by Lawrence Pratt
Miroer Press, 2002 $22.50 US
Review by Erin
Let me start this review by saying that this book has little to do with what I normally review, it’s a work of fiction.
I received this book to read and review it and spread copies about my hometown. I think this is a work worth sharing. You won’t find it at Barnes and Noble or even Amazon.com since this book was self-published. If you want a copy, you will have to go straight to the publisher and author’s website, Miroer Press.
While reading this book, I felt a sense of deja-vu. I was raised in the Mormon faith and left that church because of a severe crisis of faith. I looked until I found something that fit my needs. This book reminded me just what I left and why.
The author goes to great lengths to make it clear that this is a work of fiction and that he is NOT talking specifically about the Mormon Church. However, anyone who has been a member of that group can see many points that connect and remind of the Mormon Church.
In the copies I received (for placement around town) there is a sticker that says that the situations and events as presented in the book are composites of actual people and events. Again, he never states that the Mormon Church is the target of his book. I assume that is to avoid being a target of a lawsuit by the church.
The book is subtitled “Where faith takes a fatal turn”, and there is a lot of death in this. Some suicide, some murder, some accidental death, adding up to a lot of bodies. These death scenes are presented tastefully so this is not a slasher book. Indeed the focus is the structure of the American Church of the New Christ and it’s complete domination by one man.
This book explores how true the saying “absolute power corrupts absolutely” can be. It explores facets of the human mind that are not usually looked at, and just what people are capable under the guise of religion. I want to be clear that I did like this book.
Another review of this book I saw online said that it took about a third of the book to get involved, and that’s about right. I was able to put the book down several times during the first 80 or so pages, but once past that point I wanted to finish it and stayed up to 4 in the morning to do so. It’s not a difficult read over all, the typeface is large and the lines are double spaced, making a (to my mind) fairly short novel fill out to almost 300 pages.
This book should be of interest not only to the Pagan community, but to everyone about abuse within a religious group. For those seeking to create a Pan-fill-in-the-blank group this should serve as a how not to book .
I’m not going to give a way any salient plot points, but I will say that I found it a very interesting read.
As much as I enjoyed it, there are a few problems with this book. First is the slow start. Second is the multiplicity of characters. I understand the necessity as a plot device, but I feel that most good novels pick one or two viewpoint characters and stay with them.
This book has about 20 viewpoint characters, and the action skips and jumps among them. One example is a character being called to witness a church function in which another person was prominent. Instead of staying with the witnessing character and gaining the information about the background of this second character through things like rumor or background documents, he shifts viewpoints to the second character and tells her entire story in the middle of the first character’s tale. It’s distracting and jarring and the best you can do is ignore it.
The chapters are short in some cases, one only 4 pages long. There is a tendency to not break the action into chunks and arrange all the action into one chapter before moving on to the next. Instead, Mr. Pratt starts a chapter with one character, switches to another in the middle of that chapter, end that chapter and start another one and end that chapter with yet another character, all the while building his plot point among those three characters.
I do wish Mr. Pratt had explored the mindlessness of the average cult member. He talks about corruption and the control exercised by the people in charge, and shows us the dissidents inside the Church, but he never looks at the spooky “Stepford Wife” mentality of that can happen in this kind of situation.
For writing technique, there are critics who would savage this book as a result. I’m forgiving all this since it is the author’s first book. That monumental achievement alone puts him in the rare class of published author. I do hope that this critique helps him in future writings.
As far as story goes, its very good. I am giving this book 3 stars out of 5. I recommend it if you wish to learn how bad it can get in a very closed and insular faith. It could easily apply to any number of groups like the Branch Dividians, Heaven’s Gate, the Moonies, or the Hare Krishnas among others. It is the trap that people fall into when they stop thinking for themselves and rely on outside influences to prop up their lives.
Originally posted 2011-03-15 02:59:58. Republished by Blog Post Promoter