Thursday, May 05, 2005

Rape or Patricide

Years ago, my highschool ethics teacher, who also happened to be my school's vice principal, once complained about how awful John Grisham was for starting A Time to Kill with a violent rape scene of a prepubescent black girl. The gist being, that he was startled and disgusted. At the time, I thought "Whatever, I liked that movie." What a brat, right?

Now, after having read Jordan Tracks, I understand why he felt as he did. Jordan Tracks by Stephen Wise, which is actually a decent book, starts with a patricide. And, that beginning almost kept me from reading the book. Gore does not scare me (couldn't be a criminal defense attorney, or own half the books I do if it did), and violence in books or movies doesn't necessarily offend me. I felt cheated. It cheapened the book, but I continued reading and am glad I did. Though the book's cover is amateurish, and it has some typos, a few mechanical and grammatical errors, and some pacing problems, the story is entertaining and thoughtful.

Wise skillfully constructs a cast of small-town characters, capturing their common--as in everday--experiences, their shared joys and griefs, and their quiet moments. He describes such mundane and grimy details about where and how the characters earn their livings (at a turkey factory), that you feel dirty and tired on their behalves. The descriptions of their a word: YUM! "Christa's chocolate pie" YUM! His characters' world is tangible, you share in their experiences, and, therefore, you share in their journeys.

His characters contemplate God's existence, love, and the nature of guilt. Some wallow amidst a sea of grief and are rescued by God. They hear and see their lives in the context of a larger mystery while others seemingly drown and not because God isn't there for them, but because they aren't listening to his ever-present voice. Eventually, even the hopeless or doubting hear his whisper.

At times, the dialogue couldn't keep up with the strengths of the story. Soliloquies intended to convey religious fervor verged on awkward pedagogy. The author softens the effect a little by commenting on a character's ability to preach, but that doesn't alleviate the discomfiting situation that is oft repeated. I hope that it is the book, and not me. Maybe I'm uncomfortable with speaking loudly about God.

Wise sure isn't. I think that may be part of why I liked the story, and am touched that the last sentence in the book is about happiness, and the last word in the book is "sound."

Wise certainly reminded me of how important it is to listen and bear witness to the Lord.

***DISCLAIMER: Mind and Media provided Jordan Tracks to me and its other Exclusive Reviewers. We received the books free of charge as a gift from the Publisher who donated the books. If you are interested in being a reviewer, please contact Mind and Media with your inquiries. Feel free to let them know that you heard about them from me! I LOVE free books.***