Note: This review was originally published here on Prism Book Alliance on 7 July 2014 and is a Prism Recommended Read for July 2014. It is being republished as part of our Retro Reads spotlight on Jamie Fessenden
To see other Prism Reviewed Jamie Fessenden and his YA persona James Erich titles follow this link.
Title: By That Sin Fell the Angels
Author: Jamie Fessenden
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Itineris Press, the best in quality GLBT faith-based fiction, is proud to offer By That Sin Fell the Angels by Jamie Fessenden.
It begins with a 3:00 a.m. telephone call. On one end is Terry Bachelder, a closeted teacher. On the other, the suicidal teenage son of the local preacher. When Terry fails to prevent disaster, grief rips the small town of Crystal Falls apart.
At the epicenter of the tragedy, seventeen-year-old Jonah Riverside tries to make sense of it all. Finding Daniel’s body leaves him struggling to balance his sexual identity with his faith, while his church, led by the Reverend Isaac Thompson, mounts a crusade to destroy Terry, whom Isaac believes corrupted his son and caused the boy to take his own life.
Having quietly crushed on his teacher for years, Jonah is determined to clear Terry’s name. That quest leads him to Eric Jacobs, Daniel’s true secret lover, and to get involved in Eric’s plan to shake up their small-minded town. Meanwhile, Rev. Thompson struggles to make peace between his religious convictions and the revelation of his son’s homosexuality. If he can’t, he leaves the door open for the devil—and for a second tragedy to follow.
I do not feel worthy of writing this review. I will give it my best shot.
I am not a religious person. I grew up in the church, but it was always a choice to attend. A choice I made each Sunday, consciously. As I grew up and learned more and more about religion and the bible, I turned from the church. I won’t get into my beliefs, or lack thereof. I only point this out to say don’t let your religious stance turn you off of this fabulous book. Whether you are a believer or not, the themes and characters in this story will pull you in and not let go.
So let us focus on those characters for a minute. There are three major players in By That Sin. Isaac, Jonah, and Terry.
Jonah is a god-fearing, church-going, high school kid just figuring out his sexuality. Well, I guess I should say, just accepting his sexuality. His world is rocked when he finds the object of his crush laying dead in a pool of his own blood. That one act unravels Jonah’s world and puts it back together in a new way. He is the symbol of the good among the confused.
Terry is not much of a character on his own, he is a foil for all the other characters to bounce against and get their stories sorted and told. He is the last one to talk to Daniel. He is the one Eric, Daniel’s ex (for lack of a better term) and Jonah, both turn to. He is the one the town, and Isaac, denounce as being the cause of the “gay” in the town. He is the one who stands up to the town for what is right.
Isaac… I am not entirely sure what to say about Isaac. By That Sin is truly about Isaac’s journey. His world is turned upside down, and he slides into blackness as his religion forsakes him, but in the end it is his religion that comforts him.
I charge thee, fling away ambition
By that sin fell the angels
So how does all this fit in to the title, taken from the most famous soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII? The entire story centers around Isaac and his own kind of fall from grace. In response to the death of his wife, Isaac has deeply immersed himself in a “godly”life. He spends his days telling everyone who will listen what is right and how they need to believe. If someone does not believe as Isaac thinks they should, he takes it upon himself to use his power, influence, and word, to change the minds of everyone around him. To belittle those that don’t believe as he does. He is the symbol of the “Religious Right” and everything that goes with it.
Through three interconnecting views of one tragic event and its aftermath, Fessenden masterfully depicts the struggle faced by many as their sexuality is vilified by those who profess to love and support them.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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