cover image Be Not Afraid

Be Not Afraid

Robert Wise, Author WestBow Press $21.98 (380p) ISBN 978-0-7852-6977-9

Retired pastor Wise sets his seventh novel in contemporary America with frequent flashbacks to the European front of WWII. This tale of love, fate and adversity will likely find an audience among members of the ""greatest generation,"" who have shared some of the protagonists' experiences and values. Unfortunately, its slow pace, stilted dialogue, descriptive inconsistencies and lack of narrative tension will not attract younger readers. As the novel begins, elderly Mary McCoy, still coming to terms with her husband's death, discovers old letters from her first love, Robert Walker, who had disappeared during the Battle of the Bulge. Her rekindled interest in Robert's fate leads her to locate him, and she comes to his hospital bedside, where he is recovering from heart surgery. There, Robert recounts his brutal experiences as a POW and explains the mystery of why he never returned to Mary. Wise is deeply respectful, even obsequious, toward his main characters and their generation; when Mary's daughter discovers her mother's yearbooks, she notes with envy that ""goodness and dignity oozed out of the pictures."" More vigorous editing would have improved the story. When Robert reaches a dark moment, for instance, the narrative claims that he ""buried his face in his hands and stared at the blanket."" Apart from sloppy prose, the novel might have benefited from stronger engagement with religion. Faith steps in only occasionally as a source of vague comfort for the characters. For one brief paragraph, we find Robert engaged in serious soul-searchingDbut this fleeting moment only serves to illustrate the shallow romanticism of the novel as a whole. (Jan.)