Won through GR First Reads Giveaways.
I received this book, signed and personalized, after winning the GR First Reads giveaway. Based on the information I read about the book, I was very much looking forward to reading it. The concept of a "special needs" child being linked to the occult was especially interesting to me.
When Beth and Gary Carter were in Israel working as contractors for the military, they stumbled on an ancient site, which set into motion a series of events that were foretold almost 3000 years ago. Their now 6 year old daughter, who was born about 5 1/2 months after the visit to the site, is a shut-in who spends all day writing and drawing in her room with little to no interaction with anyone, even her parents.
Two friends, Bill Monroe and Clay Harker get involved as they try to help Allyson to have a normal life. Allyson connected instantly with Clay, a linguist, who is trying to help decipher her drawings in order to find out what is going on, and the conclusion they come to is very unusual indeed.
Allyson's condition was a mystery that I wanted to figure out. Why was she so terrified to be around people? Why did she not communicate with her parents, or with other people who were "safe"? Why did she connect instantly with Clay, before he ever said a word to her?
As I mentioned, the concept was interesting to me. I was very intrigued as to where everything was going and was looking forward to the big reveal that would put everything together. Unfortunately, only some of the questions I had were answered, leaving new questions in their place.
I'm very torn on what to rate this book. This usually is an easy process for me, as I'll rate the book on the overall experience of reading it, and on whether I enjoyed the story. On the one hand, I kept turning the pages to see what would happen, so the mystery kept me interested, and I was enjoying the progress, especially the scarier aspects of the story. (There were some chilling moments, the main one in my opinion was the description of Allyson's drawing of the "birdmen" -aka demons. It just gave me chills to think of a little girl drawing what she saw as demons.)
On the other hand, there were quite a few issues that I had with this book, many of them editorial in nature, and many issues that tested my ability to suspend my disbelief. I generally have no problem with that; I read a lot of fantasy, and a lot of horror, many of it supernatural or "spiritual", for lack of a better word, and I generally can just let go of my disbelief in the unreal aspects and just go with the flow. This book was a real challenge in that aspect, for several reasons, which I hope I can communicate clearly.
First, I should say that I am not a religious person. I am agnostic. I don't claim to know that any God exists, or that he (or she) does NOT exist. I simply do not know.
It seems to me that many people do claim to know, but the way I see it, the knowledge that they claim is simply a belief. Strong, persuasive, widespread even, but still a belief.
I am not saying that because I do not share a particular belief I cannot read and enjoy books about it, as that is not the case. Every book has a voice, and every story has a message that it would like to convey. There is absolutely nothing wrong with conveying that message. But delivery is everything. In my mind, there is a major difference between a book presenting its belief
, or in having the characters
"know" something, which allows the reader to take the information they've been given and apply it to their life if they choose, and a book presenting its contents as "truth" and potentially alienating or offending readers who don't see things the same way.
For me, this book fell into the latter category, and it was hard for me to truly immerse myself in the story when I have an ideological difference of opinion with it. I feel like I was asked to forgo my agnosticism, to forgo my skepticism and just accept that there not only is a "God", but that there is a "right" God (AKA the God of Abraham), which is the "True God" and all others are "false" gods, or Satan. According to the book, man invented "false" gods when believing in an omnipotent God was seen as too simple to solve life's problems. Then God would destroy the "false" god and man would invent a new one, etc etc.
As the bible is written by man, and man is fallible, isn't it possible that man invented the concept of "God" in general, and then just applied this concept to whichever problem they happened to have at the time? This pesky drought is killing our crops! Hey, we should have god send us rain. Now we've got a Rain God! Problem solved.
I'm certainly not trying to belittle anyone's belief or religion, but just pointing out the flaw that I saw in the argument that only "false" gods could be invented by man.
As a person who does not hold any theistic beliefs, but has an open mind toward them, I was slightly offended on behalf of others by the "false" god usage in the book. It showed up 14 times. Maybe that doesn't seem like a lot, but when you consider that EVERY god in history which was not THE "God" of Abraham was likened to Satan, it becomes a lot, especially to someone who thinks people should believe what their heart tells them to believe. Belief, in my opinion, is a personal matter, and nobody has the right to say whether someone's beliefs are right or wrong.
I think a big part of my problem is that the book's belief system was presented as The Truth, and assumed that the reader agreed, which made me take a step back to wonder whether that was on purpose or not. I just don't know.
The last thing that I will mention regarding the religious aspects of the book is that it seems that free will was removed. At one point, one of the characters was lamenting the tragic loss of his family, and questioning how God could be so cruel, to which another character chastised the first, saying that it is not "our right" to question God. Perhaps it is semantics, but we have EVERY right to question. I'm no religious scholar (which is probably painfully obvious by now), but as I understand it, the basis of free will is in knowing that we're loved and accepted no matter what, that we are able to wonder and question but still decide whether to believe or worship, even if we don't like the answer, if one is given at all.
Anyway, that was a much-longer-than-intended explanation of the main issue I had with the book, but I'd mentioned editorial issues as well. I'll try to be brief.
There was a bit of inconsistency regarding the method used to show characters' thoughts. One instance would use italics and quotation marks, the next would be italics only, then no italics and no quotation marks. This is definitely something that an editor should have caught.
Also, measurements in the book left me a little baffled. In particular, during a car chase scene, the driver was said to have prepared for the "180 degree turn". This confused me a bit, because 180 degrees is a straight line, half of a circle.
The dialogue was clunky at times, and certain action/reaction situations didn't make sense, such as a character covering her ears before a noise starts, or a hospitalized person referred to as "not expected to make it", and then a few pages later with no update, a character who would have had no way of receiving other information claims that they "look like they're going to pull through".
Lastly, one glaring issue had me baffled. All of the artifacts from the ancient site which Beth and Gary discovered were removed to a museum for research, including a cloth that was covering an alter or table... except for a large 10-pointed, jewel encrusted star mounted on the wall. Why would that have been left untouched when clay or stone cups are recovered from archeological digs and considered great finds? As much as I hate to say it, it seems like it was just more convenient to have it left behind than to have to deal with the logistics of having to bring it back to the the site.
I know that this review seems harsh - there was much that just had me scratching my head - but overall, I did enjoy the story. I had to consciously try to ignore my skepticism at times, but that, and the inconsistencies mentioned above aside, I did enjoy it. For a first novel, it was not a bad effort at all, and I hope that the next book is even better. :)