A boy with a troubled childhood . . . becomes a reluctant criminal . . . becomes a broken man on death row who just wants to die. A failed pastor . . . rejected by those he only wants to help . . . finds a new calling. Thomas Carey and Brady Wayne Darby couldn't be more different. One is a washed-up pastor hoping desperately to make a difference; the other is a criminal who's worst crime is always the one he's about to commit. One diligently serves God; the other diligently serves himself. And yet . . . both are sinners in need of grace. So take the first step on a journey to transformation. Join the murderer and the chaplain. Choose between a life of crime and a life of purpose and prepare to leave the ranks of the hopelessly lost and find the One who can save even the most troubled soul.
In this painfully slow story, Jenkins (Left Behind) builds two protagonists' story lines-each from different generations and different walks of life, yet destined to cross paths through God's providence. When readers meet young Brady Wayne Darby, he is still struggling to make it through high school, barely weaseling his way out of troubles that often come his way. With the Rev. Thomas Carey, Jenkins introduces an elder pastor, down on his luck and trying to find a new flock-eventually landing himself a prison chaplaincy on death row. Though the story ends with a predictable redemption, along the way, readers are assaulted with a heavy dose of despair, with women who cause the men in their lives endless trials and a plot that takes its sweet time. Since the novel is a complete departure from Jenkins's high-octane Left Behind series, longtime fans may be surprised by his versatility even as they grow impatient with the story's lugubrious development.
Read it… and Weep
At the beginning of January I saw Dallas Jenkins mention, on Facebook, this book by his father as being one of his favorites. The concept was intriguing so I purchased it on a whim. I started reading it with a sense of foreboding, not because of the end that had been spoiled in the post, but because the downtrodden pastor seemed a theme too close for comfort. And, sure enough, very early in I wrote a text note that “prophesied” this book would wreck me.
This morning I woke up around 5:55am and began to read again until I finished the book. It did. Riven wrecked me. I can’t imagine God using me so powerfully. This is what every pastor longs for, to know that the truth of God’s Word is making an impact, but I simply don’t know that I am. I AM the Reverend Carey. I don’t doubt God, but I doubt myself like I’m training for the Olympic Gold in the sport. Riven was like taking all my fears and frustrations and upsets out of my shame closet and throwing them up against the wall for random strangers to read… and judge me with mocking.
This book was what I wanted it to be:
- Charming in its relatable characters
- Enjoyable in its humor and familiarity
- Predictable in its simplicity
- Surprising in its twists as you assume an outcome
- Sometimes annoying in its dialogue
- Gut-wrenching in its nearness to me
- Challenging in its call to persevere
Throughout, but especially toward the end, I had to admit with a tinge of bitterness that this book understandably glosses over the real-time wilderness moments that sometimes make life seem unbearable. They were mentioned in brief, alluded to in montage format, but when one is in the midst of such an ordeal, the coming wrap-up feels superficial. Of course, this book, like every other, will end like a tv show or movie where everything ends as it should, we at least the promise of hope and redemption that has started. But those aren’t the stories that get told. The pain gets a montage because the reality goes on longer than anyone would like. But when you’ve seen, or experienced, this kind of pastoral pain, the neat, tidy conclusions seem like the unicorn paddock at the local zoo. I get it, but it also drives me to want to share my own story, a work of fiction written for me and those like me.
There is healing in a book that takes you out of yourself so you can better see yourself, and imagine a way forward. Riven is that book for me.
I enjoyed it, was gripped to continue, laughed, cried, and felt the push to keep going. I’m thankful for that.
Although I was a little confused about the initial bouncing between what seemed like two unrelated stories, it soon became apparent they would join. The writing was riveting. The story was compelling. I’m glad I read this.
A page turner. Could not put it down. 850 pages felt like an average 250-300 page book.
Holds your attention. Author writes as if you know the main characters. I recommend Riven with 5 stars.