Ted Dekker's most recent work Eyes Wide Open marks the beginning of his new Outlaw Chronicles series. It is also a fully integrated part of the broad story arcs that he has already created through his Circle, Paradise, and Lost Book series. The germ of the story in this new work is well summed up within a dedication that Dekker includes in the book:
"There are times when the challenges of living in this world feel like more than you can bear. When nights all alone in your bedroom seem to turn your heart into a stone. When the mirror tells you that you're not good enough; when the words of others say you never will be."
The main characters in the story are two 18 year olds, Christy Snow and Austin Hartt. They have gotten to know each other from the orphanage that they grew up in during their teenage years. They also have in common the fact that neither remembers anything about their childhood or their life before the orphanage. However, they have found in each other something that they each need. Christy needs someone to ground her and make her feel appreciated. Austin is very bright and analytical. He looks to Christy to keep him from isolating himself in his world of books and personal study. They like to spend time together talking in an abandoned storage room in a nearby hospital. This room represents a portal that ultimately takes each of them into the psychiatric wing of the hospital where they quickly become enmeshed and labeled as sick and delusional. Against their wills, they are subject to a series of ever worsening tortures that slowly cause them to go insane. Ultimately, they each reach a point where they lose their identities and come to accept the diagnosis of the seemingly sadistic head of the psychiatric ward.
However, the broader reality is not that Christy and Austin are losing their identities. In fact, they are merely buying into the identities that they are burdened with in this fallen world. An identity that is pushed on all of us to see ourselves as lacking and broken and unsatisfactory. The only way to break free of this thinking is to accept who we are as defined through Jesus. When we accept our identity as He gives it, the scales fall off of our eyes and we see how we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are made perfect through His love. The connection to events in The Paradise Series is brought out at the end and helps to give a bit more depth to appreciate the characters, how they came to be in the orphanage, and why their pasts are lost to them. However, reading that series is not necessary to enjoy this book. Not a bad effort. One I would label as typically Dekker. I look forward to reading the next entry in the Outlaw Chronicles series scheduled for release later this year, Water Walker.