Ros Barber. Oneworld, $15.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-78074-921-1
Barber (The Marlowe Papers) thrusts readers into a near future where religious fundamentalism is on the verge of being labeled a mental illness, due to the prevalence of Richard Dawkins's brand of atheism. After Christian terrorist April Smith targets atheists in a bus bombing, Dr. Finlay Logan is assigned to assess her mental stability. Logan himself is an unstable character: after the loss of his beloved daughter in an accident, he loses all semblance of faith and is crippled by depression. When April undergoes a scientific procedure that creates a direct experience with God, Logan begins to make progress with his assessment but struggles with the question of his personal salvation. After undergoing a crisis of faith, Logan can either choose to medicate himself back into atheism—a secular, accepted option—or opt for the same procedure April undergoes and have the God experience. Barber explores both paths as alternative endings, unearthing deeper questions over free will, human relationships, and the presence or absence of God in one's daily life. Barber handles these concerns with finesse and grace, but the book's great weakness is that Logan, as a womanizer and absent father, is unlikable and difficult to sympathize with beyond his traumatic loss. Despite this, Barber's poetic prose is a sheer pleasure to read, and because of her skill, the book is a rewarding meditation on the tragedies that motivate or destroy a person's reasons for living. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-1-78074-728-6
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