Friday, August 24, 2007

Finding Noel, by Richard Paul Evans [1]

*/***** (1/5)

I've wondered why it is that some people come through difficult times bitter and broken while others emerge stronger and more empathetic? I've read that the same breeze that extinguishes some flames just fans others. I still don't know what kind of flame I am. --Mark Smart Diary

Since I failed to appreciate Richard Paul Evans' religious, melodramatic tearjerker FINDING NOEL, some may claim I'm too numbed by all the pulp in mainstream America these days . Maybe. I would categorize FINDING NOEL closer to a short story or novella than a novel -- it's probably a 2-hour read max if you're studious. Rife with undercurrents of Christianity, emotional angst and hardship, FINDING NOEL takes place during the holidays in Utah and more than once preaches the benevolence of God and the human spirit persevering over tragedy and loss. FINDING NOEL is exactly about that: Macy Wood's journey to find her long-lost sister Noel. The prose conveys a very teary, emotional and didactic tone while the pacing and plotting are quick. I didn't really care for the sententious preaching, I didn't really care for the "deep" philosophy, I didn't find anything special about the "love" story between Mark & Macy, and the epilogue's biblical parting proved less than inspiring. You can tell that Richard Paul Evans' passion deals with enlightening and aiding abused children, and for that, I couldn't help but admire his efforts.

I learned something valuable today. Oftentimes the greatest hurts of our lives come from running from the smaller ones. --Mark Smart's Diary

The Story.

Mark Smart has just lost his beloved mother to death and he found out about it two days after the funeral. Estranged from his father back in Alabama, dumped by his girlfriend, having lost his college scholarship at Salt Lake City in Utah, and now just having learned of his mother's death, Mark hits a new low as he ponders suicide. Macy Wood works the nighttime shift at a cafe where Mark's car breaks down and though strangers they may be, Macy immediately offers a hug and a shoulder to cry on. For Mark, Macy represents someone nothing short of angel. Mark is immediately dumbstruck by Macy's unconditional kindness and compassion.

Twenty-one year-old Macy Wood has more demons in her closet than you can possibly imagine. In various flashbacks, we discover Macy lost her mother to cancer when she was 5, her father drowns in alcohol and drugs after her mother's death, Macy was sexually abused by people in her father's rehabilitation clinics, separated from her younger sister Noel when she was 7-8 (a younger sister whom Macy mothers), adopted by a cruel woman who physically beats Macy on a daily-basis, and finally runs away from her adopted mother when she's 15 only to end up on the street and homeless willing to do anything for bread and cheese. A troubled yet loving woman Joette finally takes Macy in, and Macy survives her childhood hardships, stronger and more empathetic than ever.

With Mark by her side, Macy begins the search for her sister Noel, tracing through the threads of bureaucracy, luck and finally resistance. FINDING NOEL makes some strong statements about the impotence of government and the nonsense of bureaucracy in the process. Again, faith and God seem to bring salvation.

Along with Macy's search, Mark has family issues of his own to work out with his estranged father.

An out-and-out tearjerker from beginning to end and imparting strong religious sermons, I didn't really enjoy this one. Yeah, I admit it, I'm probably too "pulpified" by American media.

No comments: