Genre: Christian Apocalyptic Thriller
Date Published: August 2010
Publisher: Sheaf House
Source: Joan at Sheaf House provided me with a review copy. Thank you Joan!
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
When every Christian simultaneously receives a shattering word from God, revealing that time as we know it is over, the world is thrown into stark panic. In the midst of heartbreak and hope, two old friends, hardened combat veterans from the closing days of the Vietnam War, set out on a suspenseful quest to redeem that time.
But what they cannot know is that they—and their entire church—have been targeted for satanic annihilation.
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Heading Home is a Christian Apocalyptic thriller that imagines what would happen if Christians were given a message to prepare for Christ's coming within the week. Told in two sections, it describes the war experiences of a group of friends in the Vietnam war, and then jumps forward to "Present Day" and follows two of those Vietnam veterans as they race to help bring their old friends to Christ before His coming. In the background, a group of Satanists is plotting to attack their church and commit mass murder.
From the first part set in Vietnam to the race around the globe to help their friends, the action is non-stop. And there is a lot to be said for the way that God's redeeming power and grace are showcased in this book where miraculous healings and God's hand are seen vividly during the days leading up to the rapture. But although the book was entertaining, I think I wasn't the ideal reader for it as there were a few things that I didn't care for within the pages.
First, I didn't really connect with the characters. They could be rude at times and I was uncomfortable with their attitudes toward people they didn't like. When the man trying to take over their company and destroy it dies, one of the main characters is happy and says that since the Jews celebrated when Haman died, it was okay for them to celebrate that their "evil, twisted" enemy died too (p. 67). The character's attitude is tough and masculine, but it doesn't really mesh well with the "love your enemy" message that stands out to me in Jesus's teachings and the fact that none of us earns our way to heaven through good actions--it's all through the grace of God. I guess I just felt like they could have been a bit more compassionate and reflective on what a pity it was that this man never came to know the transforming power of God's grace.
Another thing that detracted from my enjoyment of the book was the author's political statements through his fictional world. The only churches that are doing any good in this fictional world are evangelical and charismatic churches. Another theological dig is taken at "churches prattling on about a social gospel and the joys of pop psychology and situational ethics (p. 71)." Without getting into a big theological discussion, I have a hard time accepting that those are the only movements in Christianity that God could be working through. And I think some would question whether some churches in these movements are going in the right direction either. I don't usually appreciate attempts to split Christianity in these ways in my fiction since I can't claim to know how God Himself feels about the different denominations and movements in Christianity.
Finally, there was one comment about gun control that made me roll my eyes. The bad guys actually comment on how their state "hasn't done much with concealed carry" and that it should be easy to attack the main characters' church because the "closest thing to a weapon those holy rollers'll be carryin' is a Bible (p. 256)." What? I don't really want to debate about the gun control issue because it's not that important to this review, but it annoyed me that a statement like that was even made. (Would criminals really say that while making their plans? It just seemed like it was thrown in there as an argument in favor of concealed carry.)
In the end, I had a hard time getting through some of the theological and political comments made in this book. Even though I do like to read an occasional thriller (and I really liked the Left Behind Series), the characters in this one were a bit too macho for my taste. Despite my own hang-ups, I do think there is an audience for this book (which is why it gets 3 stars from me rather than 2). I am pretty sure that my husband and father-in-law will really like it. The things that I didn't like about it will be things that they will like in the book. I don't often see books in this way, but I think that men will probably like it more than women will, partly because it is told with a focus on manly-men characters and lots of action and the women and emotional reflection are just peripheral to the story.