Thursday, June 11, 2009

Compelling and Thoughtful "Poetic Novel"

Title of Document: Book Review
Book Title: A Crucible of Innocence
Author: Roger W. Forsythe
ISBN: 978-1-4327-2881-6
Genre and Target Market: fiction, literary, spiritual
Publication Date: 2008
Book Length in Pages: 455

There have been several instances in my extensive book reading career, which spans about thirty years, in which I have found my head spinning from the text that awaits me on every page. In some cases, my dizziness is prompted by the fact that the story was so poorly written that I could not comprehend how an author could deem the material fit to share with the general public. In other instances, however, my mind trip is based on the frantic adventure on which the writer is able to take his readers. With books that fall into the latter example, the reader is transported into the mind of a main character that is spilling his life before the pages. When I take a break in the middle of this type of novel, I find myself needing literally to shake my mind to clear it from the alternate personality that was able to become such a gripping figure. Such was the case with A Crucible of Innocence by Roger W. Forsythe, a book described by the author as a “poetic novel” and one that challenges us to rethink reality, reincarnation, and religion through the mind of one man. Whatever your conclusions when you reach the last page, you undoubtedly will know that you have been treated to a compelling work that crosses genres and challenges convention.

Through A Crucible of Innocence, Forsythe introduces us to James Conrad Scott. This troubled but brilliant man approaches his thirtieth birthday with financial, professional, and health crises all dominating his thoughts. After yet another run-in with his boss at the local newspaper, this time over his limited abilities due to a broken foot, Conrad Scott decides to quit his job and enter a period of self-reflection. As bills must still be paid even when the desire to find one’s self is beckoning, Scott takes on five part-time jobs. Due to absolute exhaustion and a lifelong battle with depression, Scott’s frantic schedule eventually leads him to a suicide attempt and time in a psychiatric hospital. It is the way in which Forsythe brings his readers to the point of his character’s nearly fatal decision and then guides us through Scott’s thoughts after his failed suicide effort that makes the book so fascinating and unique.

The readers spend much of the book inside the mind of Conrad Scott, through the frequent inclusion of his essays and journal entries as well as the extensive episodes in which he imagines himself to be a survivor of the Titanic, a Civil War soldier, or a fortunate attendee at drinking festivities held by great literary masters at the Troubadour Poets CafĂ© and Bistro. In some chapters, we are given fairly standard narratives of Scott’s life amongst friends and at his places of employment. We are then jolted out of the storyline with poetry or prose interludes by Scott that provide us with insight into how he uses fiction to work through the struggles he is experiencing in coming to terms with his own place in the world. By taking the reader down this non-linear and sometimes disorienting path, Forsythe demonstrates a magnificent ability to bring to life a man who is struggling to stay in the present and function within a society in which he sometimes feels woefully misplaced.

The Crucible of Innocence truly is a book that needs to be experienced, as its contents cannot adequately be described to someone who has not opened its pages. The novel is a chaotic combination of pieces that delve deeply into our own convictions about God, angels living in our world, what constitutes mental sanity, and how the beauty of literature and art can be an amazing healing agent. Once read in its entirety, the reader will be able to recognize an intentional structure and beautiful tapestry created by both Forsythe and his main character Conrad Scott. If you have an appreciation for poetry, take interest in the concept of reincarnation or the lasting impact of the great writers in our modern history, or simply enjoy the artistry when a book’s carefully determined layout lends as much to the meaning of the text as the words themselves, you will enjoy The Crucible of Innocence. Roger Forsythe is already the published author of three volumes of poetry and a textbook chapter on the Civil War. With this new release, Forsythe adds his voice to the world of fiction in a way that is certain to leave readers with plenty of material for reflection, yet also craving more from Conrad Scott and the insights he offers.

Click here to purchase A Crucible of Innocence.

No comments: