Illusion: a novel
Frank Peretti
Monarch; 2012; £9.99, Pbk., 572p., ISBN 9780857213266

Frank Peretti is perhaps best known for his controversial books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness published in the early nineties. Whatever your view of their theological soundness, the books with their fast-paced and gripping narratives and their glimpses into the spiritual forces at work behind the façade of daily life put out a strong message on the power of prayer and gave Christians a forceful incentive to pray.

Peretti, as Karen Kingsbury has said in the New York Times, is a master story teller and his latest book, Illusion, shows that he has not lost his touch. The central characters, Dane and Mandy Collins are planning their retirement after a successful career in the magic business but tragedy strikes when Mandy is killed in a car accident. Devastated, Dane retreats to his ranch in Idaho, but soon becomes involved in mentoring a young woman with a striking resemblance to his wife and a remarkable talent for magical illusions.

But as the plot progresses, the mystery deepens, and the reader becomes aware of increasingly disturbing undercurrents. Just who is this young woman? Where has she come from? How can she perform the apparently effortless illusions with which she soon starts to make a name for herself? And who are the mysterious figures pursuing her? As the answers start to be revealed, we are taken further into the world of the imagination and indeed to the fringes of science fiction.

The multi-layered narrative tells the story of Dane and Mandy’s marriage and of Dane’s attempts to come to terms with his loss. The author weaves a dazzling and evocative picture of his characters and the events which overtake them. It is a pleasant change to read a novel where the spiritual world is real and where faith forms an integral part of the characters’ lives. They talk to God and pray in a simple and unforced manner. Although they can’t understand what is happening to them, they trust that somehow God will work things out. Some Christians may have reservations about the setting in the world of magic, but this is essential to the plot and the nature of the issues raised by it. However, in my view, the characters are somewhat one-dimensional and Dane and Mandy’s marriage seems perhaps too perfect to be real.

The story provides opportunities to explore spiritual issues relating to death and life, self and identity, and reality and illusion. Questions about the moral limits to scientific experimentation are also raised. But the treatment of these issues is somewhat superficial and I don’t feel that any of them are addressed in any depth.

Illusion is an enjoyable read with a spiritual dimension. It is a heart warming tribute to the indomitable human spirit and the force of true love. Personally, however, I would have appreciated a more thoughtful approach to the moral and spiritual issues raised.

Contributed by: Mary E. Wood, Information and Content Developer for the Chartered Management Institute who managers the CLIS website and e-newsletter.