When “Lost Mission” first came to the attention of this reviewer in 2010 she was intrigued by the story of a previously unknown Spanish mission in California discovered during the construction of mansion-like homes of some of the state’s wealthiest church goers. After two years the story has finally been read and it was definitely one of the better books this reader has devoured this year. It is no wonder it won the Christy Award for best Christian suspense book of 2010.
The story is told from various characters’ points of view both in the present and in the past; the basis for the modern-day tale has its roots firmly in what took place nearly 300 years ago at the site of a no longer existent Spanish mission by the name of Mision de Santa Dolores. What happened at that mission, both the natural and the supernatural, will be revealed in ways completely unexpected to those that live in the area today. While clearly a work of fiction, the story has much to say about how one lives out their faith and how one views the illegal immigration situation in California and other border states.
But the story is more than that. It’s a moving story of the commitment of some to follow what they believe God is calling them to do no matter what the cost to their own personal satisfaction and happiness. Of course, sometimes that determination can get in the way of truly hearing what God has to tell us, but as Romans 8:28 states,
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
The cast of characters from the past in this sweeping epic novel include three Franciscan friars on their way to Alta California to bring the Gospel to the natives, or heathens if the abbot is the one talking. Modern-day characters include a recent seminary graduate intent on bringing help and hope to the Mexican immigrants of his community, a wealthy Christian real estate developer and Lupe, who comes to the states illegally because Americans need to hear the truth of God more than any other people she knows. How their stories intertwine and become entangled with one another in ways that can only be understood by reading the book.
This is the first book by this author to be read by this reviewer; it won’t be the last. His work has been compared to that of Octavia Butler and Flannery O’Connor, but not having read any works by those authors, it’s impossible for this reviewer to compare or contrast Dickson’s writing style with their’s. However, as any reader will tell you, they know what they like and this reader liked this book for many reasons. Even a couple of weeks after finishing this book, the themes and characters still pop up in one’s thoughts. Choices about living out one’s faith continue to cause internal debates with oneself. What laws should be obeyed? God’s or man’s? How does God want us to honor Him and those loved ones that have passed on? Do angels really walk among us? The questions go on and on.
Good fiction stays with you for a while and enters casual conversation on occasion. Great fiction never really lets you go and continually turns up in conversation both casual and in-depth. “Lost Mission” is one of those books that keeps pulling readers back to it again and again whether to reread it or in one’s thoughts. Athol Dickson has a writing style that is fine-tuned and has a way of whispering to you even after you have turned the last page.
This book has been termed magical realism as opposed to outright science fiction or fantasy. It explains those kinds of stories which seem to be about everyday people doing everyday things when something happens that defies explanation. Well-known novels that fit this category include “The Green Mile” by Stephen King, “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel and “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz.
To learn more about author Athol Dickson, visit his website, follow him on Twitter or find him on Facebook.
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