Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Book Review: Prophecy: The Fulfillment by Deborah A Jaeger

Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher to be reviewed.

Prophecy: The Fulfillment by Deborah A Jaeger

Set in the year 2018, Prophecy: The Fulfillment is a pre-Apocolyptic Christian thriller by Deborah A Jaeger. First of all let me say this a beautifully designed book – the cover is gorgeous and the book design is lovely. Ms Jaeger has a gift for prose and some of the passages in the book are truly lyrical. That being said it is a little difficult to know how to review this book. As a work of fiction designed for the Christian market it has a lot of appeal. However as a mainstream novel it is more problematic.

The story, in essence, is that a young woman in Nashville, Tennessee discovers that she is pregnant despite the fact that she is a virgin. She is known to be a good girl from a good family with a nice boyfriend who respects her desire to wait until they are married. When her pregnancy becomes known everyone is stunned. Her family cannot believe it, her boyfriend is furious and feels betrayed, and everyone who knows them is shocked. It turns out that Jillian (the girl) had been visited by an angel, Arianna, who has foretold this event.

At the same time a young theology student in Canada, Stephen, has also been visited by an angel, Gabriel, who informs him that he will be Jillian's protector. He travels to Nashville to be with her.

In the course of withdrawing amniotic fluid for a DNA test, a young doctor is accidentally stabbed in the hand and receives a serious wound. When he comes in contact with the fluid the wound is immediately healed and, within hours, news of this miracle is sweeping through the country. In a matter of days people begin arriving by the thousands and the authorities in Nashville have a disaster on their hands. The identity of the girl needs to be kept secret, especially because one doctor in the hospital, aware of the miraculous powers of her unborn child, has developed his own scheme to profit from this miraculous pregnancy.

From a purely Christian perspective the story is certainly inspiring and intriguing. All the people in the story are supportive (except the one bad guy) and determined to protect Jillian. The story follows a fairly predictable course and the end is ripe for a sequel. Those who prefer strict Christian sensibilities will, no doubt, love it. As mainstream fiction there are tougher considerations.

This book would very much have benefited from some strong editing. Though the author writes beautiful prose her dialogue is ponderous and unnatural. Speakers repeat the names of the people they are talking to endlessly and much of the dialogue consists of lectures and, as Mark Twain said, “speechifying”. It is obvious that the author did a great deal of research. She knows a lot about medical procedures and, if the reader is interested in how these procedures work, they will find this enlightening. I felt it slowed down the story to a snail's pace. In one place a doctor explains DNA in detail. When she is finished Jillian's mother asks, “What does that mean for my daughter?” The doctor replies, “I don't know.” Then how did including it serve the story, please?

Also, this may sound nitpicky, but I was always taught that in naming characters you should guard against using too many similar names or names starting with the same letter. It is confusing and distracting. If this book was an episode of Sesame Street it would be brough to you by the letter J. Her characters include Jillian, Jamie, Julie, Jackson, John (an adult), Johnny (an unrelated little boy), Rev. Jennings, Miss Jenkins, Judith, and “the Jacobs boy.”

But my biggest complaint was that there was virtually no character development over the course of the entire, nearly 400 page novel. All the people started out as nice, good people and they ended up as nice, good people – except for the evil doctor. This is frequently a problem in genre literature and this Christian novel is no different. Good literary fiction always concerns the struggles -- sometimes both internal and external -- of the main characters and there really weren't any struggles here. Jillian was fully accepting of her role, as was Stephen. Jillian's parents had a hard time dealing with her pregnancy but once they understood it their only concern was protecting her and the various medical folks involved were just there to prop up the miraculous aspects of the story. I think that, while Christian readers will be fully accepting of the "paranormal" aspects of this tale, the mainstream reader would find it less credible.

I also had a lot of difficulty believing that rumors of one “miracle” taking place in a hospital would draw pilgrims by the thousands creating chaos such that one of the town officials compared the situation to Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans. I found that a bit much.

I suspect Christian readers will find this book quite a lovely read and find the ending emotional and filled with possibility. For readers outside of the Christian market, it might be a tougher sell.  

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