Thursday, July 13, 2006

Impressions: Waking Lazarus

One of the things I did while on vacation was finish Waking Lazarus, by T.L. Hines (Tony from here on out). In a word -- very good. (OK, that's two words.) I enjoyed the book very much. I had expected it to be creepier, but it's really more psychological suspense than horror. (Good for my low heebie-jeebie threshold.)

But what's it about? Here's what the press release says about the book:
Waking Lazarus revolves around Jude Allman—a man
who has died (and come back to life) three times.
Frustrated and frightened by a life in the public eye and
a past he doesn’t understand, he retreats into hiding,
escaping into the vastness of Montana. But like Jude, the
past won’t stay buried.

At the same time, prowling evil circles his adopted
hometown of Red Lodge, Montana, as children are
mysteriously disappearing. And the key to solving these
missing-children crimes may lie within the mysteries of
Jude’s deaths. Now he has to face his past to save his own
life—and the lives of those he loves.

Tony describes his work as 'slipstream' fiction, a phrase I like very much. It seems apt to describe Waking Lazarus. Because there are a lot of things about Jude Allman's life that set him apart, things that may not be what they seem, not to mention the whole died-three-times issue. Tony does a good job of raising questions, but not answering them too soon.

One of the aspects of the story I found intriguing was Jude's struggle with paranoia and his desire to connect with his young son. It would have been so easy for Jude to become a stereotype, but he's not. He's unique and surprisingly likeable.

The suspenseful elements of the story work well. I think the story lost a little momentum for me in the middle because I read it spread out over a week or so. If I'd been able to read it in a shorter time span, that probably wouldn't have happened. And the last few chapters pulled it all together, and built momentum. When I got to the end, I said to myself, "I liked this story."

It has a satisfying ending. A lot of questions are answered at the end, but it's not tied up too neatly. There's room for more than one possible future for Jude and the other characters.

While most of us haven't had near-death experiences, there's a lot about Jude that the average person can relate to. We've all wondered why we're here, what's our purpose in life, where's God when bad things happen. Waking Lazarus talks to all of these -- not in a preachy, hit-you-over-the-head-with-the-brick-of-truth way, but through Jude's questions and struggles and unexpected glimpses of grace. I highly recommend it.

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