Thursday, March 1, 2012

NOT IN THE HEART by Chris Fabry

The concept for this book was an outstanding idea. If your child is dying and needs a heart transplant and there’s a match with a condemned prisoner of course you’d take it. But, what if that prisoner is innocent?

As the parent of a child with a congenital heart defect, this premise intrigued me, and I wanted to read Chris Fabry’s Not In The Heart the moment I heard of it. However, this novel is more about addictions and redemption than anything else. The condemned prisoner was a skid-row alcoholic before he was arrested and convicted of a murder. In prison he experiences a Christian conversion that leads him to want to do something good with his life, like donate his heart, or convert others.

The dying young man is primarily viewed through the main protagonist’s eyes…his father, Truman Wiley. Wiley is a journalist estranged from his wife, Ellen, and children Abigail and Aiden. He’s addicted to gambling and obsessed with the stories he follows around the world. Any money he makes goes to casinos or to internet gambling. He’s losing his home, his car and is pursued by dangerous people he’s borrowed from and can’t repay. Even his family is threatened.

Meanwhile, his estranged wife lures him into writing a book about the condemned prisoner who may save their son’s life. Although he accepts that assignment and loves his family, he won’t visit his son in the hospital. He’s very self-centered.

Tru Wiley, with his daughter Abby's help, ferret out clues to the murder missed by everyone else. Their evidence seems to imply that the man in prison probably shouldn’t be there…at least not for the crime he was convicted of.

Tru’s wife, son, and others repeatedly attempt to convince Tru and Abby of the value of believing in Christ. Both, of course, resist until the end. This is, after all, a Christian novel. Tru is a despicable character in my mind, yet not allowed to do anything too terrible. When Tru is being shot at in an attempt to kill him, his chosen defense is to shoot out the tires of his assailants. Really? They’re trying to kill him! But, apparently main characters in Christian books don’t kill anyone, not even very bad guys.

Tru is unkind and unfair to his family. Neither his personal angst, nor learning he was the child of an abusive alcoholic dad, made me feel empathy or sympathy for him. I also didn’t approve of the wife’s tolerance of her estranged husband’s behavior. Although presented as a strong woman when caring for her seriously ill son, Ellen doesn’t practice tough love in regard to the addict. I didn’t find her a likeable character either.

Chris Fabry does an admirable job of writing and weaving in suspense over who actually did commit the murder. However, the intent of the novel seems to be to show the advantage of Christian conversion and even makes a comment against “religion.” I take umbrage with that since it’s religion that has maintained Christian faith through the ages. Where would we be without religion? But, I digress.

This was a well-written novel of mystery and suspense, despite unlikeable characters. As expected, Tru improves toward the end of the book; however, the solution to the murder will surprise you. Whether Aiden survives or not, you’ll have to read to the last pages to find out.

Chris Fabry leads us toward a shocking, but excellent ending. The conclusion exceeded my expectations.

Thank you to B&B Media Group for providing us with a review copy of this engaging novel.
—Gail Lewis

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 20, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414348614
ISBN-13: 978-1414348612

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