Due to a brush with mortality and a seeming miracle at his birth, Joshua Campbell’s father Charles became convinced that his son was none other than the Messiah, the Second Coming of Christ. Regular near-misses with death throughout Joshua’s childhood only drove that conviction more deeply into his father’s mind. Unfortunately, his father’s version of Christianity was cruel and violent, and Joshua’s childhood is no better – paraded before the community to build his father’s church in public, and in private blamed for the wrongs of the world that he, the Messiah, had failed to correct. As a young man, Joshua can take no more and runs away – but can he ever be truly free of his father’s manipulative strings?
AIN’T NO MESSIAH is a dark and painful book to read, with its protagonist desperately trying to flee a past and a fate that nevertheless keeps pulling him back. This is not a book for the squeamish – violence, grotesque accidents, and bloodshed are never far away. The first chapter of the book makes it clear that no matter how far he gets, Joshua will find himself enmeshed in his father’s abusive web again, his struggle to escape ultimately futile – or is it? And yet, Joshua’s strength of will, strong heart, and courage make the reader root for him despite the glimpse we get of his future. The first-person perspective encourages this identification, leading us to connect emotionally with Joshua and share in his struggle.
The sheer horror of Charles’s religious convictions and what he is willing to do to further them is revealed dramatically, bit by bit, as the book goes on, leading towards the chilling revelations that trigger the book’s conclusion. The writing is vibrant and compelling, drawing the reader deeper into the story and enhancing its emotional power. Major and minor characters are drawn with heart, three-dimensional and fully human, with flaws and virtues that are rooted in and grow naturally from their particular histories and personalities. The plot meanders a bit, especially in the middle sections, but the pace picks up markedly as the ending nears, and the finale is appropriately dramatic.
AIN’T NO MESSIAH is a beautifully-written book about one man’s effort to find himself – and maybe even a bit of happiness – in a world bitter enough to greet even a supposed Messiah with abuse and scapegoating.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader