Publisher: Satya House Publishing
Publish Date: Out Now
How I got this book: eBook from TLC Book Tours
A gripping tale of a young woman, Andie Oliver, trying to keep faith in her handsome husband, Joe, and their marriage. As Joe spends more time with a local Televangelist, the Godfather in a Mafia of holy men, her faith is shaken and her suspicion of the Reverend Calvin Artury deepens. As this brilliantly paced novel unfolds, Andie is tested in every way a woman can be, until she decides to fight back! Evading ruthless adversaries who will go to any lengths to protect Reverend Artury, Andie confronts the very definition of sin, shaking the Christian evangelical world to its core.
*blurb from Goodreads
Televenge is a bit of a departure for me here at The Book Pushers. Although it contains elements of mystery and suspense and even a smidge of romance toward the end, it really is straight-up Fiction and clocks in at 568 pages. In this story, we followed Andie’s life and struggles beginning in 1972 through 2003 set against the backdrop of a megachurch and the power its reverend wielded over its members.
At seventeen, Andie had a naive view of the world. She wasn’t expected to go to college or pursue a career after high school. Instead, she had set her sights on marriage, children, a nice home, and a picket fence. She married Joe shortly before her eighteenth birthday with these pie-in-the-sky expectations only to be met with the cold reality of poverty. Neither she nor Joe earned enough money to support those dreams. Joe became increasingly distant from the marriage as he was drawn further into the inner circle at House of Praise, a megachurch lead by Reverend Artury. Meanwhile, Andie herself struggles with the oppressiveness and manipulation of Reverend Artury and the House of Praise ministry while trying to create a life for herself and birth her own ideas of God and belief. What follows is a story of sorrow, loss, heartache, suspense, murder and corruption. Running through all that mire is Andie’s unfailing ability to hope and love.
In general, I think Cable has a great voice and I appreciated the writing style although at times the prose felt a bit heavy-handed and self-indulgent. The story is told in first person, mostly from Andie’s POV however we do get to experience the story from a few other POVs as well. Reverend Artury’s POVs are chilling. The first half of the book moved at a good pace, but the second half of the book, at times, felt a bit bloated and the pace bogged down with the tedium of Andie’s daily life and her seemingly never-ending struggle to survive. As a result, I lost the connection to the tension and suspense elements because they seemed to disappear from the narrative for chapters at a time. We really don’t get a reprieve from the starkness of the story until the last one-hundred pages. Despite that, this is a well-written dark and gripping tale that pulls you along every painful moment of Andie’s life as she struggles for freedom from a loveless marriage and an oppressive and dangerous church.
As is common in Fiction, the characters in Televenge are presented in their raw state, with all their flaws and imperfect choices. As this is meant to be a true-to-life story, these characters, just like people, don’t always do the “right” thing, take the logical path or make the heroic choice.
I think that Andie was supposed to be seen as the heroine in this story, but I didn’t find her particularly heroic. I don’t think she ever really transcended her victim mentality and the narrative set her firmly in the role of victim and of being continually and repeatedly victimized. And yet, Andie didn’t really do anything to change that. Sure, she kept putting one foot in front of the other and heck, yes, she was a survivor. But she repeatedly withdrew into self-pity and depression, self-medicating with food and cigarettes. She continuously relied upon other people to help her – emotionally and financially. Someone was always swooping into her life, scooping her up off the floor and taking her away somewhere so she could get her feet back under her. But when she had the opportunity to take actions that could change her life in dramatic ways, she continued to choose the familiar path of pain and loneliness all in the name of hope and unconditional love despite all evidence to the contrary. I think the conditioning she was exposed to through the House of Praise played a role in that. There were some critical moments when she could have broken away, but the church would pull her back in by twisting the scripture. For example, using the idea that one is expected to forgive which the church, in this case, used as a way to guilt her into repeatedly going back to her cruel and unfaithful husband, Joe Oliver, simply because he had repented his sin despite showing no remorse. But there were other moments when she chose on her own not to take any action and then was surprised when the situation turned upside down on her. I vacillated between admiring her ability to keep pressing on and supreme frustration at her inability to see how she actually victimized herself through her own choices. I lost all patience with her during the incident involving a child custody case in which she chose not to engage legal representation and then was stunned when the trial didn’t go the way she expected. How naive could she be after all she’d been through at this point? But this scenario just played into one more example of how she was the victim of the court, of the church, of Joe, of life. After this event happened, I expected her to fight back but no, true to pattern, she retreated to her bedroom with a bottle of jack and a pack of cigarettes and bemoaned her empty life. I do think she found a way to triumph in the end, but I’m not sure if she completely left her victim mentality behind.
There was no lack of villains in this story. Reverend Artury certainly took the top spot. He used scripture and theatrics to manipulate his flock and they followed him without question, often to their detriment. No member of the House of Praise was permitted to speak out against the Reverend and he used fire and brimstone sermons to warp God into something to be feared. Reverend Artury recruited a group of likeminded and malleable men for his inner circle to help him use that fear to keep tight control on the members of the church and keep the tithes rolling in. He wasn’t just content with his local megachurch, longing for global recognition, power and money. So he took his show on the road broadcasting his particular brand of evangelical dogma as he extended his reach around the world. But ambition wasn’t even close to the worst of Reverend Artury’s “sins.” Joe Oliver wasn’t much better. He had a devotion and commitment to Reverend Artury that caused a severe rift in his marriage to Andie. He was a narcissistic sycophant, always blaming Andie for essentially ruining his life and incapable of showing empathy or remorse. As he became more integral to the inner circle of the House of Praise, the depth of his depravity was exposed. It was truly horrifying how easy it was for the Reverend, Joe and the rest of the inner circle to put on their “Sunday” personas for the congregation and yet be so evil in their private lives. The idea of nature/nurture is raised in this story and the narrative seems to suggest that psychopaths are made not born. I suspect its a bit of both. There is a common saying that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” but I wonder if power is truly the corrupting force or is it just that corruptible people tend to seek it out? Perhaps power just magnifies the essential nature of the person.
In the end, Andie finds a Knight in Shining Armor and the story moves from its nightmarish tone into the land of fairy tale – complete with a castle, a fairy godmother, deja vu experiences and seemingly magical/destined coincidences. Matthew, said KiSA, was presented in the narrative as if being seen through rose-tinted glasses. He was perfect in every way. The transition was a bit jarring. I didn’t like how Andie played a passive role in the conclusion of the story as it pertained to Reverend Artury. This was an opportunity for her to transcend her victim story and take down Reverend Artury. But instead, her KiSA stepped in and took over. Matthew even told her at one point to just let him handle it since he had connections and resources. She didn’t save herself in the end, she let other people do it for her (again). This just seemed like a missed opportunity to me. Although, I guess it also speaks to the healing potential of unconditional love.
There were many layers and threads to this story that at first glance seemed like random events in Andie’s life. However, as the story came to its conclusion, all these pieces were tucked into a single tapestry of interwoven and connected pieces that, truly, I didn’t see coming. Despite being so well-written, I can’t overlook the fact that I sped-read and skimmed over many sections of the story, mostly in the second half, because I found myself overwhelmed (and sometimes bored) by the daily tedium and constant struggle with no real reprieve. It felt oppressive, as I’m sure Andie herself felt oppressed. While I can certainly appreciate that as a literary device, it didn’t make it easier to take in as a reader. By the last 30 or so pages I just couldn’t believe how many story elements were being dragged out as I was so ready for the story to end. I had hit my saturation point. If it weren’t for this pacing issue, I would have rated this book higher.
While the author notes that to her, this story is about unconditional love, what stood out to me was how easy it is to confuse choosing the path of victimhood with thinking that it’s possible to love someone enough that they will change their essential nature simply because you loved them. Evil is as evil does, as the saying goes. Unconditional love offered to someone incapable of receiving it is wasted and only serves to keep one imprisoned in a hell of one’s own making. Also, I felt this story showed how hope can both empower or imprison which is not something I’d really contemplated before. I’d generally thought of hope as a positive force and gave little thought to its shadow side. I do so love it when a book gets me to a new thought form!
I give Televenge a very strong C++ and recommend it for those of you who enjoy a departure into the Fiction genre.
We have one giveaway of Televenge open to residents of US/Canada only. To enter – just comment below. The giveaway will end at Midnight Pacific Time on February 8th.