Ruiz’s debut novel offers an action-packed tale with a complex cast of characters and zany moral lessons.
The story opens with fifth grader Juan Arias, a gentle, kind child who wants to become a photographer. Monty McPride is the new kid in school, and it becomes quickly apparent that he’s the worst kind of bully, as he seems to have no moral compass at all. The two grow up and lose touch with each other, but they’re still connected, as Juan’s sister, Angie, has married Ray Cromwell, who does work for Monty’s father’s pharmaceutical company, McPride Industries. Monty remains awful; for example, he spits in other people’s coffee when they aren’t looking. When Monty gets the idea that he could take the reins of his father’s company, he sets events in motion that lead to an attempted murder and a rapid downhill spiral for McPride Industries. Meanwhile, Juan finds himself playing the Easter Bunny for his sister’s kids despite having no religious leanings himself. He’s unhappy in his marriage but resigned to his uneventful life as a computer programmer. In the most supernatural turn of the book, Juan experiences a freak accident that leaves him dependent on others but also able to read minds, which requires a hefty suspension of disbelief on the part of readers. Through a series of frankly improbable occurrences, Monty, Juan, and Ray find their lives inextricably linked—and they’re all in grave danger. Throughout, Ruiz stresses the power of religious belief to turn one’s life around and the importance of doing one’s work ethically. However, the story also takes entertainingly humorous turns; jokes involving Juan’s rabbit costume serve the plot but also induce giggles. Characters find meaning in their renewed religious faith, which makes for a heartwarming and satisfying resolution. The dialogue is sharp and fun, and it advances the story at a quick pace, making for quite a page-turner.
An offbeat and entertaining religious drama.