Dixie Koch. The Miracle Worker and the Misfits. Revival Waves of Glory Books & Publishing, 2017. See here to buy the book.
The characters from this book who are presently in my mind are as follows, though I realize that there were more characters in the book and that those characters were important. Some character stuck with me more than others.
Abby: Abby suffered abuse as a child with her sister, Julie.
Julie: Julie has been murdered. She left behind letters talking about her conversion to Christ.
Charley: Charley is Julie’s son. He was a demoniac, and his story is similar to that of the demoniac in Luke 8. The demons are cast out of him and go into a neighbor’s cows (rather than pigs, as occurs in Luke 8). Psychiatrists are claiming that Charley had a psychological condition, not demon possession.
Pastor Paul Marvel: Pastor Paul preaches that miracles are possible today and that Jesus wants to set people free from what afflicts them. He is the hero of the book. Yet, he is accused of Julie’s murder.
Pastor Richard Staunch: Richard Staunch is a powerful minister in the community, and he does not believe that God works miracles anymore. He despises Pastor Paul and does not believe that Charley was demon-possessed.
John and Phillip: I cannot recall much about who they are and what they did, but, on pages 164-166, they do have an interesting discussion about demon possession and how that contrasts with being led by the Spirit of God.
Jezra: Jezra is a witch who leads a coven. She is one of the book’s villains. The sequel to this book, The Way Maker and the Scarlet Cord, appears to be specifically about her. I am intrigued! A daughter of one of the characters is drawn to Jezra and wants nothing to do with God.
The book has an intriguing premise. The theme of learning how to love when one has been unloved was certainly compelling. I am open to reading the sequel. But here are some of my problems with the book:
—-The book was somewhat like Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness books, and in a bad way. Let me explain what I mean by that. I am not saying that the plot of this book is similar to that of the Darkness books. But the whole tone of the book is that one side is right and the other side is wrong, sinister, and conspiratorial. Occasionally, there is acknowledgment of nuance. Abby has her struggles to believe and to forgive. People wonder why God does not heal everyone if God is still doing miracles. We get a faint glimpse into what makes Jezra tick. But these things were not developed that much. This criticism is not intended to suggest that Dixie Koch should compromise her beliefs in writing her fiction. This is a book that has a particular Christian worldview, and there is nothing wrong with that. But people who believe differently have their motives for thinking as they do, right or wrong, and that should be acknowledged more.
—-At times, the characters spoke in sermons. There is nothing wrong with characters in a Christian book talking about religion. That is to be expected. But perhaps they could have done so more naturally.
—-The prose was adequate. There were no grammatical mistakes that I found. But it did not compel me. I think of the novels of Frank Peretti and Lynn Austin: with the exception of Peretti’s Darkness books, their works compel me. Their works are preachy, and, as is the case in The Miracle Worker and the Misfits, their spiritual and religious message is not earth-shakingly new. But their prose and their story are compelling. Some of this is because they know how to get inside of a character’s mind and to unveil the character’s motivations. They are also vivid. The Miracle Worker and the Misfit lacked that. At times, it seemed to be moving along just for the sake of moving along.
The premise of the book was intriguing, like I said, and I am somewhat open to reading the sequel, though I fear that it will be uninteresting: I envision it simply saying that Jezra sought an alliance with dark forces out of a desire for power. I do think that Dixie Koch tried to write a book with suspense and characters who struggle to find hope in the midst of hopelessness. But the book did not make much of a connection with me.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash. My review is honest.