By Jesse Sumpter
This book is the story for 2020. The plot is about as bizarre as 2020. And after so much craziness in 2020, even the bizarre plot of this novel doesn’t seem that implausible. I won’t spoil the story in this review so I encourage you to get your hands on it as soon as possible.
While the story starts with what seems to be a depressing exploration of America’s demise, the novel’s message is actually just the opposite. The hope packed into the story is clear and refreshing. Like the gospel message, the book starts with the bad news before bringing everything to a happy and satisfying conclusion.
The book is a satire, but I think it would be better to call it a deep comedy. It pokes fun at the secular agenda of our day but the real insight of the book is that it places a dystopian story inside God’s world. This means it can’t stay dystopian. The gospel will out. And it will do that through two simple tools: forgiveness and repentance. It is really that simple.
Repentance is a Joy
One of the refreshing elements of the story is how the characters repent. It happens several times and these moments are not dour, sad affairs. Rather, these moments are foundational moments of true joy and sweet fellowship. It is the calm sweetness of the sea after Jesus tells it “Peace, be still.” If you have never tasted that kind of joy, then you might need to hear the gospel again. Or you might need to confess some sins. Christian joy is a powerful experience.
To talk about the joy of repentance is not to downplay these sins. The characters who repent have to repent of some of the sharpest and most painful sins out there: adultery, porn, lesbianism, feminism, etc. The characters have gotten into some heinous evil but the book shows that the gospel is big enough for it all. There is plenty of room for all of us at the foot of the cross.
The idea that the gospel can untangle the gnarliest knot is something even Christians can forget or lose sight of. We look around at the mess around us and think there is no way out of this chaos. This novel reminds us that all things are possible with God.
And this is not pie in the sky hope. True gospel work reconciles real people in real relationships with real problems. And when you see it happen, it will take your breath away because it can be absolutely surprising. We might see someone and say “No way that person can have that kind of joy and peace.” But it really is possible in the gospel. The darkest life can become the brightest example of God’s rich goodness. All of this shows us that repentance and forgiveness is really a work of God. We were just there to see Him work the magic.
The liberal secular agenda is aimed at starving people of sex. If you can make true sex scarce, then you can drive up the price and make a boatload of money off it. But if people are enjoying real, physical sex in a covenant of marriage, then the sex mafia is out of a job.
The story shows this plainly. The characters who are living the secular lifestyle are poor, loveless individuals. And they don’t get any real sex at all. Even the little bit of pleasure they get is a torment and a terror to them.
The story ends, of course, in a wedding. But there are some fun surprises in the story that I won’t spoil here. It is enough to point out that our culture is dying from lack of marriages. When reformation and revival falls on our country, you will know it by the wedding bells that ring.
The World Spins to God’s Tune
In a story like this book, you get a good, clear picture of how God likes to weave multiple characters and stories together. God is not a short story author. He is an author of epic proportions who is weaving thousands and millions of lives together. He tells novels that are multi-generational and transcontinental, the likes of which would make Tolstoy and Dickens jealous.
There are so many characters in God’s story that one’s head would spin to try and catch all the perfectly timed conversations, events, and details. It is staggering to think about. There are story arcs that God started four hundred years ago and some of us are just now catching a glimpse of the payoff. We should be blown away by the cosmic stage that we get to shuffle across on a regular basis.
All of this is to say, there are no coincidences in God’s story. He sets every detail, every death, every scene, every pothole, every suitcase, in the exact spot it needs to be for the story that He is telling. Ride, Sally, Ride reminds us of the joy of God’s sovereignty.
This is why this book is the story for 2020. All the craziness around us is not out of control. It is spinning exactly to God’s perfect tune. He has a perfect plan and we can trust and rest in it. We can’t fully see all the perfectly planned details. But we can see him. Our job is to repent and forgive, to trust and obey.