What would you do if your son had the ability to heal, to bring back life from the dead? Robert Ovies explores this question with gripping clarity and envelops you in his thought-provoking drama, The Rising.
Ironically, I very recently read Mitch Albom’s novel The First Phone Call From Heaven which explores a similar “miracle” question in the same regional location of Detroit. However, Robert Ovies’ writing style and tone are not similar enough to conjure comparisons, and where Mr. Albom draws the validity of the miracle into question, Mr. Ovies does not. C. J. Walker, nine years old, can clearly and without question, raise the dead.
The Rising captures you in the first chapter, following the perspective of the local parish priest who returns to the rectory after the wake of his parish secretary, only to receive a frantic phone call from the funeral home owner that the deceased is now alive.
Eventually the “Lazarus” boy is discovered and revealed in an act of betrayal, and his family faces the ultimate in terrifying choices and attention. The author skillfully engrosses you in the moralistic questions facing the Walker family.
What would you do if you were his mother? His father?
Who would want him? The church, the government, the public?
For what motives?
How do you protect your child? As the noose tightens, CJ and his mother, Lynn, become increasingly trapped at every turn. When all appears impossible, the author releases his end game. It did not disappoint. In hindsight perhaps I should have seen it coming or guessed at the proper ending, but truth be told I was so caught up in the action that I didn’t see it coming. The author brought the story to a dramatic conclusion with a beautiful message rooted in a truth that cannot be denied. Occasionally the characters draw dangerously close to the line of stereotyping, but blessedly never actually cross that line. In another moment of personal pause, I realized I’d never given much thought to an embalming procedure and the author includes a certain level of necessary detail that was unpleasant to consider. (But don’t let that stop you.) Don’t read any spoilers! Allow yourself to immerse in the drama, the panic, the confusion, the despair, the hope, and the pain. Then allow the ending and all its meaning to settle on your heart.
The Ignatius Press author bio tells me that Robert Ovies is a former advertising director, an ordained Deacon, an MSW Counselor, a mission worker, who spent ten years as a live-in director of a communal Halfway House offering support to broken families, the homeless, runaways, and abused women. His varied experiences helped to form the basis for his novel. I am pleasantly surprised to learn that this is his first novel. I look forward to his next.