I just completed a phenomenal book by Jerry B. Jenkins called Riven. It was a life-changing story that brought me to tears at the overwhelming, yet breakthrough ending. I can’t recommend this book enough. It has such brilliancy to it, as it makes the message of God come alive in a way you won’t be able to forget.
The story follows two men, Thomas Carey and Brady Wayne Darby, throughout several years of their lives. They couldn’t be more opposite. Thomas is a down-and-out preacher, constantly being moved from church to church due to unsatisfied, hypocritical congregations. Brady is a young teen, plagued by a lying spirit and a rebellious heart.
As their lives take diverse roads, one would think they’d never cross, but it’s precisely the diverseness of their lives that leads them on the same path. It’s what I’d like to call a little divine intervention.
Disillusioned and unsure of his future as a pastor, Thomas gets offered a chaplaincy at a prison for those on death row. At first, he’s extremely wary about the job; but as years roll by, he grows used to the horror and sadness of being in a prison day-by-day.
The only problem is that Thomas can’t seem to get through to any of the men. They don’t really want to have anything to do with God or salvation. As they near their death sentence, Thomas pleads with them to come to know Christ, and each time he receives the same response- they want nothing to do with God. The more men that reject Thomas’ message, the more he feels inadequate and unused by God to fulfill a great purpose; but as God would have it, his growing frustration ends when Thomas meets Brady.
Brady is sentenced to death row after his life choices lead him to commit a terrible act of crime. He comes to the prison defeated. It’s precisely this spirit of defeat that leads him to a yearning desire for something more. That something more is exactly what Thomas has to offer.
Thomas senses something special about Brady and is immediately drawn to him. He feels that this man might be the one man to actually listen to the message of the cross and be changed. And boy is he right.
Brady begins to question everything as he seeks for redemption from his past life. He begins to read the Bible and finds out the pure message of Jesus Christ. His heart begins to change, and in turn, the hearts of the other inmates around him begin to see this change and want it too.
A revival spreads throughout the prison, astonishing the once doubtful Thomas, who has almost given up on ever being able to influence any of the men for Christ. But this is more than he ever imagined happening. Because of one man who chose to seek God, all the other inmates on death row are being influenced. It is like a domino effect passing right in front of Thomas’ eyes, and he feels the presence of God taking over the prison.
But…the inevitable has to happen. Brady has to die.
He could fight the death penalty sentence, but he chooses not to. He feels prepared to face what he deserves for his cruel crime. Fear does not strike him now that he has found God.
As Brady’s death sentence nears, he is given different options of death to choose from- death by lethal poisoning, death by electric chair or death by a firing squad.
This is where the book hits its most critical point, and where I became the most enraptured. All the slowness of the book’s beginning is well worth it when the ending makes its appearance.
Brady’s choice of death is shocking, terrifying, a bit controversial, and horrific. I wept profusely when I realized what was about to happen. The ending will leave you appalled; and yet, you won’t walk away angry. It will linger with you for days after, and you’ll think and think and think some more on the brilliance of what occurs.
Stay with this book. It can be slow in a lot of areas, but it’s necessary to establish the character’s lives and what leads Thomas and Brady to each other in the most pivotal moment of their existence.
Read this book! It will impact your life and leave your skin crawling with goosebumps from the inspiring and overwhelming message it has to present. I cried and smiled all in turn. It was truly an emotional experience and one ride I’m glad I took.