Mandy was gone … It happened more quickly than anyone expected … The fact came alive as he lingered on it and salved the horrors from his mind, at least for now. With no effort at all the unfaded image of Mandy first setting foot in his life played before his eyes, the dove girl sitting in the front row who caught and held his eye.
After nine years absence from the world of fiction, author Frank Peretti returns in high fashion as he invites us with these words into Dane and Mandy Collins’ Illusion. We are introduced to the husband and wife magic act of forty years with them torn from each other by a sudden and tragic car accident. Dane is left to mourn the loss of the only woman he ever truly loved and Mandy to something else even further beyond imagination.
Dane has nothing left but to return to their dream retirement home minus his lifetime friend and in many ways his reason for living. While he feels as though he has lost everything, Mandy may have lost even more. She now faces the loss of 40 years of her life and any knowledge of what transpired during that time. Both were born in the same year but now he is sixty and she is inexplicably nineteen. He suffers alone with his memories; she wanders the streets of the same little Idaho town alone with shadowy memories of another life and another time.
To go any further in trying to explain the plot is pointless and would do disservice to the story. If you never read speculative fiction be forewarned, this one is loaded with strange events with technical sounding explanations. Some readers will nod as though they understand time-lines and quantum physics. Others will simply scratch their heads and move on, unable to abandon this story because to do so would be to also abandon Dane and Mandy.
Illusion has plenty of action, a few nefarious types, and even a shadowy government conspiracy. But in the end, this is a love story. Note I didn’t say, Romance. If you want to know my thoughts on the difference in the two check out “I Hate Romance”.
In that article I wrote, “When you peel away the genre, the author’ s voice, the prose, and get to the core of all great stories you find the same common elements: isolation, love, failure and redemption”. Peretti reaffirms my premise because this IS a great story.
The two main characters are fleshed out in such a way I cared about both of them. Mandy’s sudden appearance, born in 1971 but walking the streets in 2010 as a nineteen year old, offers a bit of comic relief along the way. I can relate to being stuck in the 70s in my mind while bravely pretending I truly understand this new Millennium. Like Mandy, I still sometimes think “Far Out” in the italics of my mind but force myself to say “awesome” instead.
Having been married thirty-seven years myself, I could imagine being in Dane’s skin as he sits alone in that empty dream house and braves jotting down a few memories:
She was still beautiful I kid you not. Yes, she was fifty-nine. Her eyes kept the crinkle that smiling had put there; her hair was mostly blond from a bottle; the sun had deepened her freckles and coarsened her arms and back.
But there was nothing like seeing her sitting at breakfast with the morning sun at her back and her hair a corona about her head; nothing like the curve of her hips … where she draped them with a dress, framed herself in a doorway, even pushed a grocery cart. There was nothing like the pleasant roundness of her breasts under a sweater or her body against mine, that close to no other for forty years. (Chapter 12)
As far as I’m concerned Frank Peretti has scored a work of magic with Illusion. My advice is to forget trying to understand it all and just enjoy the ride.