Friday, November 16, 2012

Forgotten Road

A few weeks ago I completed my reading of a trilogy of books by author Randall Arthur. This set of novels, Wisdom Hunter, Jordan's Crossing, and Brotherhood of Betrayal, each focussed on a man and his relationship with the church. Actually, they were really about broken men and their ultimate restoration with God. The one constant from book to book was the presence of pastor Jason Faircloth. He was the central character in the first book and had a cameo role in each of the other two. Now, after more than a 10 year absence from publishing novels, Arthur returns with another tale in this series, Forgotten Road. It took me quite some time to locate a copy of this book, but the one that I ultimately did find was autographed by Mr. Arthur himself.

The story surrounds a musician, Cole Michaels, who was living his dream. His first album had unexpectedly hit it big, providing visions of a long, successful, and lucrative future for Cole, his wife, and their young son. While Cole fought to make his way in the recording business, he had neglected his wife for a time. In this period she had come to Christ and ultimately brought Cole along as well. The young couple was initiated into a type of "American Dream" theology, where God's blessings are promised if you give him your life. Cole did so willingly. Yet shortly after, his son was killed in a gruesome tractor accident and his wife committed suicide in the aftermath. Cole turned to alcohol to dull his pain and then killed a young mother and her daughter while driving under the influence. Cole was sentenced to 11 years in jail and was locked away while everything that he had known and believed in was ripped from his grasp.

In prison we find a truly broken man, one who has reached rock bottom. Something about Cole attracts the attention of the prison chaplain, Duke Parker. Duke is loving and tenacious and filled with grace. Under the chaplain's mentoring, Cole re-awakens and finally begins to understand the true nature of God and what a relationship with him means. When Cole is released from prison, he enters back into the music world very quickly. Yet just when he is set to reach the pinnacle of the music world again, with all the trappings of wealth and fame and women, he realizes that this life is not what he wants and is not who he now has become. What he wants is to give back, to make a difference, and to help others. And the beautiful thing is, this is just what he ends up doing.

Although this book was a bit uneven in its writing, especially with some weak and clipped dialog and prose in the second half, it was still a very enjoyable read. It was also nice to meet up with Jason Faircloth again and to find how his life and ministry have progressed over the years.