Source: Church library.
Back Cover Description (slightly modified):
The sleepy, eastern Washington wheat town of Antioch has suddenly become a gateway for the supernatural--from sightings of angels and messianic images to a weeping crucifix. Then a self-proclaimed prophet mysteriously appears with an astounding message.
The national media and the curious flock to the little town--a great boon for local business, but not for Travis Jordan. Since his wife died, the burned-out former pastor has been avoiding getting involved with "church stuff" and arguing religious issues. Now the whole world is headed to his backyard to find the Messiah. This Messiah pushes him to chose sides and, in the process, forces him to relive all of his doubts about the church.
The startling secret behind this visitation ultimately pushes the town into a supernatural confrontation that will forever alter the lives of everyone involved.
The Visitation was an interesting Christian supernatural suspense novel. The world-building was excellent, with the details about the place and people bringing the story alive in my imagination. The characters were engaging and even the minor characters were realistic. There were so many reoccurring characters to keep track of that I occasionally had to stop and think to remember who a character was, but overall it wasn't a problem. The pacing was generally very good, but the (important) back story did drag a bit in spots.
The novel explored why God doesn't give people everything they ask for, like why He heals some people and not others. It also explored how the whole point of Christianity can get lost amid programs, denominational squabbles, promises made by famous preachers on God's behalf, doing "the church thing," and other, often well-intentioned or necessary things. This was a major focus of the novel. A non-Christian would probably find this confusing, so I'd only recommend this novel to Christians.
There was no sex. There was a minor amount of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend it as interesting (if you're interested in spiritual warfare with a bit of mystery and some good-natured poking fun at various denominations), fairly clean reading.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt from Chapter One
Sally Fordyce left the house as soon as the breakfast dishes were done, walking a little, jogging a little along Highway 9--a narrow, straight-as-a-string two-lane with a fading white line and an evenly spaced parade of utility poles. This was eastern Washington State, quiet and solitary. Wheat fields, spring green, stretched in every direction over the prairie swells. Straight ahead, the highway dipped and rose gently into the distance until it narrowed to a vanishing point at the far horizon. The sun was warm, the breeze a little biting. It was April.
Sally was nineteen, blonde, slightly overweight, and severely unhappy, mainly because she was no longer married. She had believed everything Joey, the trucker, told her about love, and how she was that girl silhouetted on his mud flaps. The marriage--if it happened at all--lasted three months. When he found another woman more "intellectually stimulating," she was bumped from the truck's sleeper and found herself coming full circle, right back to being Charlie and Meg's daughter living at home again. She had to keep her room clean, help with dinner and dishes, get home by eleven, and attend the Methodist church with them every Sunday. Again, her life was not her life.
She had tasted freedom, she thought, but she was turned away. She had no wings to fly and nowhere to fly even if she did. Life wasn't fair. (To hear Charlie tell it, he and Meg must have made up a list of all the dumb mistakes they hoped she would never make and given her a copy. Needless to say, things were tense.)
Even before she tried Joey, the trucker, Sally used to find escape out on the wheat prairie in the stillness of the morning. Now she returned, even fled to this place. Out here, she heard no voice but her own thoughts, and her thoughts could say whatever they wanted. She could pray too, sometimes aloud, knowing no one but God would hear her. "Dear God, please don't leave me stuck here. If you're there, send a miracle. Get me out of this mess."
In all fairness, it was past time for Sally to feel that way. Except for those who had wheat farming in their blood and couldn't wait to climb on a combine, most everyone growing up in Antioch heard a call from elsewhere--anywhere--sooner or later. When they came of age, all the kinds who could find a way out left--usually--for good. Sally had come of age, all right, but had not found a way out. Charlie and Meg would probably tell you that she was not the kind to look for one, either. She was still waiting for it to come to her.
The halfway point of her jog was a spreading cottonwood at the top of a shallow rise, the only tree in sight. It was monstrous, and had to have been growing there long before the roads, farms, or settlers came along. Sally double-timed her way up the rise and was breathing hard by the time she reached it. She'd developed a routine: Every day she braced herself against the huge trunk and stretched out her leg muscles, then sat and rested for a moment between two prominent roots on the south side. Recently, a short prayer for a miracle had also become part of the routine.
The stretches went easily enough. She had cooled down, her breathing had settled, she could feel the flush in her cheeks from the exercise and the cool air.
She rounded the tree--
And almost jumped out of her skin.
A man was sitting between the two roots, exactly in her spot, his back against the gnarled trunk and his wrists draped lazily over his knees. He had to have been there all during her stretching-out, and she was immediately curious, if not offended, that he had said or done nothing to indicate his presence.
"Oh!" she gasped, then caught her breath. "Hello. I didn't see you there."
He only chuckled and smiled at her with a kindly gaze. He was a remarkably handsome man, with olive skin, deep brown eyes, and tightly curled black hair. He was young, perhaps as young as she was. "Good morning, Sally. Sorry if I startled you."
She probed her memory. "Have we met before?"
He shook his head teasingly. "No."
"Well, who are you?"
"I'm here to bring you a message. Your prayers have been heard, Sally. Your answer is on his way. Be looking for him."
She looked away for only a moment, just a slight, eye-rolling gesture of consternation. "Be looking for who--?"
He was gone.
She walked around the cottonwood, looked up and down the road and across every field, and even looked straight up the trunk of the tree.
He was gone, just like that, as if he'd never been there.