Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Unforgivable, by Tessa Stockton (Risen Books)

This is one you won't soon forgetmaybe ever forget.

Ms. Stockton has selected a major league topic for her debut novel. It's the one element of the Lord's Prayer Jesus considered worthy of commentary in Matthew 6. It's arguably the single-most difficult commandment the Christian has to deal with, and concept for the non-Christian to deal with. It's an issue that's inextricably enmeshed with other equally difficult problems of the heart, like, oh say, pride. Guessed it yet? Yup.

It's forgiveness. But wait a sec.

Ms. Stockton didn't tackle this heady issue on only one plane, which would be challenging enough. Oh, no. She laid before her readers forgiveness in its purest multifaceted form: intra-personal, inter-personal and multi-personal. How she goes about it is the joy of the ride.

Our heroine, Genevieve, is at a quilting convention and trade show in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with her best friend, Sally, and her new friend, Paloma, an Argentinean craftswoman. A chance encounter at a restaurant with a man, Carlos, sends her heart into palpitations and her friends into shock. The problem: Carlos is one of Argentina's most notorious figures, an ex-military officer blamed for horrible atrocities committed during the Dirty War of the late 70s and early 80s. Chastised for her foolishness by Sally, and harangued for insensitivity by Paloma, whose family suffered personally at the hands of men like Carlos, Genevieve still can't shake what she perceives behind the eyes of this gentleman with a very ungentle history. But she begins to spend more time with him, despite the protestations of her closest friends.

What unfolds is an emotional and spiritual rollercoaster ride for Genevieve, who doesn't dismiss the evidence against the man with whom she's falling in love, or excuse his past, but deals with them at the level on which God is leading her. For she believes God has brought them together. Through her exposure to this enigmatic man of sorrows, Genevieve not only gains a historical lesson in Argentina's Dirty War, but an even more valuable spiritual lesson in what it means to forgive against the backdrop of the seemingly unforgivable.

Ms. Stockton strikes a chord with an intensity few writers have dared to. Many have written about forgiveness; Tessa writes forgiveness. If this story doesn't make you evaluate your response to what is perhaps Christ's toughest commandment, then either you're ready for sainthood or your conscience has abandoned you.

This review is based upon an advance copy Ms. Stockton was kind enough to provide me. I guarantee you, though, having already read the story will not stop me from buying my own copy of the book the minute it comes out. Bravo to Ms. Stockton on a strong debut in the first installment of her "Wounds of South America" series.

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