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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 
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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Centralia by Mike Dellosso


Centralia

Peter Ryan wakes up on a typical morning only to find his house empty, his wife and daughter nowhere to be found. His world is shattered after a phone call to a friend confirms the impossible: his wife and daughter died in a car accident he does not remember. Haunted by faint memories and flashes of details, Peter becomes convinced that something isn’t right and begins to question reality. When he discovers a note in his daughter’s handwriting, strange memories begin to surface that cause him to second-guess nearly everything he once believed. Suddenly armed men show up at Peter’s home, turning the mysterious puzzle of his past into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. On the run and unsure whom to trust, Peter has to discover what’s real and what isn’t . . . before he loses everything.

The Guru's Review:

When I started reading this novel, I had to convince myself that I was indeed reading a Dellosso novel. It did not feel like I was. All I can say is that if this is a Dellosso novel then he must have gone from great to excellent since his last novel, Fearless (2013). Dellosso seems to have developed his expertise further and taken this to the next level. This is one very well crafted novel. 

I know there are some very cliche terms/phrases in book reviewing. "Hitting the ground running" is one of those and I use this to not be cliche-ish at all, but to state how it is with this novel. It continues all the way throughout as well. And while the reader is panting from trying to keep up with the pace, they have to cope with the many plot twists and turns, and try to decipher and interpret many lies and deceit, half truths and distortions of the truth from everyone he comes in contact with.

Just when you think you are getting to know Peter Ryan and what makes him tick, Dellosso reveals yet another aspect of Peter's personality, training or mysterious background. Dellosso successfully muddies the waters in every chapter in this way. I spent nearly 90% of this novel wondering who this main protagonist really is, I even wondered at one stage if he was the antagonist instead! Such is the complex structure of the plot that Dellosso weaves and the reader had better be careful to not get too entangled in it!

Another aspect of this well crafted plot is the spiritual/faith elements interspersed throughout. With everything that Peter has been through, despite his past and present adding to his so called estrangement from God, there was still a part of him that was receptive and sensitive to the fact that God had not finished with him yet and had not let him go. Peter gets to a point in his quest to find out who he is, what is happening to him and who/what is manipulating him and his circumstances when he decides to let it all go and let God take control. He has literally come to the end of himself and has nothing left. Dellosso describes this moment,
He was awake...contemplating death and how easily he might accept it, when he suddenly had the compulsion to pray. He needed to pray. At first he resisted it as he had last time, fought it as if it were not just a waste of sanity. God could not reach him in the pit. Peter was too far gone, too resolved to his own hopeless death, too given to the darkness that now infused every fibre and cell of his body. 

But still the urging persisted. 

For an undetermined yet lengthy period of time, it went on and Peter resisted, used his remaining ounces of resolve to combat it. And though the pressure to pray fomented him, he was thankful for it because it gave him something to think about, something to focus on. 

But over time his willpower faded and the persistent voice inside him grew louder and louder until he could block it out no longer. He had to give in; he had to surrender. There was no fight left in him. Finally he dropped to his knees on the concrete floor, covered his face with both hands, and prayed. It was not an earth-shattering prayer of celestial proportions. It was not anything you'd hear in a church from the pulpit. It was not anything you'd read in a book, nothing that would get a host of angels excited. But it was a prayer. And this time, he knew it was sincere. It felt right, familiar, like a glove that had been stretched and molded to fit only his hand.

When he had uttered the last word, Peter lowered himself to the floor, prostrate, limbs splayed. Oddly, peace surrounded him in the darkness of the pit. The thoughts of death had not been banished, his wounds had not been instantly healed, but for the first time since lying that hospital, he felt a spark of hope. 

Eventually he fell asleep on the floor and awakened inside the house.
This resonates with me greatly. Important lesson in our relationship with Jesus that no matter what life throws at us, we are not to lose faith and to keep the communication channel open between Him and us, with God there is always hope, always an answer, always a better outcome when it comes form Him and not from us or others.

Another aspect of the spiritual was on more than one occasion when Peter picked up the bible and he feels such peace and hope, 
Peter flipped through the thin, crisp pages and landed in the book of John. He scanned the page and finally came to rest on some familiar words, comforting words. Words that he had read before. Words that at one time had meaning to him..... he lifted a hand and ran his fingers over each word. The feeling he had when reading them was incredible. Such peace. Such hope....
How I wish it could be like this for anyone who picks up the bible and reads, that for the Christian they receive new revelation and meaning, especially when life has gone pear shaped for them. I am very impressed with this message that Dellosso has embedded in this story. How many times have Christians not gone to the bible when our situation has gone pear shaped and how many times do we not go to Him in the midst of our turmoil and trying to do it all ourselves and just let go and let God? Surrender to Him?

It seems to me that on the surface while reading this novel, there was not time for Peter to pray or think of God as the next turn of events would plummet him to the next level of deceit or fighting for his life event. But this book does show that when God is not finished with us, He provides time for us stop and consider Him. It impressed me that with all that Peter was fighting and trying to decipher and see the truth amoungst all this confusion, he still had a tender heart towards God. Again, how I wish we could all have this no matter what life presents us with.

I loved the faith that Peter's daughter had, that everything that her captors did to her, she knew and experienced the peace and presence of Jesus. In her childlike faith that was ever so real, she was able to provide strength and reassurance to her mother and Peter that God was with all of them and that everything was going to be all right. Too simplistic or idealistic? On the surface maybe, but with God, nothing is complicated or convoluted. Why cannot we accept His simple ways for us to live by?

Despite this novel showcasing Dellosso's flair for mystery, suspense, and intrigue, it does show his heart towards God and that is one of the strengths of this novel. From what I know of this author, I can see that what he has been through in surviving cancer and what he allowed God to do in this situation only shows that the spiritual aspects he has depicted in this novel are ones that the has experienced himself. Sure, he did have his dark moments, like Peter did in this novel, but he surrendered  to God, like Peter did, and has come out of this valley a better person, less of himself and closer to the man that God needs him to be. 

I believe that Christian fiction should entertain, edify and encourage the reader's walk with God or encourage them to consider Him if they are an unbeliever. Dellosso has certainly laid some strong foundation for this in Centralia. 

I am looking forward to the sequel, due next year, immensely. 

Highly Recommended. 


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