Wednesday, June 11, 2008

God vs. the Vampire: Angel Falling Softly by Eugene Woodbury

Anger, denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

Rachel Forsythe is trapped in the bargaining stage. Her daughter Jennifer is caught between life and death in a coma with no expectation of recovery. Family and friends lose hope, and Rachel turns to the cold comfort of God's Old Testament bargains when an even colder comfort arrives.

Milada Daranyi is no ordinary vampire. She's a master of the art of the deal who has put her centuries of youth to good use in pursuit of lucrative business acquisitions. But is she up for a wager with the most powerful dealer of them all?

A vampire story can't help but cover life and death and their relation to immortality and the supernatural. So one might ask how God fits into this picture, as Eugene Woodbury has done in his new novel Angel Falling Softly from Zarahemla Books. When tragedy strikes, mere mortals can't always expect a miracle, not even after heartfelt prayer and priesthood blessings. So is God still up for an Old Testament style wager, playing dice with His creations, so to speak? Or should we assume we humans are left to our own devices?

Woodbury gives both sides of this question a fair shake. On the Bible allusions side, he might have added a reference to "Jonah and the Whale" as another example of God's deals yielding zany results, but overall he makes a good case for the parallels between Bible stories and life. The classic deist perspective is represented by Rachel's brother Carl, who is something of a New Order Mormon. Milada (the vampire) is a jaded agnostic, but under her charred surface she's yearning for family, peace, and absolution.

There's more than just theology in this book, though. In Angel Falling Softly, as in his earlier novel The Path of Dreams, Woodbury captures human relationships with realism and depth of feeling. He also paints a warm and homey portrait of Utah Mormon culture as seen from a sophisticated worldly perspective. All of this is woven into a suspense-filled tale of a dangerous friendship as two women -- born lifetimes apart -- find the desperate courage to bet it all.


C. L. Hanson said...

p.s. See also MoJo's review of this book.

Plus, the discussion following my post The Carnal Bite (about "blood lust" as a creepy substitute for real lust in the work of Stephenie Meyer) has moved on to talking about a bunch of other books, including this one. Join in if you have an opinion! :D

C. L. Hanson said...

p.p.s.: You can order the book here.