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The Reluctant Prophet: A Novel (The Reluctant Prophet Series) Paperback – October 1, 2010
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About the Author
Nancy Rue is the author of over 100 books for adults and teens, including Healing Waters, which was a 2009 Women of Faith Novel of the Year, and has recently been named an ECPA 2010 Christian Book Award Finalist.
Nancy travels extensively—at times on the back of a Harley Davidson—speaking and teaching to groups of ‘tween girls and their moms and mentoring aspiring Christian authors. She lives on a lake in Tennessee with her Harley-ridin’ husband Jim and their two yellow labs (without whom writing would be difficult.)
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Ms. Rue's first person voice and dialogue are engaging as always. I really love her deep-point-of-view style. In fact, this might be the main reason I've never missed one of her adult novels (until this series; I realize all three are out and I only recently got to the first one). Her craft is truly excellent. This is a stellar example of a character-driven novel. If you're a reader who defines "plot" as high-speed action, then this book will move slowly for you. The story is about people, their interactions and reactions. Its fuel is more tension than suspense. But when the characters are well-drawn, this apparently works for me.
In the first chapter, Allison downright irritated me. I wanted to keep reading to discover if I'd ever like her. (I do, of course.) She's a complicated character--sardonic and sincere, tough and vulnerable, uncertain and determined, relationship-impaired in her own eyes yet constantly forging new connections with people who need her help.
Then there's Desmond, a fatherless twelve-year-old whose mother is slowly destroying both of them with her drug addiction and prostitution. Desmond is nearly as layered as Allison herself, swaggering and sweet-talking his way out of trouble, swearing and stealing because he's never been taught not to, yet also an artist with surprising insight into the people he draws. Another unexpectedly nuanced character is Bonner, the annoying-like-a-brother guy Allison knows from church who'd ask her out if she'd say yes. I didn't expect him to come through in such great ways by the end.
The Sacrament House "sisters," women rescued from prostitution and turning their lives around with the help of Allison and God, are more a collective character than individuals. Though each has her own broad personality type, they aren't given the details that would breathe them to life. The same goes for Allison's small group at church. However, I can't really consider this a flaw. The book has quite a large cast. Not everyone can be as deep as Allison and Desmond.
One character I hope will be developed a lot more deeply in future books is Chief. He's pretty awesome already (Harley-riding lawyer with piercing "eagle eyes" and an unflappable personality), but I know almost nothing about him at this point. I want details on his skepticism toward God, his friendship with Hank and how it began, his family (does he even have one?) ... etc. Yes, I'm most definitely going to be reading UNEXPECTED DISMOUNTS, and curiosity about Chief is a big reason for that.
And now, a word (or ten) about the theme, since that's clearly where this novel's creation started. I could do with a little more subtlety. In fact, I was surprised how close the author came to preaching, since that isn't her usual tendency. Her message is two-pronged. First, legalism is not what Jesus taught and, as such, is not true Christianity. (With this, I agree entirely.) Second, love is what Jesus did teach and, as such, is what true Christians will spread and teach.
With this one, I agree, too. But Allison (and thus the author) often seems to believe that love equals acceptance. Period. It's a thin line to walk, I know, but it is a line. The scene that most bothered me is between Allison and her soon-to-be-former pastor. Now, to this point, Allison's church has not in any way supported her efforts with sheltering and rehabilitating these women. Her fellow church members (including her pastor) are all in favor of checking the women into rehab and doing other things from a distance. But up close and personal with hookers is a little too dirty-hands for them, and Allison's involvement is making them uncomfortable. Reverend Garry shows up to try to bring her back into the fold of the prim and proper. Thing is, his theology isn't wrong, merely his application of it. But Allison condemns both. From page 403:
[Garry]: "I just don't want to see you water down the gospel. We can't call someone a Christian just because she's stopped using drugs."
[Allison]: "Our trouble is that we're not talking about the same gospel. The gospel I know is the one where Jesus preached and lived the unconditional love of salvation. You know--the one where he ate at the same table with the hookers and the drug addicts and the victims of injustice and poverty--that one. The one you're talking about is the one I haven't read--where only the right kind of people get into the closed club and get saved."
The implication is that the Gospel is simply unconditionally loving people. End of story. Yes, Jesus ate with "tax collectors and sinners." He also called them out on their sin and told them to repent. There's not a single scene of repentance in this novel.
Interestingly, however, there are moments in which one or another of the rescued women seems to be behaving post-repentance. They're studying the Bible. They're telling others about Jesus. They're taking communion and seem to understand and embrace its meaning. Near the end, Allison describes salvation as embracing Jesus "as our personal savior" and describes one of the women as "on her way to a life of discipleship." So I guess the Gospel is present here, on the whole, but some parts of it are definitely glossed over. Which would likely bother me less if the book didn't fervently want me to agree with everything Allison says.
For the overtness of the themes and some truth blurring, I've got to deduct a star. However, I fully intend to read and enjoy this series. Nancy Rue has penned some of the best literary Christian fiction I've read. Her dialogue is clever and genuine and contains just enough humor. Her prose is unobtrusive yet artful. And her point of view is delightfully deep. I'm still a fan, and I look forward to the next book and, hopefully, finding out who Chief is on the inside, and why.
Nancy Rue has used the main character Allison to show the effects that can happen when we ask that powerful question. Not only are our lives changed and our relationship with God takes on a whole new meaning, but the people around us are changed. There seeing a God who is real and not the big man upstairs who could care less about humans. No, there is unconditional love in every action (well at least to best of our ability! Like Allison we might need to have a backup of Oreos in case anything goes wonky) and is then that people see the real Jesus.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the humor that Nancy weaves throughout Allison's lives as well as her way of thinking! She is so easy to relate too in the way she handles situations and her witty comebacks! She is a one of a kind of character who definitely does not fit the typical character mold! The growth that she experiences throughout all her adventures is so inspiring! Her struggles are not unrealistic with the things she's doing based on her Nudges from God! It's definitely through God's strength as well as His help (humor probably helps too) that she is even doing what He is telling her too!
Overall, I loved "The Reluctant Prophet" and strongly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a novel that delivers a powerful message with unforgettable characters! They might just stir you to not only ask the question WWJD, but to live out the answer to that question as well (I know for me it did)!
I give this novel a 5 out of 5 stars!