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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: The Blessed and the Damned by Michael Wallace

This radical religious thriller presents an intense terrorist scenario.
by Michael Wallace
  • File Size: 530 KB
  • Print Length: 349 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1612182216
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (October 2, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 4.25 of 5.0

Book Description 
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
As the son of the prophet of Blister Creek, a polygamous enclave in Utah, Dr. Jacob Christianson has struggled for years to reconcile his faith with his skepticism about the fundamentalist practices of his community. Nevertheless, when his family and neighbors were threatened, Jacob stepped up time and again to lead the fight against those who would destroy them. Now Jacob and the residents of Blister Creek face a dangerous new challenge to their quiet existence. Taylor Kimball Jr. wants to take over as prophet of Blister Creek—and he wants Jacob’s sister Eliza by his side when he does it. With no room for personal reservations, Jacob forms a tenuous alliance with his father and the FBI. But Taylor Junior is as crafty as he is brutal, anticipating Jacob’s plan and drawing him out to leave Blister Creek vulnerable to attack. And this time Taylor has come prepared, with a horrific new weapon capable of annihilating Blister Creek. If he has any chance of winning this fight, Jacob will have to decide, once and for all, just how far he is willing to go to protect his community. The fourth in Michael Wallace’s riveting Righteous series, The Blessed and the Damned raises the stakes in Jacob’s world to dizzying new heights.

This gripping story continues the power struggles among factions of polygamous, patriarchal Mormon communities hidden in the mountains and deserts of Utah. In earlier books a rebellious group, including the Kimballs, tried to overtake the harsh and demanding “Prophet,” Abraham Christianson, at the Blister Creek community.  Some of the attackers were captured and imprisoned but others escaped to hide in the hills.

Taylor Kimball, Jr. spent several years in exclusion before he emerged to gather other bitter, “lost boys” -  those expelled from the main community. Taylor’s camp lives in rustic conditions and their jealousy and envy poisons and twists whatever faith values they once learned. Taylor believes he is directed by an angel of the lord to take over Blister Creek with Christianson’s daughter, Eliza, as his primary wife. Taylor’s take-over plan is anything but peaceful.  He plans to attack and decimate the communities before commandeering whatever and whoever survives the attack.

Dr. Jacob Christianson is the moderate of the family. He treasures his own family and walks a fine line between the Mormon community and governmental forces.  He doesn’t agree with his father’s harsh ways and he wants to protect his sister, Eliza, from being forced into an arranged marriage. When he and Eliza recognize the threat of the Kimball clan, they seek to locate the hideout before Taylor can attack Blister Creek or before an FBI raid causes a mass suicide.

I was immediately pulled into the action, conflict and intensity of the story.  I found Taylor’s terrorist tactics really horrifying and gut-wrenching. I was dismayed by the extreme lack of Christian values shown by the leaders. There was no forgiveness and no second chance given, even to those who sought it. There was no compassion for the rights of individuals.  The leaders range from the dictatorial, harsh “Prophet” to the crazed, twisted Taylor. Rather than try to find ways to live and work together the factions seek to kill the opposition, even innocent women and children.

I appreciated the difficult decisions the characters had to face. Jacob is repeatedly torn between duties, desires, faith and fear. Should he handle the search himself or bring in the authorities? Should he go help the injured or try to protect those who are the next target? I was saddened that Jacob didn’t recognize and accept the blessing and powers he might have shared if he had stronger faith. 

This is well written and the settings are wonderfully described.  I particularly liked the use of the Anasazi cliff dwelling. This is the fourth book in the series and I was glad that I had read the first story, The Righteous. However, Mr. Wallace does a good job of bringing in the back story so this could be read as a stand alone. I recommend this series to readers who enjoy intense conflict and aren’t put off by what I would term as religious extremism.
The "Prophet" gives a justification for killing:
“Fine, you’re a doctor,” Abraham said as Jacob turned to go. “But you don’t heal cancer, you destroy it. That’s what this is, a malignancy.  We cut one tumor when Eliza killed Gideon, but it has metastasized...” location 1735.
At least some of the characters have a sense of acceptance and humility:
So what if he fell short? She was a work in progress to, riddled with her own weaknesses.  Location 2545.
I received this ebook from the author for an honest review. Please enjoy Mr. Wallace's Guest Post too.
This story is set in Utah for my 2013 Where Are You Reading Challenge.

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