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I'm quite happy to say I've only seen a few people and a few reviews of this book referring to it as a romance—because it's not. That's a constant uphill battle for writers of queer fictions, and while there is definitely a love story throughout When Heaven Strikes, it bears repeating: check the category before you read, and you'll see it immediately. Fiction, not romance.
I have to admit, too, there was a moment of dialog in the book that made me laugh out loud: “No. This isn’t some romance novel where there has to be an attraction, the hookup, an antagonistic split, followed by the inevitable swelling of a symphony as the two characters get back together.”
That said, let's talk faith wielded as a weapon of assault, surviving the damage, and potential forgiveness.
I have—at best—a guardedly neutral relationship with faith. The vast majority of my experiences with faith have led me to avoid it completely, and to keep a self-protective distance with those who carry it as a torch or a centrepoint of their lives. If there was a character I related to in this book, it was Ted, who survived an abusive, violent past at the hands of a faith-obsessed father. Now, that's not my past, but I am a survivor of violence, and that played into my reading quite a bit.
The first half of this story involves Ted and Anderson, a chance connection that shows promise and depth, and their decision to give it a shot. The intersection with the second half of the novel—which springboards off Ted's interaction with another door-to-door peddler of hateful faith—involves the priest, his sons and wife, and the dark snarl of self-loathing and misguided use of their faith. The two halves form a very light-and-dark tipping point in the story, and the shift in tone is all the more sudden for the difference.
I enjoyed When Heaven Strikes. The narrative also kept me at a distance. That was my own history, emotionality, and life at play, though, not a fault of the story. I don't generally do well with redemption arcs that feature former abusers, for one, and for another, I have to work very, very hard to see the frameworks of faith as it was presented here as anything other than something to be wary of. That's my history. Survivors survive (and thrive) in different ways; some forgive, some move on without forgiveness, both are valid. At no point did I feel the characters involved were making choices that weren't internally consistent by the epilogue. But the choices they made had me stepping back.
When faith plays a central role in fiction, though, I know that's what I'm likely to see. I wasn't unprepared, and like I said, it never felt unreal. If you're someone who similarly struggles with the topics of faith, how faith is so often wielded as an excuse to violently assault others, and forgiveness of those who have wielded it thus, it would do you well to go into When Heaven Strikes forewarned.
I should also note I listened to this book on audio, and it was splendidly performed by Vance Bastian, who crafted voice enough for each character that when there were a few "he/him" moments of confusion, the voice made it clearer than it would have been in print. More, Vance just has a velvety "smoothness" to him I really enjoyed and played well into the gentle counterpoints of the book, and his projection of emotionality in the characters never felt forced or over-the-top. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for more of his performances.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This book was a bit of a mystery at first, and i feel like it took me some time to get into the story and i actually liked the second half better than the first. It was a bit hard for me, at times to figure out what each character is doing, what is it’s part in the book, and so on. I do not mind mystery and plot lines that keep many details only to reveal them at the appropriate time, but i felt like in this book it did not work so well and i was at times confused.
That being said I like the collimation of the different plot lines toward the ending and the element of the storm in the book. The ending really brought all those characters together and i like the twist about one of them, felt real even if he was a douchebag. Both main characters are interesting and the parts with the cat were funny and endearing. I would say i wish the book was more like it’s ending, the action and drama really worked for me then, and then rest of the time the plot was a bit flat or unbelievable.
The narration was also a bit uneven, at times i was expecting more emotion and was disappointed, at other times there was a surprising amount of emotions in the narration that was very satisfying. Almost as if the narrator needed time to really delve into the characters. He does have a pleasant voice so it was not so much of an issue. I am used to narrators like Joel Leslie that are more voice actors and bring each character to life, so maybe it was just the difference between good narration and superb that stood out to me. I did like the narration but like the book i needed time to get into it.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
I Loved this audible very much. IThe author is new to me, but I will be reading more. It is a draw you into story kind of book,
We meet Ted an artist who has cut himself away from people, due to his childhood. Anderson is a Surgeon he loves his job, but it's taken over his life. These two you would never put together but boy does it work for them. You meet other fantastic characters so wonderfully written, each character has their own concerns, but they seem to work in this book, Narrared by Vance Bastian whom I have never hear before, boy did he bring the book alive, lovely voice, to me it's one of those books you read the blah and think ok. Listening to it brings it alive. Beautifully very trough out, highly entertaining. So glad I listen to it, and I will certainly listen again.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Such a beautiful story of love, hope, family and turmoil. With excellent narration by Vance Bastion. I should not have left it so long to listen to it. This story will definitely be on my listen again and again list.
I will look out for more work by this Author and Narrator.