Cox (Providence of Mercy, 2012, etc.) offers a part sci-fi, part historical novel about the appearance of a strange creature in a small Southern town.
The story begins in the year 2007 with the unearthing of a 1947 time capsule outside of a Methodist church in Virginia. It contains the sorts of items that one might expect (such as old newspapers); it also includes an inordinate number of toy spaceships. The year 1947 may have been the year of an alleged UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico, but surely one toy spaceship would have sufficed. Ole Jimmoson, a local man, was in his teens in 1947, and through his story, readers find out what went on back then. That year, he says, a small, gray visitor came to their town. The being initially appeared in the local Methodist church and was taken in by the Rev. Frank Carson, who had his own problems: his wife was in a coma, and his relationship was deepening with the church’s secretary, Rachel Hooper, whose husband was missing in action in the Pacific. The book jumps between time periods and locations, illuminating a world that was hardly at peace following the end of World War II, with racism rampant in America and a revolution underway in China. The human characters struggle earnestly and sometimes violently, but the creature from beyond steals the show. The gray man, who’s eventually known as “Bobby,” may tend to talk like a robot, but readers will find that he makes valid points about the brotherhood of man. His comments can also be comical at times, as when humans call him a “mirage” and an “illusion,” and he gainsays them with definitions of those words. But, in contrast to Bobby’s clipped speech, the earthlings’ dialogue seems unnecessarily lengthy; for example, readers don’t really need to experience Ole’s speeches concerning the old days and how, in 1947, “electricity was still a fairly new thing for a lot of us.” Indeed, Bobby might have explained such things much more expediently—if he felt the need to do so at all.
A book that intriguingly grapples with large topics, although some portions tend to drag.