Friday, October 23, 2009

Complicated Story About Missions

Reviewed by Phee Paradise
Lost Mission by Athol Dickson

Fray Alejandro is a Franciscan monk who leaves his home to share the gospel with the pagans in Alta California in 1767. Lupe is a Mexican who leaves home to share the gospel with the pagans who live in modern day California. They are tied by a common mission and by a wooden altar piece painted by Fray Alejandro and carried by Lupe. Both find their work discouraging but are committed and cannot abandon it.

The eighteenth century thread is focused on Fray Alejandro and always gives us his point of view. But the modern story is not only about Lupe, it’s also about the people who help or hinder her mission. The point of view shifts from chapter to chapter. I found this a bit disconcerting because I was never sure what the “right” viewpoint was. There was never any doubt that Lupe’s goal of sharing the gospel is the primary motivating force in the book, but each character has a different perspective on it. But there is a strong narrative in both stories, and the characters are compelling.

Dickson connects the two stories with philosophy. Each chapter begins with Fray Alejandro. His experiences always end in a reflection on the abstract nature of something like sin or obedience, followed by the author telling us how it is also evident in the people in the modern narrative. From there he goes on to tell more of the modern story. There is a rhythm and tone to the book that is borrowed from Spanish, which lends itself to the philosophical thread that weaves the stories together. In addition to the philosophy, themes of missions, church growth and immigration make the story even more complicated.

If you like complex stories and themes, you’ll enjoy Lost Mission. It’s one of those books that makes you think while telling you a good story.

Pros: Interesting point of view about sharing the gospel. It has likeable characters with unpredictable action and a touch of history and mysticism.

Cons: This is not a straight narrative and the style makes the story bog down at times.

About the book:
What haunting legacy awaits deep beneath the barrios and wealthy enclaves of Southern California?

An idyllic Spanish mission collapses in the eighteenth century atop the supernatural evidence of a shocking crime. Twelve generations later the ground is opened up, the forgotten ruins are disturbed, and rich and poor alike confront the onslaught of resurging hell on earth. Caught up in the catastrophe are...

· A humble shopkeeper compelled to leave her tiny village deep in Mexico to preach in America
· A minister wracked with guilt for loving the wrong woman
· An unimaginably wealthy man, blinded to the consequences of his grand plans
· A devoted father and husband driven to a horrible discovery that changes everything

Will the evil that destroyed the Misión de Santa Dolores rise to overwhelm them? Or will they beat back the terrible desires that led to the mission's good Franciscan founder's standing in the midst of flames ignited by his enemies and friends alike more than two centuries ago?

From the high Sierra Madre mountains to the harsh Sonoran desert, from the privileged world of millionaire moguls to the impoverished immigrants who serve them, Athol Dickson once again weaves a gripping story of suspense that spans centuries and cultures to explore the abiding possibility of miracles.

About the author:
Athol Dickson is an award-winning author of several novels. His Christy Award-winning novel River Rising was name one of the "Top Ten Christian Novel of 2006" by Booklist magazine. He lives in California with his wife.

Dickson's They Shall See God was a Christy Award finalist. River Rising was selected as one of the Booklist Top Ten Christian Novels of 2006 and was a Christianity Today's Best Novel of 2006 finalist. Both River Rising and The Cure won Christy Awards for best suspense novel.

His latest novel, Winter Haven was a finalist for the 2009 Christy Award in the suspense category, making four novels in a row to receive
that honor.

And now Athol is back with a gripping tale with an epic sense of the passage of time and the way events and choices impact people across generations.

Visit his website for more information.

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