PUBLICATION DATE: AUGUST 7, 2012
ver twenty years ago, Adam Austin made the decision to spend the evening with his girlfriend rather than driving his sister home from school. During the ten minutes it took Marie to walk home, she was abducted, raped, and murdered. Though her killer was eventually caught, the family bonds were severed and the once close brothers, Adam and Kent, gradually grew further apart—Adam taking a declining road toward unhealthy obsession with his grief and Kent turning to God in an effort to find peace.
When another brutal murder strikes their home town of Chambers, Ohio, the memory of Marie’s murder resurfaces, not only for Adam and Kent but for the town as well. For once again the high school football team is in the midst of a state championship run and the team is again deeply affected. Twenty years ago, as a senior, Adam used his grief to win the championship. Now as coach, can Kent overcome the suffocating similarities between the past and the present to accomplish the same feat? But more importantly, can the two brothers work together to catch a killer whose goal is a self-satisfying experiment to determine which will win—Kent’s faith or his fear? With an extremely easy reading style, tight suspense, and excellent plot twists, The Prophet is another suspense-filled novel by Michael Koryta.
If this book was marketed as Christian fiction, the question of whether Kent’s faith or fear will win would be a forgone conclusion. After all, in the Christian market, good always conquers evil and a person’s faith will ultimately take them to a closer relationship with God. In Christian fiction, the hero never succumbs to fear (at least I can’t recall a book where that’s happened). The Prophet is not marketed as a Christian fiction novel though, so the answer is not a given and as a result, it makes this part of the book much less predictable and more open for the reader to interpret the character’s actions.
I have no knowledge of Koryta’s spiritual beliefs, but from reading his books, there seems to be some subtle (or not) Christian elements. For example, I thought The Ridge could be viewed as an allegory of light conquering the darkness. However, my beliefs could simply be affecting my interpretation and Koryta might not be including any spiritual elements at all. So my opinion of The Prophet will reflect those same beliefs and as a result, I might imply my own ideas and not necessarily what the author intended. But I think this is a mark of great writing. Not everything has to be explicitly explained.
One of the first parts of this novel that caught my attention is the contrast between Adam and Kent and how their paths went such drastically different directions. Given the role each played in Marie’s death, it’s understandable that Adam would have the most difficult time dealing with her death. However, there’s little doubt that his approach is incredibly unhealthy. On the other hand, Kent turned to faith, which sustained him and moved his life in a positive direction. But there’s an oddness to how these two characters develop as the book progresses. While Adam should generate a lot of sympathy, he starts out as an incredibly irritating character. It took ¾ of the book for me to warm up to him. Kent starts out very likeable, but I became frustrated with his tendency to roll over like a scolded puppy. The evolution of these characters is really fascinating to follow and by the end of the book, I felt like I understood both of them. I could root for them equally, which is quite amazing, considering I was ready to commit Adam to an asylum early on.
Koryta can certainly write a realistic Christian character. I love how Kent was portrayed. I’m a fan of flawed characters—I always have been. It’s rare to find a Christian character as well-balanced as Kent. He showed his faith and at times was guilty of pushing his faith. However, he also struggled to live his faith and he melted down just like Christians do every day. I like that Kent was not perfect, but I particularly liked that his struggles were not highlighted or smudged away by passages of scripture. He tried to live his faith, but at times failed; that’s a pretty realistic portrayal of the Christian life.
I’m a football fan and thoroughly enjoyed the high school football backdrop. While there is a decent amount of technical information about the game, the casual fan should be able to follow this part easily enough. However, for those that love the game, I think they’ll enjoy the different strategies and football talk that’s scattered throughout the story.
While it didn’t hurt my overall enjoyment of the book, I do wish more time would have been spent with the killer and his internal thoughts. I never felt like I knew him as much as I wanted to. I know, who really wants to know the killer? But I loved the idea that the killer was testing Kent’s faith and I wanted to delve a little deeper into this aspect of the book. I still completely enjoyed the story that is told, I just wanted a bit more from the killer’s perspective.
This is a general market book and it does contain some strong language and minor sexual content. Both of which are appropriate for the story being told. For readers who are okay with this type of content, I highly recommend The Prophet. It has a great storyline and the characters are fantastic. The ending though is the best part; it’s surprising, realistic, appropriate, and left me with something to think about. Michael Koryta has become one of my favorite authors and I can’t wait to read his next one.