If this book is a “New York Times Bestseller and Amazing True Story,” as we are so informed on the cover, what have we come to? Have our institutions failed us this badly? Has Thomas Nelson, preeminent publisher of bibles, fired all their editors?
I hated this book. I found it to be poorly-written, the main character totally unsympathetic, the story not credible on so many levels I hardly know where to start.
Protagonist Ron Hall just “happens” to be in Dealy Plaza the day Kennedy is shot. He “happens” to be parked in front of the Texas Book Depository (he and his frat brothers sitting on the hood of their ’61 Chevy Biscayne), when the “convertible Lincoln limousine with eagle-eyed G-men riding the running boards” approaches. Shots ring out. Ron and his buddies jump in the car and zip out behind the presidential limousine. They “chase(d) the limo down the freeway… to Parkview Hospital,” where Ron “whipped the Biscayne into the parking lot right up beside the empty limousine.”
I’m not buying it. None of it rings true. The incident is never mentioned again. Nothing in the plot hinges on it. No lessons learned. The rest of America was horrified. We cried for our dead president, we wondered what would become of us, how could we go on. These guys, Ron and his friends, presumably just drive on down the road.
Deborah Hall, Ron’s wife, visits a doctor. He finds a “mass” in her stomach. The next morning she goes for a colostomy? Sorry, that’s not the way it happens.
I’m willing to admit Deborah may have seen angels flying around her room when she was dying, but a visit from a Hospice doctor? Where in the United States is there a hospice organization that has doctors on staff who do house calls?
The closer we get to the end of the book, the more ridiculous it gets. Ron and Denver visit Denver’s sister’s abandoned house. They’re chased by some nefarious monster. They run for their lives, but Ron’s brand new SUV won’t start. We never learn who or what this ghostly pursuer was/is. They manage to get away from the monster, and the SUV somehow repairs itself.
In January, 2005, Ron and Denver go to George Bush’s Inaugural Ball. Denver, a homeless black man who can’t read or write, now wearing a tuxedo and a bow tie, wants to go up to the President. The Secret Service tell him to keep his distance.
Here’s the worst one: After Deborah’s death, Ron is reminiscing about his wife and the time they spent together. He remembers “our autumn honeymoon in Vail, so poor we had to share a room with another couple…”
They shared a room with another couple on their wedding night? Both college graduates, Ron with a job in a bank? They went to Vail and couldn’t afford a hotel room? No one thought to make a reservation? How did this ever get past the first readers, let alone the editors?
Mark Twain once said “the difference between fiction and non-fiction is that fiction must be absolutely believable.” This book, fiction or non-fiction, is simply not believable. Yet it’s a New York Times bestseller. How could that be?
As host of my book club this month, it’s my job to research the author(s). So I google Ron Hall and Denver Moore. The first ten google entries are all about Ron Hall, his speaking engagements, the wonderful reviews of his book, so wonderful and so glowing you simply can’t believe they’re for real. (Go listen to Ron Hall speak at the “ministry” places where he appears, and you’ll pay anywhere from $75 to $150.)
So I go Amazon. You can trust Amazon, right? Not when these Christian fundamentalist fellows clog up the review section with the same glowing accounts of the book. Four hundred and fifty-one of them, most of them sounding remarkably alike. I found a few I thought unbiased. I liked what R. Lewis said: the book is “emotional, contrived drivel, poorly written, preachy, not believable.”
Put that handful of negative reviews up against all those 5 star reviews, and who are you going to believe?
I’m going with R. Lewis. This book is awful.
But it sure does tell you something about the power of evangelical religion in this country.