Monday, November 30, 2009
Athol Dickson's The Lost Mission ~ Reviewed
Lost Mission: A Novel
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (September 15, 2009)
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.
I really wanted to read this novel. I've not read Athol Dickson before but had heard great things about him. When a review copy was offered to me, I jumped on it. But then the book came and I read the back cover. "Hmmm." I thought. "Well, I'll get to it eventually." And then I set the book down. The subject did not appeal. But then came the blog tour and I needed to be able to say something about the book. So I opened it.
Two strikes right away. One is the omniscient tone of the story. For some reason that's my least favorite point of view. Second was the abundance of names within the first few pages. I have trouble keeping track of too many characters and too soon into a book and I'm annoyed.
Then I got into the story and wow, this man can write. The praise and awards are well-deserved.
The story is two distinct yet similar stories unfolding in the same location, two centuries apart. Two characters choose to love the lost at the cost of their own moral compass, two characters choose love of laws and rules over loving people, and two characters struggle with caring deeply about the events unfolding and feeling helpless to do anything about those events.
Changing centuries threw me the first chapter but then it became more clever and clearer and the omniscient point of view added greatly to the seamless weaving of events. The characters were all important and as I read Dickson made sure that I knew enough about them that they became easy to remember and know. So much for my complaints. From there it's just a great, thought-provoking read. And challenging. I saw myself in each of the characters. Not necessarily a positive thing and it required me to face some of the issues in my life and how I might need to tweak my thinking a bit. Did I mention it's fascinating as well? An outbreak of some horrific disease/plague (assuming it was small pox) decimates as does fire. Dickson is an artist with words and characters. I've not read such fresh prose in quite awhile.
I'm recommending it to anyone. However, don't expect to be untouched by the story. It's not an easy one to read or digest. And it's not a mindless beach read either. Action lovers could struggle with the slower pace. Literary lovers should put it on their Christmas list.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer