Some novels are character driven, others plot driven. Wisdom Hunter is unabashedly agenda driven.
Agenda. In Wisdom Hunter, Mr. Arthur pounces on and wrestles to the ground a modern American evangelistic model that replaces the joy and compassion of Christ-centered, Biblically focused Christianity with suffocating legalism and contrived tradition. Thought-provoking, in spots controversial, Wisdom Hunter takes on a rigid institutionalism that bears no resemblance to the example or the teachings of the Christ it purports to emulate. Not surprisingly, Mr. Arthur draws the parallel between Jesus and the Pharisees of His day.
Character. In the story, the Reverend Jason Faircloth is a mega-church pastor who has built his empire--North Metro Church of the Bible--on religious dogmatism and the strength of his own unbending will. North Metro is so far to the right on the religious spectrum, even Rush Limbaugh would raise an eyebrow. Strict dress code, no rock music, no dancing--the stereotypical litany of "no's," but especially no questioning the pastor's decisions. Dubbed "The General" by the media and his own congregation, Rev. Faircloth runs North Metro and his household in like manner.
Plot. North Metro statistically "thrives" under The General's leadership. But his household collapses, when his only daughter, Hannah, runs away to escape his domestic tyranny, and his wife, Lorena, dies of a broken heart. Jason's faith is shattered that God did not dutifully honor his petitions for Hannah's return and his wife's recovery, and he crumbles. He resigns the pastorship and embarks on a dual-focused journey of self discovery and searching for a granddaughter he has never met. The pedulum swings to the other extreme and Jason samples the 'greener pastures' of worldliness. His travels take him across the States and overseas, still in search of himself, his granddaughter, and, ultimately, his God.
To tell his tale, Mr. Arthur selected the third-person omniscient view, in which the narrator has, as the term implies, omniscience over the entire story and can convey to the reader insights irrespective of chronology or focal character. This allows him to describe and interpret the thoughts, actions and reactions of his characters rather than (or in addition to) the characters acting and speaking for themselves (see this review for similar commentary). The style has the potential of allowing the narrator's voice to rise above those of his actors and his thoughts to overshadow theirs. And, although the characters in Wisdom Hunter are strong enough to carry the plot (although somewhat two-dimensional; i.e., the heroes--human and institutional--appear faultless and the villains lack any redeeming trait whatsoever), the plot itself occasionally becomes transparent against the backdrop of the agenda. There is a strong finish, though, and you'll be satisfied with the story, even if you're not absolutely sold on the agenda..
Wisdom Hunter will prompt you to examine your Christianity as it is designed to do, no mistake. Just in that, it is well worth the read.
Note: Wisdom Hunter was provided free of charge by Multnomah for this review.