The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers
Published by Tyndale House Books
Dynah Carey has the perfect life, and expects nothing to change the future she believes she’s destined for – she’s got great parents who raised her in the Christian faith, she’s being educated at a wonderful college and has good friends, and she’s engaged to an amazing guy, a future pastor. But when she is brutally raped in a park near her school, she is shattered to the core, and when she finds out she is pregnant with the rapist’s child, she cannot imagine how to handle the devastating circumstances she finds herself in. Worse, her fiance can’t cope with this and her parents are at a loss, leaving Dynah feeling alone and overwhelmed by this situation. Her faith is shaken to the core as she continues to question God’s plan for her life, and begins to question even His love for her. Ultimately Dynah must make her own choices about right and wrong, and about what having faith in God truly means.
The first thing I want to say about The Atonement Child is that I never in a million years would have picked up this book if it hadn’t been chosen for one of my book clubs this month. While I am a Christian, I read very little Christian fiction, and if I do read Christian fiction I stay far away from books that are so heavy-handed in their elements of faith as this one was. That’s not to say The Atonement Child is a bad book, it’s just to say that for those of you like me, I totally get why you would have no interest in reading this one. There is a LOT of praying in this book, like an unrealistic amount of praying. But anyways, let’s move on to the book, shall we?
So, this is very obviously a book about abortion, and it’s even more obvious what the author’s stance on the subject is. However, I appreciated the fact that the legalities of a woman’s right to choose are never called into question. What I expected was for the characters (or at least some of them) to go on tirades about how abortion should be illegal, to perhaps picket Planned Parenthood clinics or something like that. What I got was a much more balanced approach than what I feared I would read. Through her characters’ actions and choices, Rivers clearly advocates the choice to keep an unplanned pregnancy regardless of the circumstances, yet she still makes it clear that having the choice is an important part of that process – a distinction I found to be unexpected and refreshing to see in a Christian novel.
Besides the whole abortion thing, the book is decent. The characters are interesting enough, if a bit one-dimensional. Dynah is the most complex, with her friend Joe coming in at a close second. The parents don’t serve much purpose except to weave another story about abortion into the main story, and have little personality besides their focus on this issue. The writing is nothing special, but on the other hand, it’s not bad either.
I found it highly unlikely that so many people in Dynah’s life struggled with the question of abortion. It just seemed improbable to me – what are the odds? I have to admit, though, that despite all the little issues I had with the book, I didn’t dislike it and I read it quite quickly. I am looking forward to our book club discussion because I know people are bound to disagree about many of the choices made and the issues presented in the novel. While certainly not an example of Christian fiction at it’s best, The Atonement Child is a discussion-worthy book that I found entertaining enough to continue reading despite the issues I found within the novel.