rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I was asked to review this book, I almost passed. Suspense novels aren't usually my choice of reading material and I don't know why I chose to read this one. However, I really enjoyed it. The story is told by Taylor Pasbury, a former Secret Service agent who now does private security work. She was hired to protect Simon Mason, a famous televangelist, who has been the subject of terroist threats. Simon's daughter is kidnapped, and the rasom demanded is that he deny Christ on national television. Simon has to decide whether to "pay" the ransom or allow his daughter to be killed. In the rest of the book he has to live with the consequences of this choice.
The book wa a page-turner and because the central conflict was having to choose between family and Christ, the religous content was at the forefront. However it wasn't a preachy novel. My only complaint about the religous aspects of the book is that at one point Simon goes to Lebanon and is helped by Christians there. Those Christians are not outsiders, but very involved in the power structure in Lebanon. While the precise nature of their Christianity is not discussed, I find it hard to believe than Maronite Catholics or Greek Orthodox Christians (who make up the overwhelming majority of Christians in Lebanon) would have invited and supported a Protestant evangelist.
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An interview with James David Jordan, author of Forsaken
Q: Before you became an author, you were (and still are!) a very successful business attorney. Tell us how and why you began to write novels.
I was a journalism major before I went to law school, and I have always enjoyed writing. A few years back, I set out to write a book of Sunday school lessons for a class I was teaching, but I struggled with a strong urge to change the stories to suit my teaching purposes. I concluded that God might not look favorably on my editing of his work, so I decided to write a novel instead. My goal was to weave a biblical theme seamlessly into a page-turning story. The result was my first novel, Something That Lasts, which was very well received, both critically and by the public. I’m only interested in writing novels with faith-based themes, because in my mind issues of faith are the big issues in life.
Q: In Forsaken, your main characters are presented with what seems an almost impossible dilemma. Why did you choose to address this thought-provoking topic for your book?
I always start my books with a biblical theme in mind and weave the plot around that theme. The idea for Forsaken came from Matthew 10:37: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” I pictured what it would be like to have to choose between God and my own child’s life. That dilemma is the central plot point of Forsaken.
Q: This is actually the first of a two-book series revolving around Taylor Pasbury. Tell us about her.
Taylor Pasbury is my favorite character ever. She is enticingly flawed. By that, I mean that she is nearly a complete wreck on a personal level—drinks too much and sleeps around, for example—but there is so much that is good and courageous and vulnerable about her that it’s impossible not to root for her. She needs faith desperately, and her relationship with Simon Mason is her first step.
Q: Why did you choose a televangelist as a protagonist in this story? What makes Simon different from the stereotypical televangelist?
For the full impact of the central dilemma to play out, I thought it was necessary to make the decision—my faith or my child—to be very public. That raises the stakes, for the characters and the reader. Simon is nearly as flawed as Taylor. Together they learn to live with what they’ve done in the past, and they do the best they can under impossible circumstances. There’s a great life lesson for all of us in that. There are no religious superheroes in Forsaken.
Q: Forsaken raises challenging questions. By the end of the book, do you answer those questions, or do you leave readers to find the answers for themselves?
I try never to answer the questions for the reader. That would insult the reader’s intelligence. I try to tell a page-turning story that stimulates thought about specific issues of faith. I’m very careful not to make my stories into evangelical bludgeonings.
Q: In Matthew 10:37 it says, “He who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Are we to take that verse literally?
Readers will have a better understanding of their personal answer to that question after reading Forsaken.
Q: Were you able to come up with an answer to what you would do if you found yourself in Simon’s situation?
I don’t know what I would do. I don’t know if I could watch one of my children die.
Q: Forsaken addresses martyrdom—its motivations and its results. What was the point you were trying to make?
In both of the Taylor Pasbury books (the sequel, Double-Cross, will be released in the fall of 2009), there is an underlying theme: Grace is a gift, and we can’t earn it. So that raises the question of why there have been so many martyrs. What motivates a person to die for faith, when it’s not necessary to salvation? Love is obviously the most important motivator, but there are other, more subtle motivations also. For example, would the Apostle Peter have been as motivated to die for his faith if he did not suffer from the guilt of denying Jesus three times? Would Paul have been as motivated to suffer for his faith if he was not wracked with guilt over his persecution of Christians before his conversion? Martyrdom is not necessary to salvation, but in some instances it may be something a person feels he owes. No human sacrifice can be as pure as Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
Q: Your characters are not religious superheroes. In fact, they are very obviously flawed. Why have you chosen to present a message of faith through characters whose faith is so readily assailable?
My goal is to write entertaining stories first, and to weave the Christian message into the stories naturally. I’m hoping that many readers who would never consider picking up a “Christian” book will read Forsaken because it’s a page-turning story with well-developed characters. Cookie cutter characters with no depth bore me, and I never want to create shallow characters for my readers.
Q: What do you have planned for Taylor in the next book of the series?
Taylor’s mother, who ran out when Taylor was nine, reappears in Double-Cross. She has her own set of flaws and quirks. Together they get themselves into some serious scrapes as they try to unravel the mystery of a suicide that just doesn’t add up.
Forsaken by James David Jordan
B&H Publishing Group October 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8054-4749-1/softcover/387 pages/$14.99