Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lost Mission

Title: Lost Mission

Series: Stand-alone novel

Author: Athol Dickson

Genre: Adult Magical Realism

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Lost Mission:

Let us begin the story of La MisiĆ³n de Santa Dolores on the holy day of the three kings, in Italy, in Assisi. To commemorate his twentieth year among the Franciscan brothers, Fray Alejandro Tapia Valdez made a pilgrimage to his beloved San Francisco’s humble chapel, the Porziuncola. For more than a week the friar prayed before the chapel’s frescoes, rarely ceasing for food or sleep. But despite his lengthy praises and petitions, despite his passionate devotion to Almighty God, Fray Alejandro was a pragmatic man. He did not believe the rumor, common in his day, that the frescoes’ perfection was beyond the ability of human hands. As we shall see, in time the friar would reconsider.

A lost Spanish mission from the 1700’s threatens to be the undoing of many people in the present.

The Craft: The omniscient narrator is one of the hardest points-of-view to do well, if only because it loses some of the intimacy between characters and reader. Mr. Dickson, however, has mastered the technique well in Lost Mission.

For not only has he avoided the numerous dangers of this point-of-view (e.g. loss of intimacy; confusion of place, time and characters; too many authorial intrusions; et cetera), but he has also employs it so clearly from line one that you cannot imagine the story written any other way. Indeed, much of the power and potency of this story would have been lost in any other perspective.

Nonetheless, since we don’t read this voice very often, the style, as well as the transitions from the past to present, can feel a bit awkward at first to the modern reader. But if the reader will stick with it for two or three chapters, a rhythm is quickly established, making it easily followed from then on.

And such persistence will pay off. While Lost Mission is not a fast read or highly “entertaining” as some think of story, it is a worthwhile read with vivid imagery and complex characters, who twist the story in some unexpected ways.

The Content: In most of my reviews, I sum up the content of the book in a few paragraphs. Lost Mission defies such summary. Its pages contain so many intertwining themes, snippets of observations, and other such material, it would be impossible to catalogue them all in such a short space. It would be foolhardy to try.

Yet there does seem to be an underlying, unifying thought, captured by the title—lost missions. At its core, the novel seems to focus on people who feel called or driven to a specific purpose and somewhere along that way loses sight of that purpose. The reasons are as diverse as the characters themselves, as are the results and their responses to such lost mission, but this only gives more for the reader to ponder.

But as I said, the content goes far beyond this: the impact of small decisions, the intersection of past and present, hypocrisy, questions of what truly constitutes failure…the list could go on and on, providing much food for thought.

Summary: Lost Mission is not the easiest story to ingest, either in craft or content. But it is one of those stories that amply reward those readers who take the time to read it. Highly recommended for teens and adults, especially those who like stories that make them think.

Rating: Craft—5, Content—5, Overall --4.7 out of 5 stars

Disclaimer: In conjunction with the CSFF tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.


Jason said...

Hey, you summed it up well, I thought. It was a hard book to neatly wrap up and present.

This has been such an interesting tour, I'm getting new things from each post.

Krysti said...

Yes, I thought "Lost Mission" was aptly named too. :D

Chawna Schroeder said...

Thank you, Jason, for the compliment. The book is quite complex, but then that's why it makes such a great tour book--something for everyone to talk about!

And Krysti, isn't it amazing how that simple two word phrase summed up so much?

Keanan Brand said...

Y'know, I never even thought of the title in light of the storyline set in the present day. Great catch, Chawna!

Chawna Schroeder said...

I didn't catch the correlation either, Keanan, when I was reading the book. But when I was forced to summarize the content for the review--well, sometimes the best connections come to light when I write.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Love the connection between the Mission and the missions. Great insight, Chawna. (And I know what you mean about seeing the connections come to light when you write).

So my only question is, if you gave the book a 5 for craft and a 5 for content, how do you arrive at 4.7 overall? ;-) You must be a tough grader.

BTW, if you haven't already, I'd love to have you participate in the poll about which character, if any, you think ... well, easier if you stop by and read the question yourself. It's at the bottom of my Day 2 post.


Chawna Schroeder said...

The rating is really easy to explain, Becky. I don't do partials for the first two ratings. So while the book's craft is excellent and the content is edifying, neither is it perfect. Hence, 4.7 overall--which by the way still falls into my "must read" category.

Clear as mud? :o)