4 out of 4 stars
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Avam Hale’s debut novel The Message?: A thinking thriller about change and choice was written with the intent to both entertain and challenge readers, and I am fairly certain that Hale has managed to accomplish such a task within the pages of this book. In a message from the author preceding the book, Hale states, “If I get even one ‘hmmm’ out of you I will have succeeded.” I definitely experienced a few moments of “hmmm” as I read this story.
Leah Warner was just a meek, mid-Western widower with two children when a tragic car accident sent her into a coma. Though her prognosis isn’t so great, after three weeks in an unresponsive state, a miracle occurs. Not only does she wake up, fully aware of her surroundings, but the external cuts and bruises on her body are practically healed, and her internal fractures are almost fully mended. Much to the amazement of her attending neurologist, she shows no sign of brain trauma.
But Leah also claims to have been with God while she was in her coma, and God has sent her back with a simple message to share with the world: He loves everyone unconditionally, and He wants everyone to set aside worldly possessions and achievement and just love each other as well. While Leah does not intend to endorse any particular religious affiliation as she spreads this message, she soon discovers that merely promoting such a simple concept of love and selflessness comes with consequences. Her message gets mixed up in philosophy, religion, politics, and economics as they all play a role in the lives of all Americans, regardless of whether or not they believe her story.
Despite my rather simple summary of the story, this book actually contains a variety of interesting characters whose lives and roles weave together to form the overall plot, which ultimately revolves around Leah Warner. Dr. Marcus, Leah’s neurologist, is my favorite of all of the characters. A man of science, but also a man of God, Dr. Marcus is a rather subtle hero in the book as he tends to be the one to bring all of the other characters together. He is also just a really nice guy, and I had a bit of crush on him as I was reading.
While this book is definitely entertaining, I wouldn’t exactly call it a “light read.” It will make you think about religious, political, economic, and philosophical ideas. The author is obviously well-educated and did appropriate research to discuss a variety of issues. However, I never felt like the book promoted any specific religious or political agenda. It was simply a very insightful, fictional story of how one woman came to believe in God from her own experience.
I give this book a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. There were a handful of errors throughout the book, mostly in the form of missing periods at the end of short quotations, but these errors didn’t decrease the overall quality of the writing. They especially didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story as a whole. I recommend this book to readers who are looking for a book with deep meaning. Get ready to meet some interesting characters along the way.
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