I love when I find Christian authors that manage not to be cheesy. So often the authors feel so strongly about their message that the story and characters suffer in service to it. Peretti’s stories definitely do not have that problem, or at least not the two I’ve read recently.
The story follows John Barrett, top news anchor in his city. In terms of career, he’s on top of his world. He was once a Christian, but walked away from his faith long ago. His father is what John considers a religious zealot: he’s one of those guys who shows up at political rallies and preaches against abortion. John is embarrassed when this very thing is captured on film, and it turns into a riot. He confronts his father, who tearfully tries to tell him that he must say what God gives him to say, even if nobody listens. Then, suddenly, he dies–ostensibly in an accident at the warehouse he owns. At his funeral, John reconnects with his own estranged teenage son, who is searching for meaning. They have very little to say to each other, partly because John is polished and news-perfect all the time, while Carl has little patience with anyone who isn’t real.
What John doesn’t tell Carl then, and tries not to tell anyone, is that he’s started having visions himself. He writes them off as flashbacks from old drug trips, but his father’s visions seemed eerily similar. John knows things about people that he shouldn’t know. On a lark, he tells his son to follow up on one of them with a waitress, and learns about Annie Brewer, a teenage girl who had recently died of a botched abortion–only, no one will follow up and investigate the clinic for malpractice or hold them responsible. John learns that Annie’s father was a friend of his father, and also appeared at the riot/rally just before Barrett Sr’s death. He and Annie’s mother have been fighting for justice and for someone to investigate. One thing leads to another, and with the help of another reporter from News 6, John learns that the story goes straight to the governor’s doorstep: his daughter, too, died of a septic abortion, from the very same clinic, and the governor knew it. But he covered it up for political reasons and publicized a false story. John, Carl, and everybody involved get stonewalled everywhere they turn as they try to uncover the story, and John faces censorship and “spin” at work for pursuing a story that is politically incorrect.
As this unfolds, despite John’s periodic flashes of insight into deeper reality–spiritual visions, minus the angels and demons–John is forced to question what really matters to him. He has a lot to lose, and he’s not even sure he believes in God. He certainly had very little respect for his religious zealot father. Is it worth it to him to pursue the truth just because it’s the right thing to do–regardless of what it costs him, or whether it even makes a difference?
I found John’s character arc to be mostly very believable (one scene was an exception and felt pretty rushed to me). His visions were fascinating and insightful. Spiritual implications aside, the story itself was also a good thriller with a satisfying conclusion. I’ll read more by Peretti for sure!
My rating: *****
Violence: present but very tame
Sexual content: none
Political content: present, but not as you might expect. It’s not even really about pro-choice/pro-life as a political issue; it’s about how the fact that it is politically charged can lead some to overlook blatant injustice, and others cut corners in a lucrative industry to turn a larger profit.