Obligatory Federal Disclaimer and Full-Disclosure Statement:
>>This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<
>>This book was also written by the person who happened to publish my novel, The Muse. This does not mean that all my comments will be positive, but I am also free to like the book if I want to. So there. Nyaah.<<
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is also an apt summary of Grace Bridges’ debut novel, Faith Awakened, the story of two women from vastly different worlds who share an astonishing connection uniting them in space and time.
Mariah lives in a near-future Ireland, a dystopia of authoritarian world government and indentured servitude. The practice of religion is outlawed, and believers meet secretly, pursuing a faith in God, “The Awakener,” that fills the emptiness in their dreary lives. One day, revolution sweeps the world, but the ecstatic celebration of renewed freedom is cut short by a brutal plague that spares only a handful. Mariah and a few desperate survivors wander the ruins of their blighted world, subsisting on scraps and wondering if their immunity to the plague will last. They stumble upon an unexpected means of escape from the doom that pursues them–if they dare to use it.
Faith lives in an Ireland much like our own, growing up with few cares other than the nagging question of her destiny. What is her purpose in life? She drifts listlessly from one path to the next, praying for God’s guidance but unsure of her ultimate destination. She suffers from troubling lapses of memory that disrupt her life and add to her self-doubt. She soldiers on valiantly, certain that the answer will reveal itself in time, but something is missing from her life–something very important.
Though Faith and Mariah have never met, their futures are intertwined in a way neither of them could ever imagine. There is a truth that guides them both, and that truth will set them free.
Faith Awakened is a story that tackles a lot of heavy questions: Who are we? What are we doing here? Where are we going? Is somebody in control? Why do bad things happen to good people? Do we have a destiny, and is it in our power to change it? Should we?
Author Grace Bridges guides her characters through this field of philosophical and theological land mines with a steady hand and a decidedly Christian viewpoint. She doesn’t provide easy answers. We see people of faith struggling to understand God’s will in situations both extreme and mundane. It’s an emotional journey full of triumphs and failures, blessings and sacrifice. The final resolution for Mariah and Faith strikes out into uncharted territory for Christian fiction, leaving the reader with the most haunting question any story can offer: What would I do?
This isn’t a slam-bang actioner. Faith Awakened is a measured and often tranquil meditation on the nature of belief and the meaning of life. There’s plenty of comfort taken in simple pleasures: music, poetry, conversation, the play of sunlight through the leaves, and the rush of ocean waves against the shore. The tragedies in Mariah’s story are that much more devastating when set in contrast with the relative bliss of Faith’s life. This is a book to make you feel and to make you think.
Though I enjoyed the story very much, I did have a few minor criticisms (Hey, I’m a cranky reviewer and I’ve got to give you both sides): I thought it moved too slowly in spots, some of the inertia mirroring the bland repetitiveness of Faith’s world. I also thought the prologue came very close to providing too much information and stealing the thunder of what was to come later. References to God in Moriah’s future world were oddly oblique, and although believers acknowledged the history of Christianity, it didn’t seem to inform their very generic practice of the faith. Likewise, the denizens of Moriah’s world seemed inconsistently adept with advanced future technology–knowledgeable one minute, uncomprehending the next.
That said, it’s a good story, and if you enjoy books that tug at your heartstrings but don’t ask you to check your brain at the door, you’ll probably like Faith Awakened. It’s family-friendly, but there are some intense, harrowing situations and mature subject matter. Teens and up.
Additional reviews of Faith Awakened, plus a multimedia trailer, sample chapters, information about the author, etc, are available at http://www.faithawakened.com/