Hater. This book was based around a specific message, with the story enveloping it. It was overall popular with the tour, with me in the minority view that the story didn't carry the potent message.
I did a little compare/contrast with the book I read just following The God Hater, Mike Duran's debut novel The Resurrection. Mike's blog is one that I frequent, and have often linked from here for his thought-provoking articles on Christian fiction. I promised a review of Mike's book afterwards, so here we go.
Reverend Ian Clark is ready to resign his post at Canyon Springs Community Church, being haunted in multiple ways by failures in his past and by his rising doubt. Ruby Case is a young mother with a lifelong limp, a steadfast faith, yet a weariness that there is not more life in their church.
Little does Ruby know how she will help bring life back to Canyon Springs.
When she visits the funeral of a friend's young son, she isn't expecting a miracle. But when the boy sits up after she touches him, a firestorm is lit in this quiet California town. Some people come to Ruby for their own miracle. Some denounce her and the resurrection as a fraud.
Rev. Clark must wrestle with his questions, while both he and Ruby find that other forces do not take kindly to invasion of their dark territory. As the back copy of the book states: When the dead come back to life, someone must pay the price...
Mike Duran is a pastor who has hit the place of burnout in ministry, something I'm realizing comes all too often for a profession that doesn't get allowance for struggle or failure. Moved to minister through the power of fiction, he has written a dynamic and haunting first novel that is an excellent exploration of faith, doubt, and the collision between the two.
The story carries an ominous tone throughout, keeping the suspense high as the reader always wonders when something bad might happen. We know books are supposed to have happy endings, but Mike manages to keep the outcome in question up until the climax, which isn't an easy feat. The characters have real struggles. Ruby didn't want to become a miracle worker, and she is challenged when others' expectations are that she can turn the power on at will. She wants to help people, but doesn't have "the formula" handy. Meanwhile young Rev. Clark wrestles with powers both worldly and spiritual as he's forced to confront his doubt instead of nursing it to a full denial of his beliefs.
Ruby is a well-rounded person. I felt a lot of connect with her. Rev. Clark was a little distant, without quite as much depth of character as I would have liked. There's not much on his life outside of being a smart but conflicted minister. Still, he is honest in his queries, and he probably represents a lot of pastors with his concerns. Other characters in the book are vivid and unique, keeping the fictional Canyon Springs grounded as a real place.
There are a lot of ideas in this book. Mike does a good job of bringing them into the story organically. Little seems forced, although there are times when the explanation of the religious theories undergirding the plot get a little too thick. Otherwise, he has a gift for description, and I felt like I was in California with the pictures of local flora and the atmosphere of the town were evocative. There's a few glitches in the craft, like any new author would face, that are minor and shouldn't distract from this enjoyable fiction escape.
I've followed Mike's blog for a long time, and I was excited to see him get a contract. My curiosity could finally be satisfied whether his fiction talents matched his thoughtful blogging style. I'm happy to say that The Resurrection sucked me in, made me think, and has stayed with me after two weeks of finishing. The book is a suspenseful exploration of deep questions of faith, while giving hope in the power of Jesus to touch lives today, even in the darkest night.