The Jerry B. Jenkins File:
Reviewed by C.J. Darlington
Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins
"Reading Riven is like watching a tight, well-scripted movie."
When an author calls a book “the novel I have always wanted to write” I sit up and take notice. And when the author is Jerry B. Jenkins, and the novel is his 175th book, I know I’m going to read something special. Such is the case with Riven. Its premise is simple and dynamic: a condemned inmate requests his execution be in the form of crucifixion. At first we don’t know why or the circumstances leading up to his death-row status, but we certainly want to. Most of the book covers the 17 years of the inmate’s life up to this point.
Jerry B. Jenkins has a way of immediately drawing you into a story. From our first introduction to Brady Wayne Darby, a rebellious teen who hates his trailer-park life, we care about him. How will he play the cards he’s been dealt? Will he throw a chance at a better life away or take it before it’s too late? By the hints we’re given, we can imagine his fate, but it doesn’t lessen the impact of his story. We’re compelled to travel the journey with him as he grows from a troubled boy to a troubled man.
Trading scenes with Brady is Thomas Carey, a pastor who’s been unjustly fired from his church and is trying to decide his calling. This isn’t the first time he’s been mistreated, but through it all he’s maintained his trust in the Lord and His plan. Until now. Why does it seem everything goes wrong when all He’s trying to do is please God? And why has his only daughter strayed so far from her faith?
From Riven’s first chapter we guess Brady will be the one who commits the crime, but we don’t know the victim or the hows and whys. It’s this unknown that kept me turning pages. When would Brady fall? Was there any chance it wasn’t him and someone else was the death row inmate described in the opening?
Reading Riven is like watching a tight, well-scripted movie. The short, dialogue heavy scenes keep up the suspense and reader interest. You might need to muster up a little discipline to read the complete texts of numerous classic hymns found in Riven’s pages, but they’re in there for a reason so even if you’re tempted like I was, try not to skip over them. Ultimately, Riven is a novel that’ll keep you awake ‘til two promising yourself over and over that you’ll just read “one more chapter”. Even though the intensity ebs and flows throughout the story, it never really lets up.
Like his novel Though None Go With Me, Jenkins shows us years in a character’s life rather than days or weeks, but the story never suffers for this. Following Brady through most of his life and seeing how many of his bad choices were simply a result of his horrible upbringing gives us compassion for others like him.
The characters of Riven are real, the concept unique, but I daresay it’s the message that will stay with readers long after they close the covers. Jenkins was inspired to write the story over twenty years ago when he studied a crucifix at a Catholic retreat center, and it’s clear the Cross is the crux, so to speak, of this inspiring novel. How often have we stuffed our Christianity into a convenient little box and forgotten how much Jesus bore to redeem us? Riven shines light on the reason for our faith---the sacrifice at calvary. And we see the power that message has to change lives . . . even lives some would say are unredeemable.
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Mel Gibson’s The Passion showed us the reality of the cross; Riven shows us the humanity.
Watch Jerry talk about Riven:
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.