(Tentatively planning on making Thursdays "Older Reviews Day". Here's one for you from April, 2012.)
There's just something divine about reading another novel by a favorite author. Recently here I reviewed The Thirteenth Tribe by Robert Liparulo and what a pleasure it was to once again partake of his imagination, voice, story, and words. And so it was with great anticipation - okay, and just a touch of fear - that I opened the cover and began the first page of Illusion by Frank Peretti. The fear nagged in the background of my expectancy only because Frank's last effort Monster was the least favored in my collective reading of Peretti novels. No need. I loved this novel.
Possibly if anyone else had written the story I might not have liked the book. It's an odd thing to say and, as it stands, a moot point. The reason I say this is because Illusion tells a complex tale of magic and illusion and quantum physics/interdimensional displacement/secondary timelines using Stanford brainiacs and a weird machine planted in the bowels of a Nevada hospital where only certain personnel are allowed to go. Guess what? These factors put the story right smack dab in the genre of speculative fiction, a place I rarely visit. But at its core, Illusion is a love story (and I don't need to tell you how much I favor a good love story). This very important layer transforms all other elements of the story, taking the reader on an impossible journey with a scant thread of hope dashing between illusions.
When the famous illusionist couple, Dane and Mandy Collins, decide to leave their act behind after 40 years of performing together, they set their sights on retirement in Mandy's hometown in the Idaho panhandle. Beginning their exodus from Las Vegas, a fiery car crash claims the life of Dane's beloved wife and partner, Mandy Eloise Collins.
However, we're soon transported to a place where a young Mandy in 1970 at the local fair with her friends waits under a tree while her friends choose where to eat. Her dad will show his llamas, and Mandy anticipates watching Marvellini the Magician. Something suddenly changes everything familiar into something strange and scary. Instead of enjoying the fair at 19 years of age, she's now in a hospital nightgown and it's 2010. This begins a disconcerting series of events which cause Mandy to adjust her name, accept a form of being "crazy", become a target for unknown assailants, and meet the great Dane Collins who is as achingly familiar to her as she seems to be to him.
To reveal more of this story would only confuse you, spoil the unique perspectives of both protagonists, ruin the imaginative twists underlying each new adventure, and expose the aims of the diabolical peripheral antagonists. Suffice it to say Illusion is not a simple story in any sense of the word. The faith thread is woven through the story like a discreet ribbon, necessary to hold it together but as illusory as the "magic" that Mandy performs.
Here's the foremost takeaway value for me, the one that surpasses the incredible spectacle of Frank Peretti's imagination and gift for storytelling. Within only a few pages I realized once again how captivating Frank's writing is, how much I love to read his words. I say that with complete surrender and abandon and with few tangibles to explain it other than his use of vivid imagery, the incorporation of all the senses, clever and real dialogue, both internal and external, and his powerful ability to "write a movie". I've always "watched" and pictured Frank's prose on the screen of my mind.
Illusion by Frank Peretti, published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., is an experience you won't soon forget. Unique. Emotional. Inventive. Consuming. Lingering. Frank is back with a flourish. And it's no illusion.
Father, you've guided and directed Frank's life from the moment you created him. He's honored you in many ways with all of the gifts you've given him. I pray your continued blessing and anointing on Frank's and Barb's lives together. May they experience your joy in all they do as well as your divine protection. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.