Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Broken Angel

Title: Broken Angel

Author: Sigmund Brouwer

Genre: Adult near-future science-fiction/suspense

Excerpt from Broken Angel:

We had agreed—the woman I loved and I—that as soon as you were born, we would perform an act of mercy and decency and wrap you in a towel to drown you in a nearby sink of water.

But in the motel room that was our home, the woman I loved died while giving birth. You were a tiny bundle of silent and alert vulnerability and all that remained to remind me of the woman.

I was nearly blind with tears in that lonely motel room. With the selfishness typical of my entire life to that point, I delayed the mercy and decency we had promised you. I used the towel not to wrap and drown you, but to clean and dry you

As I lifted your twisted hands and gently wiped the terrible hunch in the center of your back—where your arms connected to a ridge of bone that pushed against your translucent skin—I heard God speak to me for the first time in my life.

He did not speak in the loud and terrible way as claimed by the preachers of Appalachia where I fled with you. Instead God spoke in the way I believe he most often speaks to humans—through the heart, when circumstances have stripped away our obstinate self-focus.
Holding you in your first moments outside the womb, I was overwhelmed by protective love. Even in the circumstances that you face now, believe that my love has only strengthened since then.

A young woman runs from bounty hunters and an oppressive religious society to protect a secret she doesn’t even fully know.

The Writing: Broken Angel is an interesting mix for its craft. The beginning is riveting, mysterious, and gut-wrenching. The characters connected pretty well with me, though I favored some of the secondary characters over the protagonist. The world created around the characters is complex and believable.

But despite all this, I began to lose interest in the middle of the story, and I didn’t feel the intense drive to turn the next page that I expect of suspense books. The stakes simply failed to increase sufficiently to keep up the pace, creating a sense of a let-down.

Also from the middle on, the story became increasingly bogged down in social commentary, adding to the tension problems. This, combined with character arcs that felt incomplete, made the ending unsettling at best and failed to bring the satisfaction needed (in my opinion) for a good ending.

The Story: The content of Broken Angel is very unsettling. That is probably the author’s intention, but it doesn’t make any more pleasant to read. And perhaps I’ve read more into the text than intended (and I hope that is my problem), but I fear some of Mr. Brouwer’s statements (like his comparisons of modern Christianity and its involvement in politics) may inflame tempers rather causing the hope-for change.

I understand where he comes from, and I think he has some very valid points we ought to consider, as uncomfortable as they may be—such as our tendency as Christians to major on the minor to the point we become ineffective in the major. But the solution hinted at (complete freedom to choose, which taken to the logical conclusion leads to anarchy) doesn’t seem like a good solution, if it is a solution at all. But as I said, perhaps I’ve read more into the text than intended.

However, it saddens me for I’m afraid the social commentary and more inflammatory comments overshadow the true themes of the story (which are rooted in character arcs), such as dealing with emotional betrayal of family.

Finally, under my more usual considerations, this is a suspense book. There are scenes of violence, and a few dead bodies. Most are well-handled, and more of the intense stuff is handled off-camera. The exception is Chapter Two, with a rather graphic torture scene. I understand its necessity in establishing the villain’s character and threat, but I can’t help wondering if this particular scene is a little over the top.

Summary: Unsettling and challenging—those are the best adjectives I have for Broken Angel. This is definitely not for anyone under sixteen, and I wouldn’t recommend it for younger Christians. But if you are looking for a story to challenge your thinking, this might be the book for you.

Ratings: 3.0 (writing), 2.0 (content), 3.0 (overall)


sbrouwer said...


thanks for your open and honest comments on Broken Angel. some of the tour bloggers have focused on the themes and relationships, and, as you mentioned, some have been in discussion about the politics.

It's been fun to have been part of the tour, and thanks for including Broken Angel.


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Chwana, I love your closing paragraph. Well done, as usual.