A reverend’s sermons at a Methodist church in Georgia find supporters and a small but potentially dangerous resistance in Frosolono’s (Thoroughly Biased Opinions, 2012, etc.) religious drama.
The Rev. Eric Jameson’s assignment at Aldersgate United comes with specific instructions: bring the church’s reactionary views “fully into the 21st century.” He makes waves almost immediately when, during the Independence Day service, he suggests that the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence don’t abide by the Holy Scripture. The reverend, a retired Army colonel and recipient of the Medal of Honor, faces accusations of being unpatriotic by the church’s lay leader, Ralph Whitfield, who also happens to be commander of the Southern Restoration Movement—essentially, a white-supremacy group. As attendance at Aldersgate increases, so does Ralph’s ire. Soon, Eric has someone else to worry about: a new romantic interest, lawyer Allison Stevens, and her son, Joseph. Ralph, meanwhile, concocts a scheme for the Restorers that quickly turns deadly. Frosolono’s novel features a laudable protagonist who clearly cares about his parishioners. Even if readers disagree with Eric’s perspective, his sermons typically deal with acceptance and tolerance. Eric makes controversial arguments with conviction and intelligence; for example, he says that it’s blasphemous to state a belief in the Ten Commandments if one doesn’t live in accordance with them. Eric’s background also makes him a deeply complex character; the opening scene at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in 2010, for example, shows that he’s capable of brutality, if necessary. Ralph is a bit too blunt as Eric’s antithesis, and he’s flagrantly racist and homophobic. However, some of the scenes in which he plots against Eric are unnerving. The dialogue is occasionally stiff and unnatural; as Allison discusses a project with Eric, for example, she tells him, “Let me cogitate a while.” Their flourishing romance is likewise stilted; when Eric proposes sex, the couple’s conversation sounds like a business deal. The ending, however, is remarkable and a sublime contrast to the violent beginning.
A thriller with an uncomplicated plot that’s invigorated by a main character whose profound messages will spark rumination.