It’s an old, old story: a tale of the consequences of good and evil. Plus the limitless power of faith and love, and how they can forever change an empty life.
When Charlie Strickland, a reclusive artist living in the backwoods of Indiana, opens his door to find a handsome young stranger standing naked on his front porch, an astounding odyssey begins.
It doesn’t take Charlie long to fall head over heels in love with his oddly innocent visitor. The young man calls himself Joe. Just Joe. But when amazing things begin to happen, Charlie soon comes to realize who Joe really is.
What follows will turn Charlie’s world, and everyone else’s, upside down.
I don't know how to write a review for this book, to be honest. I don't even know where to start, really.
While I was reading, I made some status updates - perhaps those will help me figure out what to say about this incredible, moving, and unexpectedly brilliant book. I say unexpectedly because while I expected to love a John Inman book, I didn't expect it to be so amazing and profound.
The status updates:
17% - "I'm not feeling this book yet. Though I think I already know who/what Joe is supposed to be. Also the cover image nicely depicts a scene from within. I like that."
25% - "Well, that was something else entirely. Didn't expect that...."
35% - "I would imagine it's very tricky to write a book about the 2nd coming of Christ (sort of), and not get preachy. But this isn't preachy at all. John Inman just lets his characters do their thing, and they make his point very clear indeed."
50% - "I have absolutely no idea where John is taking me with this book, but I can't stop reading. The cleansing I just witnessed on page - OMG. That was terrifying."
75% - "Oh. My. God. What wondrous thing is this book?"
So, as you can see, I went from "what is happening" to "OMG, OMG, OMG". It's hard to explain what this book really contains. The blurb hints, but doesn't really tell a reader what to expect, and I will try to not spoil things here.
I was majorly impressed with the fact that a book talking about and showing the 2nd coming of Christ didn't get preachy at all. It wasn't super soapbox religious, but it sure had hellfire and brimstone. The Cleansing, as Joe calls it, is terrifying. People bursting into flames where they are standing, only to be taken to the eternal flames of Hell, where they will burn for the rest of eternity for the sinful and evil lives they've lived - scary and horrifying and utterly fascinating to read. And at the same time, as God unleashes his wrath upon the sinners, we see Joe suffering, crying, and near wasting away from the pain of knowing that all these souls are lost.
The contrast between Joe, pure, good, gentle, kind, willing to suffer and sacrifice for those he can save, and some of the other evil people we get to meet in this book is like the difference between the whitest white and the blackest black. One is pure light, and the other is complete darkness.
I cried a lot while reading. I cried in part because I was watching not only the human suffering but also the not-so-human Joe, who embodies the Christ I was taught about as a young child.
This isn't the apocalypse, even if it feels like it at times. Though obviously, due to the nature of the topic, this book is heavy on the religious theme. There is a baptism scene. There is a healing. So, if that sort of thing turns you off, this may not be the book for you.
The age difference between Charlie, the man who finds Joe on his doorstep, naked and out of the blue, and Joe himself was a little difficult to take on occasion, especially when Charlie refers to Joe as "The Boy" but yet has lustful thoughts about him. The latter, as far as Charlie was concerned, didn't disturb me as much - a gay man having lusty and perhaps somewhat inappropriate thoughts about a young man who is well-formed and beautiful inside and out was certainly understandable, especially considering that Charlie was aware of the inappropriateness and fought his attraction. He took steps to not let Joe see how he was feeling, and their physical relationship doesn't play a huge part in this book anyway. It was more disturbing to me that Charlie of the Lustful Thoughts then took on a role of something like a father to Joe, who had no earthly knowledge of much of anything, really, who wasn't born but created as a grown man and dropped on a stranger's front porch by his Heavenly Father, with only the knowledge of what was going to happen, but not the permission to really talk about it.
What this book had in droves was intimacy, and not the sexual kind. The scenes where Charlie is painting Joe at Joe's request, and where Charlie and Joe interact were heartbreakingly intimate in their description, and often the cause for my tears.
I'm rambling, I know. This book isn't for everyone - I know that too. For me, though, for me it was earth-shattering and profound and, in a small way, affirming that what I believe to be true.
I loved this, John. Thank you for writing this book!
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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