Monday, March 10, 2008

The Novelist

The writer on whom The Novelist is centered is one Jordan Casey Kerrigan, a woman who has become famous and wealthy due to the tremendous success of a James Bondish adventure series that everyone calls “The Tower series.” Kerrigan has found a formula that works and she is milking it for all it is worth. Part of that formula is that, largely due to the Jordan Casey pen name she has chosen for herself and the fact that she allows no pictures of herself on her book jackets, Kerrigan is presumed by her readers to be male rather than female.

When she agrees to teach a highly anticipated writing class at her local community college, her students are shocked to discover her true gender, and one student soon challenges her to write something outside the formulaic safety net she has created for herself. Determined to teach her students that a combination of hard work and a good plan will allow them to write their own novels, she agrees that she will do just that and will share the process with them as part of her class.

Things are not going nearly as well for Kerrigan at home as she hopes they will go in the classroom. Her youngest child and only son, 21-year old Zack, has dropped out of college and moved back home in an attempt to beat his addiction to alcohol and drugs. Kerrigan and her husband feel helpless as each of their attempts to help Zack change his life end up as just another frustrated failure. Desperate for something that will help her cope with her son’s problems, Kerrigan decides that she will write a novella for her class that might also help her get through to her son.

She decides to make the novella an allegory set in an otherworldly little town called Paradise, a town populated by innocents who, though they arrived as confused newcomers, have settled into a contented lifestyle. Things go well in Paradise until one newcomer, William, is faced with temptation and makes the wrong choice, a choice that makes it possible for evil to flourish in the town. Newcomer John arrives just when things in Paradise or at their worst and the town casino has become the source of ruin for citizen after citizen. John arrives with inside knowledge of the godlike Casey figure that most of the townspeople believe in, whether or not they admit it to themselves, and with offers of redemption for those who will accept them.

Kerrigan hopes that her son will identify with William, a young man who could not say no to temptation, and that he will get a message from the book that she cannot make him understand any other way. The chapters of The Novelist alternate between Kerrigan’s home life and the fictional world of Paradise, with much of what William is going through in Paradise a reflection on what Zack and his family are going through in the real world. The question is whether Zack will follow William’s example and find a solution for his despair and poor choices.

Angela Hunt has written an interesting novel but one whose message is delivered in a heavy-handed manner that lessens its impact. Her allegory is so straightforward that it demands little of the reader because of its predictability, a failing that steals much of the book’s emotion and potential suspense as it builds to a conclusion. The Novelist, as it is set up, can have only one ending, an ending that became obvious early in the book, and Hunt offers very few surprises along the way. There was much potential in Hunt’s premise, but I do not believe that she delivered the book she wanted to deliver.

Rated at: 2.5

4 comments:

  1. Well dang. I bought this at a book fair several months ago after hearing good things about Angela Hunt.

    It's out of her normal genres, though, so maybe that's the problem (although it's also the reason I bought it over her other titles).

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  2. You might love it, Annie, who knows? It is definitely in the "Christian Lit" genre but its message is just too obvious and in your face for me...it all became so predictable that I had a hard time finishing it.

    I'm not sure what her "normal genre" might be...just assumed it was Christian fiction.

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  3. Actually, I just looked her up online, and all her books seem similar to this one. I must've been thinking of another author who still did Christian fiction, but it was more sci-fi oriented.

    I'll still read this one, since it was recommended to me, but I'm less excited about now.

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  4. Let me know what you think about it, Annie. It's always possible that it was just the wrong time for me to read this one...but I was definitely "underwhelmed" by it.

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