Tuesday, May 31, 2011

‘Wonders Never Cease’ by Tim Downs – Book Review

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One of the most fascinating subjects to me is the subject of angels. So when I learned about a book called ‘Wonders Never Cease’ by Tim Downs, I knew it was a book I wanted to read.

Here is the synopsis of this novel novel:

“It’s true what they say, you know: If you talk to God, you’re religious; if you hear from God, you’re schizophrenic.”
When a car accident leaves a famous movie star in a coma, nurse Kemp McAvoy thinks he has found his ticket to the life he’s always wanted. As a med school dropout who was on his way to becoming an anesthesiologist, Kemp has the knowledge to carry off the crazy plan he concocts: adjust the star’s medication each night and pretend to be a heavenly visitor giving her messages. He recruits her agent and a down-and-out publisher to make sure the messages will become the next spiritual bestseller and make them all rich.
But his girlfriend’s daughter, Leah, keeps telling people that she is seeing angels, and her mother and her teachers are all afraid that something is wrong.
Before it’s too late, they’ll all learn a few things about angels, love, and hope.

Here is the biography of this author:

Tim Downs is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University. After graduation in 1976 he created a comic strip, Downstown, which was syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate until 1986. His cartooning has appeared in more than a hundred major newspapers worldwide.  His first book, Finding Common Ground: How to Communicate with Those Outside the Christian Community...While We Still Can, was awarded the Gold Medallion Award in 2000, and his third novel, PlagueMaker, was awarded the Christy Award for best CBA suspense novel of 2007. He is also the author of End of the Earth, Head GameLess Than Dead, Shoofly Pie, Chop Shop and First the Dead. His most recent novel is Nick of TimeTim lives in Cary, North Carolina, with his wife Joy.

There are several primary characters in this novel – Kemp McAvoy, Natalie Pelton, and actress Liv Hayden. In my opinion, Kemp has absolutely no redeeming value, other than being a child of God. He got my blood boiling numerous times through the course of reading this novel. He comes across as self-centered, dishonest, and arrogant. In contrast, his girlfriend, Natalie, had her moments of bad behavior, but, overall, I wondered what she saw in Kemp and why she was with him.

Another interesting aspect of this novel is the Hollywood/show business element. The emphasis is more clearly on the business than on the show. In his writing, Mr. Downs captures the environment perfectly. Here is an exchange between Liv Hayden and the director of her latest film project:

The director grinned at her. “I’m really looking forward to working with you on this film, Ms. Hayden. I welcome your input – your opinion means a lot to me. I mean, an actor of your – stature.”
Stature. The word stung, but Liv kept a smile plastered on her face. Stature – durability – longevity – they were all just euphemisms for the same brutal reality – age. It was no picnic being a forty-plus box office icon in Hollywood, especially for a woman. Oh sure, male actors complained about the ravages of time too, but it was different for men. Less than a week ago, she was lunching with Nic Cage at The Ivy when he started whining about hairlines and face-lifts and she shoved his corn chowder into his lap. She reminded him that Brando was the size of a Macy’s balloon when they paid him $3.7 million to do Superman – but let an actress pack on an extra twenty and the only role she’ll get is doing commercials for Jenny Craig. It’s not the same, she told him. Women in Hollywood have to do everything men do, but we’re supposed to do it crammed into a size four. (pp. 3-4)

After Ms. Hayden’s auto accident, several people, including Nurse McAvoy and Ms. Hayden’s agent, Mort Biederman, concocted a scheme to get her to write a best-selling book which would make all of them rich. The meeting to nail down the details was interesting:

“We need a story with conflict – tension – something to hook the audience and draw them in.”
“I like it,” Biederman said. “Keep going.”
“How about this? The angel tells Hayden there’s a cosmic conflict brewing somewhere in the universe, a conflict to determine which path people will follow – the old way or the new way. You know, sort of a Star Wars thing: ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.’” (p. 99)

There is not much of a Christian element in this book, which is published by Thomas Nelson. It falls under the Christian Suspense category. The only character who exhibits any Christian virtues is Emmet, a custodian at the hospital. Here is an exchange between Emmet and Kemp, as Emmet confronts Kemp on his nefarious scheme. This is a perfect example of the mindset/character of these two men:

        “The whole thing was just a harmless prank.”
“Does that seem harmless to you? You put words in an angel’s mouth – that’s a mighty bold thing to do. You’re foolin’ with things you don’t understand, Mr. Kemp. An angel’s just a messenger; that means you put words in the mouth of the Almighty, and that’s a fearful thing to do.”
“I don’t believe in angels – or the bogeyman.”
“Your daughter does.”
“My girlfriend’s daughter is a loon. Bad genes, I suppose.”
“Then let me put it another way: You’re foolin’ with words. Folks are gonna read those words, and some folks are gonna believe ‘em. Words are some of the most powerful things in the world, Mr. Kemp. Not a terrible thing’s been done in this world that didn’t start off with words. Words matter – a smart man like you should know that.” (P. 195)

The wisdom is coming from the humble man, clearly!

I enjoyed the ending of this book. It was the perfect twist! If you’re looking for a beach or summertime read, this would be a good one. Just know that there is just one character in the book who exhibits Christian virtues (if that is a component of a book that is important to you). Most of the other characters desperately need Jesus!

You can order this book here.

This review was written using the Advanced Reader’s Copy; the page numbers may not correspond with the final publication. The finished product, published by Thomas Nelson, is currently available for purchase. This ARC was generously provided by the author for review purposes.

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