The Unbeliever by E. L. Baylis

The Unbeliever

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A Christian-themed debut novel about redemption and forgiveness.
After young Chris’ mother is killed in an accident for which Chris blames himself, he flees his hometown and its judgmental eyes to live with an aunt. Though remaining in the town’s consciousness, the incident goes largely uninvestigated for years; the matter, having found a scapegoat, remains painful though more or less settled. Elsewhere in the world, Art Wellington is a successful painter in his early 30s. In spite of his success, he manages a costly addiction to alcohol and a personal history that is a mystery even to those who know him well. When he is shot while walking home to his three-bedroom condo, the extent of his addiction becomes apparent. The shooting destroys one kidney, alcoholism works on the other, and his chances for survival are bleak until a mysterious young woman named Jessica offers herself as an organ donor. Smitten with the heroic young woman, Art pursues her following his recovery, and a difficult love affair blossoms. Where Art is an atheist who sees little advantage in helping others, Jessica is a devout Christian spending her days working with foster children. He takes to studying the Bible to help keep away from alcohol and undergoes a change that alters the course of his life. Will his interest in Christianity prove more than just a way to try and impress Jessica? How will this all relate to the death of Chris’ mother? Alternating between these two narratives until they eventually become intertwined, the novel grapples with issues of faith or a lack thereof. Succeeding in treating Art’s discovery of Christianity in a mature way, Baylis’ portrayal of Art’s transformation follows a believable path. Though tinged with blandness—particularly the small-town characters, who seem capable of considering little outside the realms of high school football and the Bible—the story nevertheless  maintains an element of intrigue as readers wonder just how and when the two stories will interrelate.

Well-paced though dull in its portrayals of many characters, this novel plots a believable Christian transformation and has its payoffs.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 2014
ISBN: 978-1491727355
Page count: 542pp
Publisher: iUniverse
Program: Kirkus Indie
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