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CarpeLibrum

Carpe Librum

Reviews and bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.

If I am lost, you will find me in medieval England.

You can also find me - and my books - on my blog.

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The Atonement Child - Francine Rivers

Let me begin by saying that this is a novel written by a Christian author about a girl who experiences an unwanted pregnancy caused by rape. If you are expecting the author to not have an agenda, you will be disappointed. Dynah Carey, who is a Christian college student with her perfect life laid out in front of her, is raped in the opening chapter of the book, but this novel is not about rape. It is about dealing with difficulty, facing fears, choosing what is right over what is popular, and just how hard all of that is to do.

Several people have expressed criticisms of this book, many of which I agree with.

It gets too preachy. Absolutely. The inner dialog between God and some of the characters gets to be a little bit too much, as does the conversation between Evie, Dynah's grandmother, and her friends. Not that I don't agree with some of the points made, but they are made too heavy-handedly.

The story goes off on tangents. Every time Rivers introduces a character she goes into a lengthy backstory on them. This was distracting and jarring to the flow of the story. She eventually tied people together and made it clear why we needed this information, but it broke the age old writing rule of "show not tell." Character background should have been woven in more delicately.

The novel begins too abruptly. Again with the show not tell - we are told that Dynah is a lovely Christian girl with a picture perfect fiancé as the scene is building up to her being attacked. I would have preferred the story beginning a little earlier and showing the relationship between them rather than opening with this scene. This is the only area where I would criticize the character development. Ethan never moves beyond being a sanctimonious jerk.

A few too many coincidences. Maybe. Are we supposed to assume that Dynah is surrounded by so many women & men who have been affected by abortion because this is God's will to bring them together and bring redemption, because that's just how many people out there really have an abortion story, or is it just a coincidence? I'm not sure, but there were a couple of times while I was reading this that I thought, "really, another one?!"

So why 4 stars? Because despite these issues I could not put this book down. I cared about Dynah and her family and couldn't wait to discover what happened too them. Though it is easy to guess at some parts of where the story would go, it was still satisfying to get there.

Rivers' character development is spectacular. Even sweet, virginal Dynah has her flaws. She considers abortion and suicide. She runs away. She expresses her doubts about God. The dynamic between Dynah's parents, Hannah and Douglas, was incredibly realistic. Hannah made sure to hurt others because she was sure that they were out to hurt her. Douglas is a fairly typical guy who blows up without thinking, to the detriment of his family. The way a typical Christian family was shown to fall apart in the face of tragedy was touching and profound. There were no sugar-coated, perfect Christians in this novel.

The characters were the best part of this novel. Each was portrayed so realistically, I could imagine them as people I know. The abortion center director who was so disillusioned with how her life was turning out when she thought she was doing everything right. The well-meaning friends who assured Dynah that if anyone shouldn't feel guilty about having an abortion it was her. The father who thought pushing his daughter into an abortion was the only way to protect and care for her. The doctor who performed abortions so that women wouldn't die obtaining them illegally. Everyone has their struggles, beliefs, and story. I enjoyed seeing them all brought together.

Yes, some of this is hard to read. It deals with an extremely sensitive subject. The overall message is redemption and forgiveness, not judgmental hypocrisy. It was a brave story to write and one that any reader will not soon forget.