So let’s get this out of the way right up front. I don’t know if Frank Perritti’s, Illusion is a great novel or not; at least not yet. One can hardly make such a determination just 69 pages into an over 400 page novel. The premise is intriguing and a few chapters in, I have no doubt I will hang with this one to the end.
The author has already connected with me in a powerful way in chapter eight. Consider this passage when the main character returns home after burying his wife of 40 years.
This trip felt entirely first time. He’d bought one ticket, packed one bag, carried only one boarding pass. There was no one to wait for while going through security and no one to wait for him … He’d bought only one Starbucks coffee and a blueberry muffin for only himself … He went through the doors first with no one to open them for.
While waiting for his one bag … grief overcame him as it often did, on a schedule all its own, unpredictable, unavoidable. Maybe it was the standing here alone … Maybe there was no reason at all. Grief just came when it came, worked its way through, and receded quietly until the next time. That was the way it worked.
I was immediately taken back over 20 years ago. There I sat alone in a hospital room recounting for the 100th time the words of our neurosurgeon, “If you have your wife another year, count yourself lucky. There’s really not a lot of hope I can offer you.” Frank Peritti’s pounding home that word “One” painted a word picture I remember all top well. Thankfully, my wife and best friend proved them all wrong.
My point is simple. Peritti painted a scene that connected with me and I suspect will with many others. He accomplishes that in the midst of a fantastic plot that entertains and to this point is well written. What more could I ask?
If you need more than that before making a decision to read Illusion, I doubt scanning reviews at Amazon will help much. As usual, there are those who feel cheated because the author dared to write from the view point of the world he lives and breathes in. Peritti makes no pretense about who and what he is. Even so, at least one reviewer complained, “The product description made no mention of this book belonging to the Christian Fiction genre. Had it done so, I wouldn’t have wasted my time reading the sample.”
Some in the Christian writing community have observed it is a bit of subterfuge to fail to label books as Christian. So what should Simon and Schuster have done to protect the sensitivities of the aforementioned reader? Perhaps books with warning labels are the answer: “This novel may confront you with a worldview you have previously been able insulate yourself from.”
I’m all for that as long as everyone plays by the same rules. The movie Avatar, for example, needed something more than PG-13. Perhaps, “This film is a thinly veiled attempt to equate capitalism and industry with all the problems faced by our planet.” But I digress.
In fairness, Christians are just as picky. One reader gave Illusion, 2 stars because, “As a longtime fan of Frank Peretti’s, I must say I was really disappointed with his latest,” … Gone- was the Christian symbolism, gone – was the “deep thinking” analogies and above all, gone – was the challenge to my own Christian walk with the Lord.”
So now a novel is not worthy of my time if it doesn’t challenge my Christian walk enough? In that case, a whole lot of what passes for Gospel preaching these days deserves 2 stars as well.
What these reviews and a million other words floating around the Internet about the validity of fiction with a Christian world-view do for me is confirm how we all tend to be filled with illusions of our own self-importance. I would offer links to articles on the matter but the result is always the same – plenty of heat but little light.
So what do I mean by illusions of our own self-importance? To listen to some, one would think we writer types are working on a cure for cancer; or even more delusional, the answer to bridging the gap between fallen man and God.
Why can’t a writer just write what he or she wants to write and hope to connect with readers looking for that kind of story? To my writer friends out there, quit lifting yourself up as the saviors of civilization by questioning what others write or read! Some of my friends have adamantly proclaimed, “I don’t read Christian fiction.” That’s their choice. Thankfully I choose to read what speaks to me regardless of the label.
That’s as close to a rant as I’ve allowed myself in a long time on this site. So back to Illusion. Peretti has had some major hits and a couple of disappointments in his career. My guess is this one is already making its way to the This Present Darkness category.