Debut author Dillon delivers a novel about the appearance of a miraculous figure in New York City’s Central Park.
When President of the United States R.J. Jacaruso calls New York mayor Jack Molinaro, the news isn’t good. After a U.S. strike on nuclear facilities in Iran, a retaliatory attack on Israel has killed the vice president and countless others, and the president says that “an attack on New York may be imminent.” As if that weren’t enough, Jack then learns that his political nemesis, the unpleasant Lt. Gov. Denny “The Dog” Brandt, will soon become governor of New York state. To top it all off, Jack’s sister, Katie, with whom he isn’t very close, has gone missing during her morning run through Central Park. Jack doesn’t know what to do, but Katie’s disappearance soon takes center stage when it intersects with a strange occurrence near Central Park’s Bethesda Terrace. Katie, it turns out, was attacked by sinister characters during her run, but she was aided by a “self-luminous” figure who can walk on water—and who brings a message of peace and forgiveness to the world. The being, who will come to be known as “the Stranger,” will soon generate an immense following of people who see him as nothing short of the second coming of Jesus Christ himself. Unfortunately, his message of peace comes at a time when the world is right in the middle of a particularly deadly conflict.
Would it be treasonous, if not crazy, to lay down one’s arms at the command of such a mysterious source when one’s very country is in danger? This is only one of the many intriguing conundrums that Dillon explores in this novel. For example, readers are also asked to consider what it would take for the world to accept a Christ-like figure as the actual Christ. Would those who call themselves Christians actually serve God’s will, whatever the cost? Certain aspects of the book, however, take away from such pressing issues. Indeed, whenever such questions are pushed to the background, the narrative tends to lag. The back story of Jack’s failed marriage, for example, adds little to the narrative other than extra pages. Specifically, it’s used to explain why Jack didn’t rise higher in politics, but this turns out to be largely inconsequential to the greater conflict at hand. After all, politicians who cheat on their spouses are nothing new, but the potential return of Jesus certainly is, and readers will be much more engaged in figuring out whether or not “the Stranger” is the real Messiah. Some holy men in the novel go so far as to suggest that the Stranger is evil; as one priest argues, “We believe he is, at the least, an agent of the devil.” Who, after all, can be trusted in an age of so much misinformation? The book is truly at its best when it explores such difficult ideas.
A spiritual tale with an engaging plot, although some extraneous material occasionally slows its progress.