Tavella’s debut Christian novel tells the story of a Lutheran pastor who embarks on a mission from God in a future, dystopian Pennsylvania.
In the early 22nd century, the United States has fallen into a second Dark Age, with a ruined economy and a population diminished by disease. Pastor Jonathan Klug, the leader of the Lutheran congregation in the small town of Felderheim, Pennsylvania, has seen a decline in people’s faith in God. One day, he finds an old letter in an unused church room. Written in 2008, it offers an apocalyptic vision: In the near future, there will be a monumental local confrontation between good and evil. “You, the discoverer of this letter, have been selected as an instrument of God’s purpose in the dark time,” reads the missive. “You will seek and find a manuscript of great importance at the church in ruins.” Jonathan elects to establish a monastic retreat in an abandoned cave attraction outside town, encouraged by a disembodied voice that only he can hear, which says to “Build here, Jonathan.” An ancient manuscript discovered in the cave supports Jonathan’s intuition, and with the help of a local Roman Catholic priest, and like-minded neighbors known as the Amici Christi, he sets about preparing for the coming storm. Evil is already upon them, however, in the form of roving bands called Goths—and a treacherous figure in their midst. Over the course of this novel, Tavella’s lean prose succeeds in conjuring the mysticism of Jonathan’s world: “The brazier fires were burning low. With startling abruptness, a flame shot into the air from the altar.” The future society intriguingly replicates a medieval setting, and the author seamlessly weaves religiosity into his characters’ daily lives. However, at the same time, the characters also have a certain pre-modern flatness, and readers may wish that Tavella had given them a bit more complexity. The distinctive dystopian environment, however, effectively combines the history of Pennsylvania with Christian monasticism, which sets this novel apart from typical genre fare.
An imaginative and convincing account of God-fearing survivors in tumultuous times.